Will Aidan O'Brien's domination extend to Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday? Andy Stephens studies his previous record at the meeting and puts his candidates under the spotlight.
By Andy Stephens
Aidan O’Brien will send his biggest team to QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday as he closes in on a record haul of 25 Group One winners.
He has had a remarkable ten winners at the highest level since the start of September and last week raised the bar to new levels when pulling off an incredible 1-2-3-4 in the Dewhurst at Newmarket, with horses who were 50-1 and 40-1 forming part of that quartet.
O’Brien will again break new ground on Champions Day when he sends over a team of 12. No trainer has previously had a double-figure representation at the £4.3 million showpiece.
He has found the grand finale hard work, however, chalking up three winners from 23 runners, which equates to a 13% strike-rate.
During the same period, away from Champions Day, O’Brien has accumulated 123 winners in Britain from 653 runners, which is close to a 19% strike-rate.
William Hill have pushed out the price of Aidan O’Brien having two Group One winners at Ascot on Champions day from 3-1 to 4-1, but he is Evens to have one winner on the day.
“The ground looks as if it is going against a couple of his runners and his hand certainly does not look as strong as it did earlier in the week,” said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.
William Hill make him Evens to have one winner; 4-1 to have two; 33-1 to have three and 150-1 to have four. He is 11-8 to draw a blank.
Here is a guide to his team for Saturday and his previous exploits on the day:
MARKS OUT OF TEN: AIDAN’S ACES FOR CHAMPIONS DAY:
O’Brien relies on Order Of St George and the triple Group One winner promises to take plenty of beating.
He was below-par when fourth in the race last year after running in the Arc and follows the same route, but this time he has had an extra week to catch his breath and his principal rivals - Big Orange and Stradivarius - are not certain to handle the soft ground as well as him.
Marks out of ten: Nine.
Caravaggio is easily the pick of the O’Brien quartet, although the other trio who represent Ballydoyle could help him out by conceivably hassling Harry Angel as Intelligence Cross did so well at Royal Ascot in June.
Caravaggio looked champion sprinter material when beating Harry Angel in the Commonwealth Cup but things have not gone to plan since and he will have to be right back on his A-Game to beat a deep field.
Marks out of ten: Seven.
Hydrangea (pictured) has been a typically tough performer for O’Brien all year and any horse who beats Winter on two occasions cannot be easily dismissed. However, this will be her first try beyond a mile and a quarter and, speedily bred on the dam’s side of her pedigree, there has to be a chance she will not get home.
Wild Irish Rose is all stamina, but does not look good enough.
Marks out of ten: Six.
The draw has worked out a treat for O’Brien because Lancaster Bomber, in stall three, can tee things up for Churchill, in one on the far side.
The other Ballydoyle runner, the habitually held-up Sir John Lavery, is also drawn low in five so expect Lancaster Bomber to set decent fractions and try to take the game away from Ribchester (13) on the stands’ side.
Churchill’s reputation has been dented since his exploits at the start of the season but, back over a mile, he looks a serious player.
Marks out of ten: Eight.
Highland Reel has already won a King George and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot (plus been touched off in a Hardwicke).
This tough, sleeves-rolled-up streetfighter can never be discounted but his fan club could be left disappointed because the soft ground has gone against him.
Cliffs Of Moher has been underwhelming since finishing runner-up in the Derby but he had Cracksman behind that day and caught the eye in the Irish Champion last time.
Marks out of ten: Six.
AIDAN O’BRIEN’S CHAMPIONS DAY RECORD:
2011: O’Brien won with his first runner at the meeting, Fame And Glory, who landed the Long Distance Cup under Jamie Spencer at 3-1. He sent only one other runner, So You Think, who was runner-up in the QIPCO Champion Stakes when 7-4 favourite.
Runners: 2 Winners: 1
2012: Excelebration, the 10-11 favourite, won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes under Joseph O’Brien but O’Brien’s other two runners on the day - Was and Fame And Glory - finished out of the frame.
Runners: 3 Winners: 1
2013: O’Brien sent three runners and all finished third, including Derby winner Ruler Of The World in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. He was also represented by Eye Of The Storm and Kingsbarns.
Runners: 3 Winners: 0
2014: The closest any of his four runners came to winning was Chicquita, third in the Fillies & Mares Stakes at 7-1. Leading Light started 2-1 favourite for the Long Distance but came home seventh and was later found to have suffered career-ending injuries.
Runners: 4 Winners: 0
2015: Gleneagles was a leading contender for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes but the 9-4 shot trailed in sixth. The best of O’Brien’s three raiders was Found, runner-up in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at 9-2.
Runners: 3 Winners: 0
2016: O’Brien sent a team of eight to Champions Day and lifted the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Minding, the 7-4 favourite. However, he also suffered his share of disappointments. Order Of St George and Seventh Heaven were both hot favourites for their respective races - they went off 4-6 and 5-4 respectively - but were unplaced, while Found, his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine, was no match for Almanzor in the QIPCO Champion Stakes after going off at 5-2.
Runners: 8 Winners: 1
AIDAN O'BRIEN SPECIALS:
William Hill - Number of Aidan O’Brien Trained Group One Winners At Ascot on Saturday: Evens One, 11-8 none, 4-1 Two, 33-1 Three, 150-1 four
Paddy Power: 5-4 Aidan O' Brien To Have No Group One winner At Qipco British Champions' Day; 11-8 Aidan O'Brien to tie Bobby Frankel's Group/Grade One Record at Ascot on Saturday (to finish with exactly one Group One Winner); 9-4 Aidan O'Brien to break Bobby Frankel's Group/Grade One record at Qipco Champions Day (Needs two further Group One wins and has Johannes Vermeer running in Australia on Saturday morning)