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O'Briens go east to take on world


Jockey Joseph O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images

Jockey Joseph O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images

Jockey Joseph O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images

yesterday, it was confirmed that Joseph O'Brien will ride So You Think in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan next Saturday night.

There are two elements of significance to be inferred from this. Firstly, coming on the same day that the two-time champion apprentice reduced the three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore to a supporting role at The Curragh, it now seems safe to assume that O'Brien will ride the lion's share of his father Aidan's horses this term.

Having been the only one to partner Camelot -- the stable's exciting two-year-old -- in a race, Joseph (18) was already in pole position for the responsibility of steering the three-year-old.

So You Think was Ballydoyle's top-rated older horse last season. However, tactical misjudgements played their part in the Australian import's failure to fully live up to the hype in 2011, and it is to his son that O'Brien Snr is now turning in an effort to salvage the horse's Herculean reputation.

The second thing to conclude from the initial salvo is that Team Coolmore is ramping up its efforts to improve relations with Sheikh Mohammed.

Having virtually ignored the Sheikh's World Cup meeting since it started in 1996, it was speculated that the Irish operation's indifference towards the fixture prompted the prolonged 'Cold War' that emerged between Coolmore and its greatest rival from late 2005 onwards.

While the Coolmore brand and its Ballydoyle training wing outmuscled Sheikh Mohammed's Darley and Godolphin equivalents when relations between the two superpowers were at their frostiest, the stand-off ultimately cost both firms.

The Dubai chief steered clear of Coolmore stallions and, in the current economic climate, an impasse that eliminated a client of such immense worth was not good for business.

Last year saw Messrs Magnier, Tabor and Smyth welcome a new partnership into their elite circle when the Dubai-based Jim and Fitri Hay bought shares in a number of high-profile horses.

Some perceived that to be a strategic amalgamation, a theory that gained traction when Cape Blanco, one of the new shareholders' Ballydoyle contingent, became the stable's first ever runner in the World Cup 12 months ago.

A bridge had been built, and now So You Think is crossing it. The Hays are not, to the best of my knowledge, involved in his ownership, so for a first time the Meydan event has been identified as a worthy Group One target for one of the stable's big names.

Moreover, he is one of a six-strong team -- including St Nicholas Abbey -- making the journey to Dubai, which is twice the number that travelled in 2011. Looking at the entries for the 10-furlong race, the most valuable in the world with a €10m prize fund, it is a contest that So You Think could easily win.

Should he do so, it would be a fine start to the new campaign for the O'Brien family and the Coolmore camp, but it might also signal an end of sorts.

No April fool -- back

in saddle at Limerick

Speaking of significant jockey bookings, there will be an abundance of same at Limerick next Sunday.

Local handler Michael Hourigan has organised an ex-jockeys' race in aid of the Mid West Spina Bifida Association, with Jim Dreaper, Tony Mullins, Arthur Moore, Gordon Elliott, Tony Martin, Philip Fenton, Gerry O'Neill and yours truly among those pencilled in for duty.

It's 15 years since a similar venture by Hourigan saw him fight out a cracking finish with fellow trainer Eric McNamara in aid of the Shane Broderick Appeal.

McNamara came out on top then, as Hourigan went down fighting on subsequent Aintree Grand National winner Amberleigh House.

With all of the 18 participants required to raise €1,000 to take part, it will generate a decent purse for charity. Anyone who would like to sponsor my efforts can do so via an online bank transfer to: a/c number 12979131; Sort code 936057; payee reference MWSBA.

Ride of the weekend

PAT Smullen excelled on Croisultan at The Curragh yesterday. The six-year-old, making its debut for Dermot Weld, had to concede upwards of six pounds to his 10 rivals, but Smullen smuggled him home by a neck.

Croisultan picked up well under a strong drive to lead at the death. The change of tactics probably had as much impact as the change of trainer.

Irish Independent