Thursday 23 November 2017

O’Brien wants more from Starspangledbanner in Dundalk

AIDAN O'Brien is looking to see a much improved performance from Starspangledbanner in the Mercury Stakes at Dundalk tomorrow evening.

The multiple Group One winner has failed to recapture those glory days since returning to O'Brien from a failed spell at stud, but the Ballydoyle handler feels he is coming back to something like his best.

O'Brien aims to run him in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint next week, so a big performance is needed to realise those dreams.

"We had it in our head a little bit that he might stay further and we were holding onto him a bit when the ground was bad," said O'Brien.

"We're very happy with him and have decided we want to concentrate on sprinting.

"The body shape is starting to come right and I think he's nearly there now.

"He'll run in Dundalk and head on out to America. He hates soft ground and hopefully we'll get him back to what he was.

"If he's going to America he needs to be sharpened up a bit."

Another runner who is set to go on his travels is David Marnane's Nocturnal Affair.

He won the race 12 months ago and went on to enjoy a lucrative spell in Dubai and that is the aim once more.

"Nocturnal Affair bounced back to form on his latest appearance, chasing home Balmont Mast in a six-furlong conditions race at Dundalk after finishing down the field in the Scarbrough Stakes at Doncaster, where he wasn't suited by the rain-softened ground," Marnane said in his newsletter.

"He will be suited by the step back to the minimum distance on Friday and given a decent draw should give a good account. This will be is his final run of the year, he will then have a short break before joining our team for the 2013 Dubai Carnival at Meydan."

Robin Bastiman has booked the in-form Pat Smullen to ride the veteran Borderlescott, who can book himself a ticket to Dubai with a good run.

"He's fine and he seems well in himself but he's had to run on bad ground the last twice," said Bastiman.

"I'm glad he's in stall two and not 14, anyway.

"The old boy's well and he's ready to run. If he shows up well we'll probably take him out to Dubai in the spring.

"A new jockey has sparked him into life once or twice. The owners wanted an Irish jockey because they know the course well and none are riding better than Pat Smullen at the minute.

"What with our lad, Kingsgate Native and Starspangledbanner there's a fair few Group One winners there."

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