Thursday 18 January 2018

Richard Forristal: O'Brien sheds new Light on Arc plans

Joseph O'Brien drives Leading Light (far right) to victory from Talent (far left) in Saturday's St. Leger at Doncaster
Joseph O'Brien drives Leading Light (far right) to victory from Talent (far left) in Saturday's St. Leger at Doncaster
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

The suspicion that Ballydoyle might be in for a lucrative autumn grew legs after Leading Light's dour Doncaster St Leger triumph on Saturday.

While it has been a stop-start campaign for Aidan O'Brien's team at the highest level, there are plenty big prizes to be won yet, and the handler's 20th English Classic success augurs well for what lies ahead.

O'Brien says that there is a real possibility that the Coolmore firm will stump up a €100,000 supplementary fee to put Leading Light in next month's Prix de l'Arc.

The Montjeu colt is unlikely to have sufficient gears to compete in European Flat racing's showpiece, but his Doncaster display under Joseph O'Brien was no mean feat. The Epsom Oaks winner Talent, so poor at the Curragh last time, posted a cracking effort to grab second off Galileo Rock.

Libertarian, just behind Galileo Rock when fourth at Epsom, also left its Curragh flop behind to fill the same spot on Saturday.

On just its third start, Foundry emerged with plenty credit in fifth, as a lack of match practice showed when he got tapped for toe at a crucial point two out.

Talent came from stone-last to whizz by him at that point, before the penny eventually dropped with Ryan Moore's mount.

Galileo Rock also ran an honest race, justifying David Wachman's decision to have a cut at the world's oldest Classic. He had no excuses.

O'Brien's Epsom Derby hero Ruler Of The World was another to leave behind a dismal Curragh turn with a slightly unlucky last-gasp second to Kizuna in yesterday's Prix Niel.


The Epsom fifth Ocovango took third in the Longchamp Group Two, so it was encouraging to see him, Ruler Of The World, Libertarian and Galileo Rock advertise the Epsom form.

At the same time, they did so in defeat to respective winners of the two-mile Queen's Vase and a Japanese Derby, so it might be a bit previous to get too carried away.

Chances are the Prix Vermeille and Prix Foy will prove more relevant Arc trials. Orfevre, gallingly denied an elusive first Japanese success in the 12-furlong Group One last year, teed himself up for a second bite of the cherry with a barnstorming odds-on rout in the Foy.

Camelot was a non-runner in that, and O'Brien's Oaks runner-up Venus De Milo misfired behind Criquette Head-Maarek's smooth Vermeille scorer Treve. Frankie Dettori's first Group One winner since returning from his drugs ban, the French Oaks victor is now unbeaten in four.

Along with Orfevre and the German-based King George VI winner Novellist, she looks guaranteed to ensure this year's Arc is bang up to scratch.

Exactly what hand O'Brien the trainer will play in the race remains to be seen, though O'Brien the jockey may have to observe from the sidelines once again, as he simply won't be able to do the weight on a three-year-old. Then again, Camelot could be thrown into the mix.

However, that seems unlikely, and it's ironic to think back a year, when he was denied Triple Crown glory by Godolphin's Encke.

At the time, his 20-year-old rider fielded criticism for having the 2,000 Guineas and dual Derby hero too far out of his ground, but the revelation that the winner has since tested positive for steroids sheds a very different light on the result.

On Saturday, the elite father-son firm succeeded in gaining sweet St Leger retribution with a horse that probably wouldn't even lay up in a Guineas. Funny old game.


Eddie Lynam and Wayne Lordan, both of whom bagged the second Group Ones of their careers this term with Sole Power and Sudirman, completed a fine day for the raiders on Town Moor when Viztoria fought for a brave win in the Group Two Park Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday.

Back over her favoured conditions of seven furlongs on slow ground, the 7/2 shot set herself up for a tilt at the Foret on Arc day with her fourth win in six starts.

