Tuesday 20 March 2018

Monday Outlook: Moore success for sure with O'Brien

Combination of two exceptional talents is bad news for the opposition

Ryan Moore steers Gleneagles clear of the field to land the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket
Ryan Moore steers Gleneagles clear of the field to land the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket
Willie Mullins bagged another treble to sign off on Punchestown 2015 with a record 16 winners on Saturday
Victor Espinoza rides American Pharoah to victory in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Gleneagles delivered on all of his immense promise as a juvenile with a brilliantly professional and ultimately straightforward Qipco 2,000 Guineas triumph on Saturday.

Elm Park, the only other Group One winner declared for the Newmarket Classic, was a non-runner, but Gleneagles still looks an above average winner. Such was the manner of his superiority, it's hard to identify another three-year-old that will trouble him over a mile.

Indeed, with the likes of Kingman, Olympic Glory, Toronado and Charm Spirit all retired, you'd even struggle to name an older miler that his connections might fear. Night Of Thunder and Karakontie are up there with the best of them, and neither of those is remotely formidable. If Gleneagles progresses and enjoys average luck, he will take some stopping in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James' Palace Stakes, with the likes of the Sussex and QE II Stakes as well as the Prix Moulin all viable targets against his elders later on.

As the progeny of a full-sister to the mighty Giant's Causeway that Aidan O'Brien maintains has a similarly indomitable attitude and steely constitution as the 'Iron Horse', maybe Gleneagles will yet be charged with atoning for Giant's Causeway's still sore defeat in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic. As a son also of Galileo, though, that might be unlikely, given that Keeneland, this year's Breeders' Cup venue, has controversially torn up its popular synthetic racing surface only to replace it with dirt.

On Saturday, Gleneagles travelled easily and quickened generously. When Ryan Moore sent him on over a furlong down, he ran all the way to the line to give his exceptional trainer a record-equalling seventh triumph in the race.

It was Moore's first, and the potential for what these two absolute masters of their respective professions can achieve now that they have finally committed to each other on a more formal basis is simply mind-boggling. It is a phenomenally exciting partnership on a par with that of O'Brien and Mick Kinane, and Vincent O'Brien and Lester Piggott. That is the realm we are talking about with these two.

O'Brien's genius is well established, and Moore's has gradually become recognised over the past few years. On the big days especially, he is staggeringly good, and he is the professionals' professional in every sense of the word, both in and out of the saddle.

Joseph O'Brien did admirably well in what is a high-pressured role for someone so young over the past couple of years, but his weight was always going to deny him a long-term future. And Ryan Moore is Ryan Moore. He has something intangible that few others have.

When the expectation is greatest, Moore rides with a composed conviction comparable with legends like Piggott and Kinane, and his timing is simply faultless. We saw yet more evidence of that when he excelled on Legatissimo in yesterday's 1,000 Guineas.

For starters, David Wachman deserves enormous credit for rolling the dice - possibly even at the expense of Found - with a filly that only won seven days earlier in Listed company under Wayne Lordan at Gowran Park. It was the Tipperary-based handler's first British Classic success and it is the first time ever that the two Guineas have been won by different Irish trainers in the same year, so fortune favoured the brave.

Moore, though, again played a significant role. Off a strong pace, he waited towards the rear, more or less alongside Jim Bolger's eventual runner-up Lucida. Around the midway point, Kevin Manning moved Lucida out and forward quite deliberately, and when the pace-setters wilted two furlongs down, all of a sudden he had to make the best of his way home.

Moore waited for the race to unfold and then used Lucida as a target. It was another exceptional steer that reminded everyone of just how valuable an addition he is to Coolmore. Since January 2014, among 17 Group or Grade One triumphs in six countries, Moore has to his name two English and one Irish Guineas, a French Derby, an Irish Champion Stakes, a Cox Plate and a Melbourne Cup.

He also inflicted two inexplicable defeats on last year's best middle-distance three-year-olds, thwarting Taghrooda aboard Tapestry in the Yorkshire Oaks and foiling Australia on The Grey Gatsby in the Irish Champion Stakes. The powers-that-be at Coolmore didn't need any further nudges.

