So You Think it's all over -- it is now
Aidan O'Brien broke new ground in Dubai on Saturday night by saddling his first winner at Meydan's gala World Cup meeting.
The Breeders' Cup winner, Wrote, was sent off favourite to take the Group Two UAE Derby for Ryan Moore, but it was his lesser fancied stable-mate Daddy Long Legs, a winner at the same level at Newmarket in September before failing to raise a gallop at Churchill Downs in November, that won tidily from just off the pace for Colm O'Donoghue.
Wrote eventually came in third, and O'Brien subsequently revealed that the American-bred Daddy Long Legs might now try to deliver him a first Kentucky Derby success on May 5.
Having saddled just one winner from 18 domestic runners prior to Saturday evening, the performances of this pair on the night confirmed that the Ballydoyle handler's horses will be ready when it matters most.
St Nicholas Abbey drove the point home when going down by an agonising neck to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Sheema Classic.
Joseph O'Brien challenged late on the horse that carried him to that devastating Breeders' Cup Turf triumph in the autumn.
In a race in which the early fractions were not breakneck, coming from well off the pace undoubtedly counted against him, with Olivier Peslier getting first run up the relatively short straight on the Champions Stakes hero Cirrus Des Aigles.
In light of St Nicholas Abbey's stunning display in New York, it was obviously disappointing to see him beaten on his reappearance.
It may be that Lasix, the anti-bleeding drug that he was able to run on in America, is the key to him, but he didn't lose much in defeat either.
Ballydoyle's major disappointment on the night was So You Think.
The immense hype that surrounded the horse on his arrival from Australia had long since been shown up as just that, but the World Cup looked a soft opportunity for him to add to his big-race haul.
In the event, he was soundly beaten by Monterosso, Capponi and Planteur -- three far-from-exceptional five-year-olds with just two top-notch wins between them.
Monterosso, sporting Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin blue under the ever-exuberant Mikael Barzalona, improved on a career-best third in the race 12 months ago to run out a decisive winner from Capponi, a horse that had progressed from a pair of handicap wins at the carnival in February.
As ever, So You Think travelled strongly early on, but found little for pressure. He seems to labour once he comes off the bridle, so a return to a mile and a half might help his cause.
On the back of his fourth successive defeat for O'Brien, it's hard not to now wonder about what exactly So You Think was beating as he established his reputation as a colossal racing machine in the southern hemisphere.
Ironically, when he waltzed home against inferior opposition in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last year, his notoriously outspoken former handler Bart Cummings couldn't get on the airwaves quick enough to denounce the standard of racing in these parts as not being "worth two bob" compared to Australia.
Time has shown the very opposite to be true, which might explain why we haven't heard a peep from Cummings in the intervening period.
Sole just lacks the
Speaking of Australians, Eddie Lynam's 2010 Nunthorpe victor Sole Power ran into a useful one when sent off favourite in Dubai.
Chinned by Mick Halford's Invincible Ash in a conditions race three weeks ago, the Kyllachy five-year-old stepped up on that display to finish second to Ortensia -- a seven-year-old mare trained Down South -- in Saturday's five-furlong turf Group One under Johnny Murtagh.
Defeat ultimately came from an unexpected source, but having also been beaten by just a head in the Abbaye in November, Sole Power now seems a far more consistent horse than he was, so you'd like to think things might fall his way at some stage during the summer. Invincible Ash was beaten three lengths in seventh.
Favourite out of
Prince De Beauchene, which had been favourite for the Grand National since landing the Bobbyjo Chase in February, has been ruled out of the race by Willie Mullins after picking up an injury. Mullins also stated that Quel Esprit will run at Punchestown rather than Liverpool.
Wexford native Richard Fahey tasted glory in the Lincoln at Doncaster on Saturday when Brae Hill prevailed by a short-head from Mull Of Killough, a horse that he also trained up until recently.
Paddy Aspell, the Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey who has turned his attentions to the Flat, then won the Brocklesby on My Boy Bill for Mick Easterby, before Cork's Dane O'Neill completed a double aboard Clare-born Seamus Durack's Qaraaba.
Ride of the weekend
Barry Geraghty excelled on Slievedaragh when topping off his Navan treble in Saturday's novice chase.
In a characteristically no-nonsense steer, he sent his quirky mount on three out, as Paul Carberry sat poised alongside on Perfect Smile.
Slieveardagh, however, is less straightforward than Geraghty, and went so far left at the last that his rider had a job to keep him on the chase course when they landed.
That gave Perfect Smile and Regal D'Estruval an opportunity to challenge, but Geraghty gathered up his mount in time to hold on.
Charles Byrnes, who enjoyed a double on the day, did brilliantly to have Johnny's Lantern fit enough to win yesterday.
Having joined Byrnes from Willie Mullins, the mare was having its first start for 595 days and raced keenly, yet still powered away from Sligo Publican, with 26 lengths back to the third. It was no mean feat on behalf of the Limerick handler.
@oneill141 Nice stay @crownbawtry, chilled and refreshed. The couple next door sounded like they enjoyed the night as well.
-- Dane O'Neill, fresh from his double, with a pointer as to how 'Doncaster's only five-star contemporary hotel' might earn that cherished fifth star