Saturday 25 November 2017

Group One struggles take nothing from O'Brien's domestic dominance

Aidan O'Brien
Aidan O'Brien
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

AIDAN O'BRIEN'S Battle Of Marengo beat just one of his seven rivals in Saturday's Grand Prix de Paris after racing keenly in first-time blinkers for the trainer's son Joseph.

Andre Fabre won the Longchamp Group One for an incredible 12th time courtesy of the odds-on Flintshire, with Fabre's Ocovango – behind Battle Of Marengo when fifth in the Epsom Derby – back in third.

The result did little to improve what has been a mixed season for Ballydoyle at the top level, with Ruler Of The World's Epsom triumph the highlight to date.

Declaration Of War's fantastic Queen Anne victory and War Command's Coventry rout were other golden moments at Royal Ascot, and War Command is on schedule to have a first cut at a Group One in next month's Phoenix Stakes.

Declaration Of War subsequently had his colours lowered by Al Kazeem at Sandown last weekend, albeit in honourable fashion.

Al Kazeem, an early contender for horse of the year alongside Dawn Approach and Lethal Force, also landed what could yet prove to be a pair of fatal blows to Camelot's racing career and reputation.

Ruler Of The World, like Magician – O'Brien's other Classic winner this term – failed to confirm his precocious progression by getting readily turned over next time.

Thus, with the exception of King George-bound St Nicholas Abbey, which the training wizard continues to place especially shrewdly, there has been a touch of the curate's egg about the campaign in terms of the marquee events. Disappointing, but not all bad.

CONTRAST

A total of five Group One wins constitutes 50pc of O'Brien's haul at the same point halfway through last season, which is a stark contrast to the manner in which his elite stable is dominating the domestic day-to-day fare.

In the last two weeks, O'Brien has saddled 18 winners, including that outstanding five-timer at Naas last Wednesday. By the close of play yesterday, his tally for the turf season stood at 69. This time last year, he had 39 up, and closed out with 94.

When he last broke the 100 barrier in 2010 – the only time he has done so since 1999 – he had 48 at the corresponding stage en route to hitting 109. Given the relative shortage of big-race material in Rosegreen at the moment, such prolificacy is remarkable. Then again, maybe that's part of the reason for the stable's supremacy at home, as resources are possibly being concentrated at a lower level.

When you factor in that John Oxx and Kevin Prendergast, two men who would traditionally be among O'Brien's heavyweight opponents, have registered just 21 wins between them so far, competition isn't all that it might be. Moreover, the decent weather has led to just two meetings being cancelled, both of which were successfully rescheduled.

At the risk of stating the obvious, a lack of rain has also meant that proper, dry Flat racing conditions have been the norm, something that tends to result in the best horse in any given race winning more frequently than might be the case on bad going.

Given the raw material that O'Brien has to go to war with, that is a situation that benefits him more than anyone else. Should the Wexford native – whose 20th anniversary of his first winner falls next month – continue at this rate of knots, Jim Bolger's 1990 record of 125 winners in a Flat season could yet be in danger.

It would be mildly ironic if O'Brien did claim that mantle from his mentor, as it is only a few months since Willie Mullins smashed his old record jumps total of 155.

SLADE POWER FARES BEST OF IRISH IN THE JULY CUP

Slade Power fared best of the Irish sprinters in Saturday's July Cup at Newmarket, Eddie Lynam's improving four-year-old keeping on gamely for third behind Lethal Force, which lowered Stravinsky's 1999 track record by four tenths of a second.

Wayne Lordan's mount got three-and-a-half-lengths closer to the winner than he did in the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot, and Lynam subsequently revealed that he would have a third crack at a Group One in the Sprint Cup at Haydock on September 7.

The Co Meath handler also confirmed that Sole Power would return to its optimum five-furlong trip for the Nunthorpe at York on August 23, after running a solid race to finish fifth for Johnny Murtagh on Saturday.

MULLINS' APPEAL TO BE HEARD NEXT WEEK

Danny Mullins' appeal against the 14-day ban that he incurred for apprehending an Order Of Malta vehicle at Bellewstown is reportedly pencilled in for this day week at the Turf Club.

The regulatory body has also initiated an investigation after Mullins' boss Barry Connell made a complaint through the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners.

Connell is aggrieved at the lack of communication and the amount of time it took to get veterinary assistance to Private Treasure, the horse that was fatally injured in the run up to the incident that prompted Mullins' ban, which now rules the jockey out of the Galway Festival.

Cork handler Mikey O'Connor is likely to attend a referral hearing the same day after moving horses from his registered yard to stables at his home place without completing the necessary paperwork.

O'Connor was not allowed to run two horses that he had declared for Cork on Friday evening after a random Turf Club inspection at his yard that morning, and won't be permitted to have any runners before the hearing.

A leading point-to-point rider, O'Connor says that the reason for moving the horses was that the stables at his home place are cooler than those in his main yard.

CONDON'S STAY AT TOP PROVES SHORT-LIVED

Davy Condon overtook Ruby Walsh at the top of the jump jockeys' table when scoring on Noel Meade's Silver Tassie at Downpatrick on Saturday.

A 20/1 shot to claim the championship crown, Condon conceded that, while it was a nice position to be in, it may be short-lived. That observation proved regrettably accurate from his perspective, as Walsh regained pole position with a double at Sligo yesterday.

Dermot Weld supplied the first of Walsh's brace when the odds-on Diplomat ran out a facile winner of the novice hurdle to set up a tilt at the equivalent race on the opening night at Galway, before Michael Hourigan's Sherco Sports (12/1) powered clear in division two of the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle.

Irish Grand National-winning rider Ben Dalton rode his first winner for three months when Tom Taaffe's Wakanda hosed up at odds of 18/1 in the maiden hurdle, while Philip Enright brought a similar drought to an end on 20/1 shot Oscar Wings in the two-mile handicap hurdle.

A Ballinrobe bumper winner in 2011 for the late Liam Reilly, Oscar Wings was a first winner for Reilly's Longford-based daughter, Ann.

Reigning champion conditional Mark Enright, who scored on Andy Oliver's Jabus on Saturday, took the mares' hurdle on Theonewiththeleg (9/2) for Galway's Kevin McDonagh. The win left Enright level with David Splaine in this season's championship on nine winners.

ELLIOTT AND MAGUIRE

IN FORM AT PERTH

Gordon Elliott continued his love affair with Perth when Dantes King and Goal readily justified odds-on status yesterday. Both horses were ridden by Elliott's fellow Co Meath native Jason Maguire.

Numbers game

40,000 The cost of supplementing for Saturday's Darley Irish Oaks, which Aidan O'Brien is considering for Venus De Milo. The unbeaten Naas Listed winner is one of a number of classy fillies that are expected to be added to the field for the Classic, which already features seven Ballydoyle entries. Moth is one of those, though the 1,000 Guineas third won't run, as she was retired to stud over the weekend.

Tweet of the weekend

@BigCityBanker

The @thetotecom Jackpot of €80,502 has not been won and will rollover to next Sunday. Which meeting will be confirmed on Friday morning.

– Tote Ireland's commercial director Noel Hayes after yesterday's Sligo fund went unclaimed.

Irish Independent

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