Tuesday 24 October 2017

O'Brien in seventh heaven as Roderic lands Guineas

IAN McCLEAN

It may not have been a vintage Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh yesterday, but that will not matter if your name is O'Brien.

Aidan O'Brien is no stranger to Classic winners. Yesterday was his seventh Irish Guineas. He has legged up legends -- the likes of Christy Roche, Olivier Peslier, Mick Kinane and Johnny Murtagh -- to victory. But none of his magnificent seven, or his wider haul of 24 Irish Classics, will have given him the unique euphoria associated with greeting into the winner's enclosure your own flesh and blood.

Furthermore, JP O'Brien, son of AP, gave yesterday's winner Roderic O'Connor a ride any of the aforementioned legends would have been proud of, taking the initiative directly from the gate, ignoring his pacemakers, judging the pace to perfection, and holding just enough in reserve to repel the last-ditch effort of the foreign favourite. Any suspicion of nepotism was dispelled with a performance of polish that delivered the goods on pure 18-carat merit.

Speaking of 18, Joseph doesn't turn 18 until tomorrow and there can't be too many teenagers who get a Classic winner for their birthday. It is the stuff of dreams and both father and son alluded to it in the direct aftermath. Young Joseph described the victory as "what you dream of" while father Aidan claimed: "I never dreamed it could happen."

"He jumped smartly and travelled nicely," reflected Joseph. "He's very genuine and stayed on to the line. The ground was very fast at Newmarket but he handled the track today very well. The stiff mile suited him well. I didn't see another horse all the way."

But while Joseph was in dreamland, Richard Hughes got caught in a nightmare as he got going all too late to reel in Roderic O'Connor on heavily backed favourite Dubawi Gold, encountering heavy Ballydoyle traffic along the way.

Those investing in the favourite were well aware of the risks associated with a hold-up horse which found himself fully 10 lengths off the winner at half-way. Taking closer order three furlongs out meant Dubawi Gold now found himself enclosed behind the other two Ballydoyle horses (High Ruler and Oracle). By the time Hughes had managed to extract himself from behind the wall, the winner -- a resolute stayer at a mile -- had already flown.

Many felt the apprentice had outwitted the sorcerer on this occasion but Richard Hughes felt differently: "I had to switch him out for his run and when I asked him to go, he changed legs three or four times on the ground. I got going eventually, but not in enough time."

Trainer Richard Hannon, denied a fourth Irish Guineas, was not inclined to agree however.

"I don't want to say too much, but why he (Richard Hughes) sat coming out of the stalls I don't know. He was a long way behind and the horse should have won. He's a good horse and there'll be other days, but you don't get to win a Guineas very often."

The result made a complete mockery of the formbook as Roderic O'Connor was turning around a 32-length deficit with Dubawi Gold as compared to the Newmarket Guineas.

Ballydoyle was "dumbfounded" by the performance there and yesterday's performance tallies far more with connections' opinion of the horse which already boasts a Group One on his CV.

Next stop for Roderic is likely to be the Derby -- but which Derby (French or English) is still to be advised. If euphoria engulfed the O'Brien family after the result, it also brought a smile to the faces at Coolmore given that Roderic O'Connor's victory now means that all three 2011 Guineas winners -- Frankel in England; Tin Horse in France; as well as Roderic O'Connor yesterday -- have been sired by Galileo.

He, like Joseph, is doing his father proud.

In keeping with the theme of the next generation, the listed Marble Hill Stakes produced an impressive display from O'Brien's leading two-year-old, the aptly-named Power. Coping well with the drop back to five furlongs, he just did enough to see off Tough As Nails by the minimum margin.

O'Brien senior commented afterwards: "He won his maiden very nicely here at the start of the month. We were thinking of going to Ascot and this was going to be a good sharpener for him. His class got him through and we're delighted with him. Hopefully we'll have a look at the Coventry."

Seamus Heffernan, who did the steering, said: "He has a bit of class as five furlongs wouldn't be his trip. That race fitted in nicely for him as he now has two runs under his belt going to Royal Ascot."

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