Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Brien pulls another rabbit out of the hat with Magician

Ballydoyle maestro again shows his genius as Galileo colt defies long absence in Breeders'

Aidan O’Brien’s Magician and Ryan Moore left their rivals spellbound at Santa Anita
Aidan O’Brien’s Magician and Ryan Moore left their rivals spellbound at Santa Anita
Horse Racing Ireland’s marketing director Michael O’Rourke posts a picture of the Anfield legend (below) at the Foxrock venue yesterday
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

DECLARATION OF WAR'S gallant defeat on Saturday night added another chapter to Aidan O'Brien's tale of Breeders' Cup Classic woe, but Magician's devastating Turf victory will arguably go down as one of the Ballydoyle genius' most exquisite feats.

O'Brien's fourth win in the 12-furlong contest, it was his seventh Group One success in all at the spectacular American grand finale.

At the end of a mixed campaign that saw both him and his son Joseph set record domestic tallies, to bring a three-year-old back in such rude condition after 137 days off following a lifeless Royal Ascot showing was some effort.

In fact, it is the second occasion that O'Brien has confounded general expectations with the Galileo colt. When he stormed home in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, it marked the first time a horse went from taking a Classic trial over 10 furlongs to winning a Guineas.

Magician had been deeply impressive in Chester's Dee Stakes, and the story goes that he only tackled the Curragh showpiece at the behest of O'Brien's employers.

He duly justified heavy market support to win the mile Classic in style, and O'Brien again suggested that it was on Michael Tabor's advice that Magician moved up to 12 furlongs for Saturday's Turf.

Regardless of who made the call, it was inspired. Given that he looked more of a Derby horse than a Guineas prospect after Chester, the trip was always likely to be within his range, but for O'Brien to have him so cherry ripe for such a stern test took some doing.

In the circumstances, I didn't give Magician a prayer against a bang-in-form The Fugue.

However, under a stunning Ryan Moore steer, he absolutely mowed down John Gosden's classy mare to prevail by half-a-length in a thrilling encounter at odds of 125/10.

The boot had been on the other foot for the same duo when Giovanni Boldini got collared by Godolphin's Outstrip in Friday's Juvenile Turf.

That ultimately proved to be one of five Irish or British victories over the two days, and Declaration Of War lost little in failing to make it six when losing out by just a nose and a head in a pulsating climax to the Classic.

Joseph O'Brien did everything that he possibly could to get his horse home in front. He nearly pulled it off and the only consolation for the elite Co Tipperary-based outfit is that there will be no repeat of the sense of 'what if' that still lingers over Giant's Causeway's galling near-miss when the usually unflappable Mick Kinane got his reins in a tangle.

On another day, it might have fallen Declaration Of War's way, but it just wasn't to be on Saturday night. C'est la vie.

Mucho Macho Man held on for glory to complete Gary Stevens' incredible comeback after seven years in retirement in emphatic fashion.

The 50-year-old was always a brilliant rider, and his first Breeders' Cup Classic win added the romantic strand that this star-spangled occasion rarely fails to throw up.

Wise Dan defied a troubled passage to claim a second Mile, and Moore initiated a brace aboard Michael Stoute's Dank to justify 6/4 favouritism in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Beaten by Duntle at Royal Ascot, Dank had since won the Kilboy Estate Stakes at the Curragh and the Beverley D Stakes at Arlington.

She is a gritty mare that never gives in, so it was no surprise to hear Stoute suggest that he would do his damndest to convince her owner to keep her in training next year.


Roi Du Mee was the latest horse to advertise Bryan Cooper's sublime skills when he ran and jumped his rivals ragged in Saturday's Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Gordon Elliott's 12/1 outsider of six had just been thwarted by his fellow Gigginstown Stud-owned Toner D'Oudairies at Punchestown last time.

As was the case then, the firm's more fancied First Lieutenant couldn't raise his game sufficiently in Saturday's Grade One, posting a slightly lacklustre performance in fourth under Davy Russell.

If the champion jockey was frustrated to have chosen wrongly for a second time, he wasn't alone, as Keith Donoghue also felt aggrieved. He had been due to ride Toner D'Oudairies at Punchestown and Roi Du Mee on Saturday only to be replaced when Cooper's intended Gigginstown mount – this time Quito De La Roque – was scratched on the day.

Donoghue expressed his disappointment with the sequence of events that led to his demotion in no uncertain terms, describing it as "an absolute disgrace".

"I've missed a Grade Three win and now a Grade One," he added. "Gigginstown can do what they want. I went to Punchestown for one ride and was jocked off and got nothing out of it. It really is frustrating and the whole thing is a disgrace. Something has to be done to sort it out."

Sizing Europe filled the runner-up berth for a third time, jumping as sloppily as he did when coming up short over the three-mile trip in the past.

The winner's stablemate, Mount Benbulben, ran sweetly for a long way on his reappearance, but his old jumping failings returned when he crashed out at the fifth-last while on the heels of the leaders.

Elliott eventually departed the northern venue with a 779/1 treble. Time To Win (14/1) took the handicap hurdle for him under Danny Mullins, before Moonshine Lad (3/1) made a successful track bow under Stephen Clements in the bumper.

In between, local handler Stuart Crawford saw his exciting prospect Gilt Shadow (11/4) run out a stylish winner of the maiden hurdle under his brother Steven.


former gold cup hero Long Run urned in a completely abject performance on his seasonal debut in Saturday's Charlie Hall Chase, with victory going to a determined Harry Topper under Jason Maguire.

Kim Bailey's mud-loving six-year-old got brought down when last seen at Punchestown in the spring, and the rains came in time for him on Saturday.

Although he jumped sketchily at times, the 5/1 shot knuckled down well to deny last year's runner-up Wayward Prince by a neck, with Unioniste in third. The winner was halved in price from 33/1 to 16/1 for Gold Cup glory in March, though most sane observers reckon that he has a long way to go before he can be considered a contender for that.

Tony Martin's Benefficient made much of the running, but folded tamely when AP McCoy applied some pressure in the straight.

Tweet of the week

Michael O'Rourke @Ruairc

You never know who you'd meet at @LeopardstownRC. Ian Rush of Liverpool fame racing today for Movember & @Gillette

Horse Racing Ireland's marketing director Michael O'Rourke posts a picture of the Anfield legend (below) at the Foxrock venue yesterday.

Numbers game

6 Number of successive wins that Paul Nicholls has in Down Royal's Grade Two Powers Irish Whiskey Chase following Rolling Aces' triumph under Nick Scholfield on Saturday.

4 Wins that AP McCoy requires to reach the magical 4,000 after he collected on Jonjo O'Neill's Oscar Fortune and James Lambe's Red Lion Rock at Carlisle yesterday.

Irish Independent

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