Sunday 17 December 2017

Record year still on cards for O'Brien

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

The prospect of an unprecedented double Classic grand slam may have gone up in smoke yesterday, but there is little doubt that Team Ballydoyle is in for another enthralling season.

Samitar's brilliant 1,000 Guineas success for the ever-popular Mick Channon and rising star Martin Harley means that a second clean sweep of the domestic Classics is beyond reach for Aidan O'Brien.

Still, a first whitewash of the English versions remains a real possibility, and it was ultimately another tremendous weekend on The Curragh for the champion trainer.

Power's impressive coup in Saturday's Abu Dhabi 2,000 Guineas saw O'Brien draw level with his namesake and predecessor Vincent on 27 Irish Classics.

His fourth Group One of the campaign, it also means that, notwithstanding that we are at an early remove, he is in with a fighting chance of emulating his previous best of 23 Group Ones in a calendar year.

When he checked out with that tally in 2001, he had three at the same point, while he had five up by the close of business on Irish Guineas weekend before going on to match the feat seven years later.

With the likes of St Nicholas Abbey, Maybe, Kissed and Camelot to come at Epsom, Bobby Frankel's record of 25 could look increasingly vulnerable this time next week.

If further evidence of the stable's muscle were needed, Power's victory on Saturday surely provided it.


Just like Roderic O'Connor last year, he came here on the back of an abysmal showing under Ryan Moore at Newmarket, yet was the beneficiary of another masterclass from the trainer's son Joseph to deliver the handler an incredible eighth win in the race.

That kind of inexplicable improvement from one run to another leaves most of us scratching our heads, but it is the sort of thing we have come to expect from the stable in recent years.

While Camelot, with all his class, was just ready enough to do the job at Newmarket, the first Classic of the year ultimately amounted to an away day for Power. As we've seen recently with St Nicholas Abbey, and in years past with Yeats and Fame And Glory, O'Brien picks his moments with his best horses to fairly devastating effect. It's nice work if you can get it, and at the end of the day it's up to everyone else to try and match him.

If anything, that is the disappointing thing to emerge from the weekend. Would you believe, Vincent O'Brien, since deceased, remains the last Irish-based handler other than the current Ballydoyle incumbent to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Prince Of Birds in 1988.

On Saturday, Sea The Stars' brother Born To Sea was the best non-O'Brien-trained Irish runner when taking fifth, and yesterday was hardly any better.

So You Think made a lie of the Tattersalls Gold Cup's Group One status for the second year in a row, with Jessica Harrington's Princess Sinead the only one to disrupt the English/Ballydoyle supremacy in the 1,000 Guineas by finishing third, the rest of the first five all falling into the latter bracket.

Harrington, Mick Halford, Eddie Lynam and Ger Lyons have all made breakthroughs of sorts at the highest level in recent years.

Others such as David Marnane and Paul Deegan, both of whom joined Halford in saddling winners on yesterday's undercard, have threatened to do likewise, but the truth of the matter is that the success story that is Irish Flat racing on an international level is seemingly more one-dimensional now than it has been for some time.

There's good and bad in that.

Million-dollar Murphy

returns to the States

Conor Murphy, who landed £1m when a £50 accumulator comprising five of his employer Nicky Henderson's horses came in at Cheltenham in March, has left the Lambourn trainer.

Corkman Murphy is to return to Kentucky, having spent time Stateside in between two spells with Henderson. The 28-year-old will set up on his own near Louisville, where he will break and pre-train with a view to acquiring a licence.

"Ideally, I would love to train in Ireland or England," he said, "but the prize money is not good enough, so I am going to America, where I worked for three years and have lots of friends and contacts.

"I was going to do this anyway, but obviously my win will mean that my first year over there will not be the struggle to keep my head above water that I had expected it to be."

Lynch breaks leg at Cork

Andrew Lynch, who enjoyed no fewer than nine Grade One triumphs last season, will be sidelined for a couple of months after suffering a broken femur in a nasty fall from Flemingo Domingo at Cork on Friday night. The Co Meath native was riding for the Flemenstar trainer and owner team of Peter Casey and Stephen Curran when his mount, which was fatally injured, crashed out at the second flight in the three-mile maiden hurdle.

No concrete plan

for Parish Hall

Parish Hall, favourite for the Irish 2,000 Guineas before being ruled out by Jim Bolger on Saturday morning, will not contest this weekend's Epsom Derby.

Last season's Dewhurst winner is on a course of antibiotics for a hind-leg infection, and the Coolcullen handler suggested he might also miss the St James' Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. "While he is in the Irish Derby (June 30)," Bolger reported, "I would like to run him over a mile before tackling longer distances. But, until we see how quickly he recovers, plans are up in the air."

Sole Power breaks track

record but doesn't win

Eddie Lynam's Sole Power just failed in his bid for back-to-back successes in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday.

He eventually went down by a neck to the Roger Charlton-trained winner Bated Breath, with both horses, which will re-oppose in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot, bettering the previous track record.

Also Ascot-bound is Emulous. Dermot Weld's 2011 Matron Stakes winner made a successful reappearance in a Group Two at The Curragh on Saturday, and now heads for the Windsor Palace Stakes.


8-- The number of Greenlands Stakes that have been won by an English-trained horse in the past nine years following Tiddliwinks' triumph for Yorkshire's Tipperary-born Kevin Ryan and Pat Smullen in the Group Three at The Curragh on Saturday.


@AJMccabeRacing -- Caspar happy in Germany -- eaten up and drinking well. Led out and fresh this morn. Takes everything in his stride. Dude.

-- Irish-born Nottingham-based trainer Alan McCabe on Caspar Netscher, which tackles the German 2,000 Guineas in Cologne at 4.15 today. Ninth in the 2,000 Guineas, the Greenham winner was sold on as a yearling by Katie Walsh.

Irish Independent

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