I Am Superman leads O'Callaghan Ascot bid
Michael O'Callaghan is travelling to Royal Ascot this week with four contenders that might have fancy prices but are expected to outrun those odds.
The 30-year-old Tralee native, who trains on the Curragh, has established a reputation for identifying precocious young horses. A number of those are sold lucratively to the Hong Kong and American markets in particular, and that finances the operation for another year.
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These are the practicalities of the business model but the target is to improve the quality of what is retained at Crotanstown Stud. Jersey Stakes contender I Am Superman is an example of this process.
"We thought a lot of him last year," O'Callaghan reveals. "He was the only two-year-old I gave a 2,000 Guineas entry to. He was second in the Curragh first-time out and after that, he went a bit weak. When we put him away and brought him back, he thrived over the winter and strengthened a lot.
"Because he had three runs last year he had a mark, was treated very fairly and went and won two handicaps very impressively."
He could finish only fifth in the Tetrarch Stakes but that came a week after Naas and he ran most of the race on three shoes. He turned around the form on the winner Shelir by eight lengths when sixth in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
The unexpected steady early pace caught them out in the classic but O'Callaghan was delighted with his charge and is very optimistic that a strongly-run uphill seven furlong test at Ascot will play to his strengths.
"He ran the best of all the horses that were sat back that far in the Guineas. He ran an incredible race. You'll need to get a mile in the Jersey but he has such a high cruising speed it will suit him. I think he'll run a big race and is our best chance of the week of going close."
Red Epaulette, winner of the first two-year-old race of the year, is aimed at the Windsor Castle Stakes earlier in the week.
"He's very precocious but he also has lots of natural ability because he's not a small horse, he has plenty of size. He ran into the favourite for the Coventry (Siskin) on the second start over six, where he possibly did too much stepping up from five.
"He'll wear blinkers because of the speed they go. I don't think we've seen the best of him yet. I think, looking at how he's improved, that he'll run a big race."
O'Callaghan has Isabeau in the Queen Mary Stakes and Lorelei Rock in the Albany, earning their passages with maiden triumphs. Lorelei Rock defeated Joseph O'Brien's much-touted Air Force Jet at Naas before running into the very smart Sunday Sovereign in Tipperary.
"She's a filly that's going to keep improving. She's a lot of natural ability and she's a big strong filly. I imagine she will run a big race, as will Isabeau."
Isabeau won in Down Royal at the end of May off very little work having been held up with a respiratory infection.
Now Or Never (later renamed Now Or Later) provided him with his biggest Royal Ascot thrill to date, finishing fourth in the Coronation Stakes in 2016. It would be something else to register a winner.
"Royal Ascot is like nothing else. It's essentially the Olympics of flat racing. It's somewhere you can't go with any chink in your armour because you'll be found out. It's championship racing at its best.
"A Royal Ascot winner would be massive. So many things need to add up, especially for two-year-olds to get them to it. I'd be very hopeful we're sneaking under the radar with very decent chances."
Sunday Indo Sport