"We've had to be patient with her, we hadn't run her for a long time and the owners backed me," Lynam said of the three-year-old, which was last seen finishing sixth in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.



In recording a runaway Gain Irish St Leger triumph on Voleuse De Coeurs for Dermot Weld, Chris Hayes proved that Group One triumphs are a bit like draws in All-Ireland hurling finals – you wait all your life for one, then two come along together.

The 25-year-old enjoyed his first top-level win on La Collina for his boss Kevin Prendergast last week, and followed up in the €200,000 Curragh showpiece on his first ride for Weld.

Retained to partner Lady Chryss O'Reilly's horses for other stables, Hayes got the opportunity to ride last year's Cesarewitch heroine as Pat Smullen preferred Pale Mimosa.

He took the chance on the 9/1 shot with both hands, as the four-year-old daughter of Teofilo surged six lengths clear of the favourite Ahzeemah to become the 12th female winner of the one-mile-six-furlong event. "It's super," Hayes beamed.

"They went plenty quick enough for her on that ground (good to firm in places) but then they stopped in front in the straight, and she was just coasting. Thank God, it wasn't a handicap or I'd have been in trouble!"

The result took Weld's haul in the race to seven after Vinnie Roe's 2000s quartet and Vintage Crop's 1990s double. Now 26, Vintage Crop cut a sprightly figure on parade yesterday.

"I will try and encourage Lady O'Reilly to keep her in training next year," Weld said of Voleuse De Coeurs, "as I think she will be a high-class Cup mare at five."

Hayes initiated a 49/1 double on O'Reilly's Paul Deegan-trained Avenue Gabrial in the Listed two-year-old race, while Weld completed a 79/1 brace with Wandering Star.

The Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes was won in decisive style by English raider Toormore. Richard Hughes sent the evens favourite to the front from the get-go, eventually stretching his unbeaten record to three by fending off the Phoenix Stakes victor Sudirman by nearly three lengths, with last week's Dundalk debut winner Giovanni Boldini third.

Richard Hannon trains Toormore, which means that each of the 12 Group Ones in the domestic calendar was won by a different trainer. Toormore could have its next start in the 2014 2,000 Guineas, for which he was trimmed to as low as 7/1 from a high of 16/1.


Bryan Cooper, from Farmer's Bridge in nearby Tralee, got the Listowel Festival off to a fine start by driving Dessie Hughes' Guitar Pete (12/1) to victory in the three-year-old hurdle.

A second win for the talented rider since his return from four months off with a broken leg, the jumping debutant found plenty to see off the favourite Lindenhurst.

Curley Bill came with a late flourish to justify 11/10 favouritism in the conditions hurdle for Noel Meade and Davy Condon, while champion jockey Davy Russell was the only other man to win on a favourite at the Kerry Group-sponsored meeting.

He took the beginners' chase on the John Nallen-trained Minella For Value (7/2), before filling the runner-up berth on Toostrong in the featured chase.

Barry Geraghty enjoyed a ready win on Eddie O'Grady's The Real Article (4/1) in that €34,000 three-miler, and Mick Winters and Johnny Burke combined to take the bumper with 6/1 shot Theos Well.



2 heading to the Curragh today for Gr3 & Gr1. It's raining here & hopefully it's raining at HQ, cos it won't help Darwin! Horses are well. HGD.

– The going remained quite quick, but Ger Lyons' morning aspiration was still borne out, as his runaway Galway handicap winner Brendan Brackan left the odds-on Darwin in third en route to an authoritative coup in the mile Group Three under Colin Keane.


100 Mikey Fogarty's win percentage as a professional, after yesterday's 25/1 maiden hurdle win on Richie Rath's Balynaclasch Warrior made it two wins from two rides.

1 Career wins as a trainer for Meath's Sheila Lavery, after her home-bred filly Lady Ultra landed the valuable nursery under Rory Cleary at the Curragh yesterday. Lavery also owns Viztoria, so it was a cracking weekend for the Summerhill woman.

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