Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 21 January 2018

O'Brien eyes Oaks glory with his team of three

Trainer Aidan O'Brien during the Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival at The Curragh, Co Kildare. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Aidan O'Brien during the Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival at The Curragh, Co Kildare. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Odds-on favourite Rhododendron is the highlight of a three-pronged assault from Aidan O'Brien on the Epsom Oaks tomorrow.

The Fillies' Mile winner, runner-up to stablemate Winter in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, will be ridden by Ryan Moore and is joined by Alluringly and Pocketfullofdreams. O'Brien has won all four Irish or British Classics run this season so far.

Group One-winning filly Sobetsu has also been declared. The daughter of Dubawi was an impressive winner of the Prix Saint-Alary at Deauville on her seasonal reappearance earlier this month.

John Gosden also has a strong Oaks hand, with the well-fancied Cheshire Oaks heroine Enable joined by Coronet, which was third behind Sobetsu in France.

The Roger Charlton-trained Natavia, Horseplay from Andrew Balding's yard, Ralph Beckett's Isabel De Urbina and Kenny McPeek's American challenger Daddys Lil Darling complete the line-up.

Full brothers Highland Reel and Idaho head 10 declarations for tomorrow's Coronation Cup. Both trained by Aidan O'Brien, they are separated by just a year and though four-year-old Idaho achieved a career highlight when winning the Great Voltigeur last term, five-year-old Highland Reel boasts four Group One successes including last year's King George and Breeders' Cup Turf. O'Brien also fields US Army Ranger.

Pat Smullen is looking forward to riding Khalidi in the Derby on Saturday as the jockey attempts to become an Epsom hero for a second year on the bounce. However, controversial longshot Diore Lia will miss the race, Gina Mangan being prevented by the BHA from riding her, the filly's owner has said. She was trading at 1,000/1.

Joseph O'Brien is not ruling out a surprise win for his Rekindling, fourth in the Dante. "At the time of the Dante, a few people weren't that impressed with the form because the winner (Permian) looked exposed, but his form keeps on getting franked," he said.

Meanwhile, the Kerry National at Listowel has emerged as a left-field possible target for Coneygree after he was ruled out of a tilt at the French Champion Hurdle.

The 10-year-old performed with great credit to finish a close third in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April, on what was his first appearance since filling the runner-up spot in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.

Sara Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark, said: "We've decided not to send him to France. Too many people have told me the ground won't be suitable, so that's that. It's driving me mad as he's feeling so good, but what can you do?

"My next plan is to give him a three-week break and then bring him back into training with a view to giving him a run around September time.

"There won't be too many suitable races, but there is the Kerry National at Listowel and that's something I'm thinking about."

Jessica Harrington sent out another good winner last night when Sandymount Duke made most of the running in the Bet In-Play With The Ladbrokes App Chase at Punchestown.

Well supported down to 11/4, the eight-year-old, owned and bred by musician Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, traded blows with Diamond King at the head of affairs for the first half of the race before Ruby Walsh sent him on.

Irish Independent

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