Saturday 21 September 2019

O'Brien closing in on Group One greatness

Trainer Aidan O'Brien Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Trainer Aidan O'Brien Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Marcus Armytage

The majority of trainers would die happily having sent out 25 Group One winners in a lifetime.

But Aidan O'Brien is a man apart and with 23 Group One victories this season alone, he stands on the brink of equalling and ultimately breaking the record for a calendar year; 25, set in America by the late Bobby Frankel in 2003.

One bookmaker has already paid out on him equalling Frankel and one of his three runners in today's Fillies' Mile at Newmarket will be widely expected to give him a 24th victory at the top level since Churchill took the 2,000 Guineas over the same stretch of the Rowley mile in May.

Happily, who beat the colts less than a fortnight ago in the Jean Luc-Lagardere, is a short-priced favourite to beat Magical, fourth in the Marcel-Boussac the same day, with September, who might even be fulfilling pace-making duties here, a shorter price than any other stable's runner.

But the race is not a foregone conclusion and Laurens stands in Ballydoyle's way.

Even with star filly Quiet Reflection side-lined for most of it, Karl Burke has taken his yard to a higher level this season.

Elsewhere, Willie Mullins has booked Joao Moreira to partner Thomas Hobson in next month's Melbourne Cup.

Ireland's perennial champion trainer could have as many as three runners in the Flemington showpiece on November 7, with 2015 runner-up Max Dynamite and Wicklow Brave, who disappointed in last year's renewal, also in contention.

Moreira, who is nicknamed 'Magic Man', was aboard the Tony Martin-trained Heartbreak City when he was beaten just a head by Almandin last November.

The Melbourne Cup hopefuls are part of a four-strong Mullins team in Australia. Riven Light will have Glen Boss aboard for tomorrow's Ladbrokes Stakes at Caulfield, where the 10-strong field also includes O'Brien's Johannes Vermeer and The Taj Mahal.

Meanwhile, Colin Keane and Pat Smullen renew their battle for the Irish jockeys championship at Dundalk, with Keane three ahead (84-81).

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

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