O'Brien and his superiors resolved that it would be better to have him on side as a matter of routine and by not relocating to Ireland, Moore appears to have dictated the terms of the agreement. He is that good. This week, he will run the rule over the likes of Found at the Curragh, Giovanni Canaletto at Chester and John F Kennedy at Leopardstown. He now has the horses and expertise at his disposal that his talents deserve. It is a win-win situation. The only losers are the opposition - all of them.

It's Sweet 16 for mighty Mullins

Willie Mullins bagged another treble to sign off on Punchestown 2015 with a record 16 winners on Saturday.

He secured both of the day's Grade Ones, thus finishing up with 10 of the week's 12 top-level races. In the two Grade Ones that he didn't win, he saddled the runner-up, and Annie Power's triumph over Analifet and Petite Parisienne's defeat of Buiseness Sivola on Saturday brought to three the number of times Mullins' 10 Grade One winners were chased home by a stable-mate.

Eddie Harty's Sort It Out took the €100,000 handicap hurdle for Mark Walsh to bring JP McManus' haul for the week to 10, yet Mullins was responsible for the second, third and fourth in the valuable two-miler.

In total, his owners accumulated a massive €1,110,580 in prize money over the five days. To put that in perspective, Gordon Elliott, who got closest to Mullins in terms of the overall trainers' championship, accumulated €1,523,070 in total domestic prize money - for the entire season. Mullins signed off with €3,717,853.

It was the 10th year in a row he was crowned leading trainer at Punchestown so his dominance is nothing new, but he really did take it to a different level last week. He accrued 187 winners on home soil en route to his ninth trainer's title, just shy of his 2013 record of 193. His 30 Grades One wins on either side of the water is a record.

You couldn't begrudge Mullins any of his success, but in the greater scheme of things, you'd like to see more in the way of meaningful competition.

At the moment - to his eternal credit - he just seems to be getting stronger while the rest get weaker. That cannot be good for the long-term health of the game in this country.

Mark Walsh also won on Tony Martin's Gallant Oscar on Saturday to finish just five shy of Ruby Walsh in the jockeys' championship. Both riders spent time out with injuries during the season, but it was an especially admirable outing from the runner-up, whom few would have given a hope at the start of the season. He nearly doubled his final score by going from 39 wins to 74.

It was a record-equalling 10th title for the peerless Ruby Walsh, though he is the first rider to win 10 championships outright. He signed off with 79 winners, which is the lowest winning total for some time.

Patrick Mullins, Johnathan Burke and Nina Carberry all topped their respective categories comfortably. Burke, who has had a stunning season, was the only 'champion' not to net a winner at what was a massively successful festival, all told. The final attendance figure of 99,729 was shy of last year's 106,689.

A miserable final day didn't help, but there is little doubt that the track's front-line triumvirate of Dick O'Sullivan, Richie Galway and Shona Dreaper again deserve enormous credit.

Notwithstanding nitpicking in relation to the race programme, they are in a different league to other Irish race tracks when it comes to 48-hour declarations for all the Grade Ones, ground management and to small things like communication and professional courtesy.

Kentucky derby joy for Espinoza

Victor Espinoza won his second successive Kentucky Derby and third in all aboard favourite American Pharoah on Saturday night.

Espinoza drove American Pharoah to grind down Firing Line in the straight in the Run for the Roses, the runner-up ridden by 52-year-old Gary Stevens. The winner was trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, who was winning the race for the fourth time and also saddled the third home, Dortmund.

Tweet of the weekend

Christophe Soumillon (@CSoumillon)

Bravo Cirrus Des Aigles!!!! Cheval extraordinaire. J'ai vraiment beaucoup de chance d'avoir croisé ton chemin.

Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon after Corine Barande-Barbe's venerable gelding Cirrus Des Aigles saw off Al Kazeem to secure its seventh Group One at nine years of age in yesterday's Prix Ganay at Longchamp. The last sentence translates loosely as "I am truly lucky to have crossed your path".

Numbers Game

2009 The last time that Robbie Burke rode a winner in Ireland prior to yesterday's victory on the game Ceylon (6/1) for Patrick Prendergast at Sligo. Burke has ridden infrequently in Ireland in recent times, but he has been champion in both Macau and Mauritius. His first and only other ride here since 2009 was when he finished second on Ceylon at Limerick last month.

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