Watch Nick Luck's interview with Aidan O'Brien after the champion trainer reached 20 Group One wins for the season at Newmarket on Saturday
By Andy Stephens at Newmarket
Twenty down. Six to go. Aidan O’Brien remains cautious about his prospects of overhauling Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group One wins in a year despite chalking up two more triumphs at the highest level at Newmarket on Saturday.
Clemmie drew away from Different League in the closing stages of the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes before US Navy Flag kept on strongly to deny stablemate Fleet Review in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes 35 minutes later.
Surely this will be the year that O'Brien raises the bar to a new level. “It’s something we don’t think about - one race at a time,” he insisted.
The trainer never rests on his laurels - his fidgety demeanour suggests he never rests at all - and neither do his horses.
Instead of talk of the Newmarket trio having done enough for the season, he indicated they might stay on the boil and form part of what is likely to be a formidable Breeders’ Cup team in early November.
It is surprising he is not trading at even shorter odds because numerous opportunities remain around the globe - starting in France on Sunday when he will saddle five in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the same number of runners spread across four of the supporting Group One races at Chantilly.
There are still eight more Group One races in Britain this year, plus others in Canada, France, Hong Kong, Australia and America. O’Brien will have his eye on them all.
Winter has been his principal flagbearer this term, chalking up four Group One victories, and there was a buzz about O’Brien whenever her name was mentioned at Headquarters ahead of her tilt at the Arc.
Increasingly, though, it has been the trainer’s two-year-olds who have been stealing the show.
O’Brien has already won 16 Group races with 11 different juveniles this term (four of them at the highest level) and, of course, that does not even include the late maturing types at the stable who have yet to run or merely been campaigned at a lower level.
Bye Bye Baby, a taking winner of the maiden fillies’ stakes later on the Newmarket card, fits into that category. O’Brien had departed home to Ireland before she galloped to victory.
Happily (Moyglare), Sioux Nation (Phoenix Stakes), Clemmie and US Navy Flag have struck at the top level, while Saxon Warrior (Beresford), Seahenge (Champagne Stakes), Magical (Debutante), Gustav Klimt (Superlative Stakes), Clemmie (Duke of Cambridge) and Sioux Nation (Norfolk) have all secured Group Two prizes.Happily and Magical will flutter O'Brien's standard in France tomorrow (PA)
In addition, Nelson, US Navy Flag, The Pentagon, Happily, Actress and Clemmie have scooped Group Three events. There was also September’s Listed Chesham success at Royal Ascot.
Clemmie, a full sister of Churchill, looks all over a leading candidate for next year’s QIPCO 1000 Guineas. She is a top-priced 5-1 with William Hill for the Classic after a flawless display in the Cheveley Park - staying on powerfully and looking better the further she went. Her stablemates, Happily and Magical, who run in France on Sunday, are next in the betting.
“We have always thought the world of her,” O’Brien said. "She wants further but it's her class that gets her through over six furlongs. She's been progressing with every run and coming along lovely at home and to show that kind of class over six furlongs you would have to be over the moon.
"She's a lot like Churchill, she's right in his mould. She's got a great mind, plenty of speed, stays well and nothing fazes her so she's a filly to look forward to.
"The lads will discuss what they want to do but she would have no problem going to the Breeders' Cup, a mile on nice ground would be right up her street.”
O’Brien saddled four in a frenetically run Middle Park and it was US Navy Flag, running for the seventh time this season, who proved much the strongest on the tacky ground. So much for the progeny of War Front needing a fast surface.
"He's out of a Galileo mare and they just don't give up,” O’Brien said. “He's progressing with each race, he takes his racing well and we couldn't be happier. He's not the biggest but he's long and powerful."
He could squeeze in another run before a possible trip to America.
"We'll probably have a look at the Darley Dewhurst,” said O’Brien, who has 16 entered in the seven-furlong feature. "He’s a hardy horse, but he will tell us. Seamie said that he really wanted it, when he asked him his head went out and down. The blinkers really help him focus.”
Time and again, the figure 26 kept getting mentioned. O’Brien’s default is to laugh and deflect the praise.
“Great horses and great people; I’m just lucky to be part of it,” O’Brien said.
“Honest to God, we don’t think about it in any way. We take every race one by one, and each horse has to come. It’s all about the horse - what is right for them.”
Watch out France. The Group One winning machine is on its way.