Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 16 January 2018

O'Brien Jnr looks like a champion in making

What a weekend it turned out to be for Ballydoyle in Newmarket.

Four years without a British Classic, then two at once. The Guineas training double has been done just six times in 100 years, and Aidan O'Brien now accounts for 33pc of that tally.

On 2,000 Guineas day in 2011, his then 17-year-old son Joseph was at Dundalk, winning on Measured Approval for Pat Flynn.

His father's eagerness to give him what opportunities he could before his weight got the better of him the season before may have undermined Johnny Murtagh's position and contributed to the senior jockey's decision to walk away from the biggest job in racing, but the newly crowned joint-champion apprentice still hadn't earned the right to displace Ryan Moore on Roderic O'Connor at Newmarket.

Having finished tailed-off there, Roderic O'Connor turned up at The Curragh three weeks later for the Irish edition, but Moore opted for Haydock instead. O'Brien Jnr got the nod, executed an exquisite front-running steer to land a famous triumph, and all of a sudden he was a big-race jockey. Talk about a whirlwind 12 months.

He went on to bag three more Group Ones last term, and concluded with 57 domestic winners, smashing the previous best for an apprentice to finish third in the jockeys' table.

Justifiably, he received many plaudits for his cool handling of high-profile rides on Camelot at Doncaster and St Nicholas Abbey at Churchill Downs, but both pale in comparison to the daring tactics that he employed amid such intense expectation on Saturday.

When Moore flew in to ride for Ballydoyle at The Curragh on the opening day of the current season in March, he had one ride. O'Brien was booked for five, and you suspect that Saturday might finally have been the day that Moore realised that turning down the Ballydoyle gig was a duff decision, regardless of how precarious a position it might be.

Then again, someone has to ride the pacemakers and few other stables would have a second-string that is a three-parts sister to Dylan Thomas. While Homecoming Queen may or may not be as good as she looked in the 1,000 Guineas, she didn't half run them ragged yesterday.

Camelot is a serious talent but, all things being equal, Moore and every other jockey in the weighroom will never throw a leg over him, because the 18-year-old in possession of the deeds knows exactly what he is doing. By season's end, he might even be champion jockey.

As for the horse that defied all the stats to end his trainer's English Classic drought, right now it's very hard to envisage him not also ending the stable's 10-year Epsom Derby famine. Saturday was ultimately Camelot's Epsom trial, one that he came through better than this correspondent envisaged, and with something left in the tank to boot.

It is hard to believe but, for the third time in four seasons following Sea The Stars and Frankel, the Flat world looks to have been graced with a special talent, one that might easily be described as rare if it weren't for the two giants that preceded him.

In keeping Frankel in training at four, his connections have gifted the summer discipline a fantastic sporting gesture, one that could be rivalled by Coolmore if they follow through with Derrick Smith's jaw-dropping suggestion that he and his partners are "getting to the time of our lives when it might be nice to say you owned a horse who won the Triple Crown".

The sceptic in you feels it will never happen with a horse that is owned by such a commercial outfit, but the romantic in you hopes Camelot might just turn up at Doncaster in September for the St Leger. Anyway, he needs to win the Derby first. One step at a time.

O'Sullivan off the

mark at Limerick

Ross O'Sullivan, a decent amateur rider who has now turned his attention to training, saddled his first winner under rules when He's Our Man took the maiden hurdle for Andrew McNamara at Limerick on Saturday. Curragh-based O'Sullivan, who turns 30 tomorrow, had previously trained a handful of point-to-point winners, and partnered He's Our Man to a bumper victory at Naas when it was in the care of Oliver Brady two years ago.

Florida Pearl

succumbs to illness

Florida Pearl, one of this country's best modern-day chasers, was put down on Saturday night.

A dual Cheltenham Festival winner that amassed four Hennessy Gold Cups at Leopardstown as well as a King George VI Chase for Willie Mullins, the 20-year-old had been suffering cancer of the blood.

Retired in 2004 at 12 years of age, he was the most successful horse in the history of the Hennessy, and his fourth triumph in the Grade One saw him return to a rapturous reception. It turned out to be the last time he ever raced.

Ride of the weekend

Joseph O'Brien got the nod for his performance on Imperial Monarch last week, but you couldn't not give it to him again for Camelot. The teenager's judgment of pace has always been his best asset, and he could hardly have timed his run from the rear any better at Newmarket. For what it's worth, he was no less precise in getting Maarek home by a neck for David Nagle yesterday. He is riding at the top of his game.

Longs Legs dirt poor

Daddy Long Legs was pulled up by Colm O'Donoghue in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday night. The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt broke well from his inside stall, but O'Donoghue later reported that he then failed to cope with the dirt surface.

Numbers

5 What Brian Hayes will claim from now on after he secured John 'Shark' Hanlon's first winner of 2012 by making all on the impressive Clondaw Warrior at Limerick on Saturday. It was the Rosscarbery native's 20th career win, triggering the reduced allowance.

165,307 The attendance clocked at Churchill Downs on Saturday night, a record for the Kentucky Derby fixture.

Tweet

@Fairyhouse We knew @Fairyhouse that we saw a Classic winner winning her nursery last September!!

Well done to connections of Homecoming Queen -- the Meath venue's twitter account manager identified something few others did when yesterday's shock 1,000 Guineas heroine broke her duck there at the eighth time of asking in the autumn.

Irish Independent

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