Sunday 17 November 2019

O'Brien bids to be flying high all over the world

Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images
Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images

JA McGrath Dubai diary

It could be said that Aidan O'Brien's fleeting visit to Meydan for tomorrow's Dubai World Cup will be more a test of the great Irish trainer's stamina than that of his horses.

O'Brien is scheduled to leave Ireland late today, fly overnight and land in Dubai first thing tomorrow. Then he is expected to travel to Meydan to run his eye over Cape Blanco, Alexander Pope and Master Of Hounds before getting ready for the races.

As soon as the rich World Cup card is over, O'Brien will then head straight to the airport before flying back to Ireland for Sunday's racing at Leopardstown, where Classic hope Roderic O'Connor is entered for the 2,000 Guineas Trial.

It's some schedule just to throw a few saddles on their backs and to brief jockeys Jamie Spencer and Ryan Moore. The Master of Ballydoyle is certain to sleep well on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Cape Blanco is reported to be settling in well at Meydan ahead of tomorrow's showpiece. The Galileo colt is due to be ridden by the former Ballydoyle No 1 Spencer, who took the four-year-old for a spin around the track yesterday morning.

"He's fine. That was just a little bit of work," Spencer said afterwards of the bookies' 9/2 second favourite. Of Cape Blanco's draw in stall four, Spencer added: "I'm pleased with the draw. It's where I'd want to be."


After I had interrupted his afternoon nap earlier this week, Henry Cecil was still good enough to confide that one of the secrets of Twice Over's transformation last year had been changing his shoes.

"He's never had good feet," Cecil explained. "And while you could put shoes on with nails, it was increasing pressure on his feet and he just wasn't moving well.

"It's like someone wearing size 10-and-a-half shoes when he should be wearing size 11."

Twice Over now has special aluminium strips fitted every time he races. It has made a big difference to one of the trainer's great favourites, but it is also costly in this case as Cecil's farrier had to be flown out to Dubai specifically to fit the strips.

If it helps in landing the £3.7m first prize of the World Cup, I doubt owner Prince Khalid Abdulla will mind too much.


Newmarket trainer Mike Bell was a lone figure as he sat on a stool in the weighing room at Meydan yesterday, waiting to be called into the interview room to face the penetrating questions of his brother Rupert, a well-known presenter and radio voice on most courses in Britain. Bell (junior, so the Derby-winning trainer informed us) had been occupying himself by tweeting.

Just what was going through the great man's mind? Would David Attenborough have wanted to tell us what he really thought of brother Dickie had Twitter been available?

As far as his first runner on World Cup night is concerned, Bell reckons Wigmore Hall is sharp and tough enough to acquit himself well in the Dubai Duty Free, and then trip off to Hong Kong next month and Singapore in May.

Not bad for a horse which was almost a savage prior to being gelded. "He's nearly killed me a couple of times," said Bell.

Irish Independent

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