Thursday 17 October 2019

O'Brien mystified by Magna's Curragh flop but Ascot still on the agenda

Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

Royal Ascot remains a likely target for Magna Grecia, despite his lacklustre performance in Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

A cosy winner of the Newmarket Guineas for Aidan O'Brien, Magna Grecia could finish only fifth in the Irish Classic, being beaten nearly six lengths by Phoenix Of Spain (16/1).

The Ballydoyle handler could offer no immediate explanation for that eclipse, but indicated a crack at the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot is still on the agenda, unless something subsequently transpires.

"Everything seems grand with Magna Grecia," said O'Brien yesterday. "He only went out for a walk this morning, but for some reason he wasn't the same horse as he was at Newmarket.

"Having said that, I wouldn't dream of taking away from the winner in any way. We were happy with him going into the race. It was only three weeks from Newmarket, so we didn't do an awful lot with him, but he seemed fine. The plan was that he would run here (at the Curragh) and then go to Ascot so, unless something unforeseen comes up, that will probably be where he goes."

As for the impressive three-length winner, trainer Charles Hills said that Phoenix Of Spain was likely to head next for Ascot also.

"I had my first Classic winner here with Just The Judge (Irish 1,000 Guineas) back in 2013. That was a tremendous thrill and this is very special as well. We'll obviously enjoy today and then sit back down in a couple of days and prepare him for Ascot and the St James's Palace.

"After that we're really looking forward to stepping him up to a mile and a quarter. He has an Eclipse entry as well."

John Gosden was thrilled with Too Darn Hot's runner-up display so soon after his seasonal debut at York - a run that had come following a delayed start to the season that meant he missed the Guineas at Newmarket - and the St James's Palace is likely be his next target.

O'Brien, meanwhile, confirmed that Sir Dragonet will be supplemented for the Derby today.

An impressive winner of the Chester Vase on just his second start, Sir Dragonet is the general 3/1 favourite for Saturday's Epsom feature and O'Brien says that owners John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith have agreed to stump up the £85,000 to add the Camelot colt to the field at today's confirmation stage.

Irish Independent

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