Sunday 25 February 2018

War Command back to best – O'Brien

Aidan O'Brien with his son Joseph, who were victorious with Mekong River at Listowel
Aidan O'Brien with his son Joseph, who were victorious with Mekong River at Listowel

Press Association

Aidan O'Brien was thrilled to see exciting juvenile War Command put a shock reverse behind him with a stylish victory in the Galileo European Breeders Fund Futurity Stakes at the Curragh. After building on a Leopardstown debut win with a staggering performance in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, the American-bred colt looked set to dominate the juvenile division for the rest of the campaign.

However, being beaten into third when odds-on for the Phoenix Stakes was not in the script and he was an 8/11 favourite as he stepped back up to seven furlongs for his latest assignment. Joseph O'Brien cut a confident figure in the saddle for much of the Group Two contest, but there was a brief moment of worry for odds-on backers as Mustajeeb loomed up as a threat.

However, War Command found another gear once popped the question and ran on to score comfortably by three lengths. "The Ascot horse is back," said O'Brien snr. "We gave him a break after Ascot and I think he was maybe asleep the last day. It was obviously trainer error again. I didn't have him sharp enough or tight enough. He was a different horse today. I'm very happy with him and he got the seven furlongs well. He'll probably come back here for the National Stakes (September 15)." War Command was cut to 8/1 from 16/1 for next year's 2,000 Guineas by Stan James, with Kingman their 6/1 favourite.

While it proved to be another good afternoon for the O'Brien father-son combination, with Aidan saddling a double and Joseph riding a three-timer, they suffered a shock reverse in the Gain Irish St Leger Trial. Ernest Hemingway was a 4/9 favourite to inflict a third straight defeat on 7/2 shot Royal Diamond, but was a disappointing third as the latter beat Voleuse De Coeurs by half a length.

Royal Diamond will now aim for back-to-back victories in the Irish St Leger itself on September 15. Winning trainer-jockey Johnny Murtagh said: "He's really come on from the last day. Hopefully in three weeks' time he'll come back here and defend his title. He's a wonderful horse for us to have."

Team Ballydoyle's brace was initiated by 5/4 favourite Terrific in the Loder European Breeders Fund Fillies Race, while Joseph produced the Gary Moore-trained Dutch Masterpiece (4/1) with a withering late run to claim the Flying Five Stakes. Come To Heel (6/4 favourite) eventually mastered game front-runner Hurryupharriet to claim Listed honours in the Irish Field Curragh Stakes for trainer David Wachman and jockey Wayne Lordan.

Vallado justified 7/4 favouritism in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes Ron Harris-trained British raider Corporal Maddox was a 10/1 winner of the Dublin Bay Cruises Handicap in the hands of Chris Hayes.

Sunday Independent

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