Aidan O'Brien opened up the doors of Ballydoyle to the media on Wednesday. From discussing the composition of his large William Hill St Leger team for Doncaster next week to his ambitions for Anthony Van Dyck the Irish trainer went through it all. Geoffrey Riddle reports.
Aidan O’Brien could run four in the William Hill St Leger:
We may be more accustomed to Aidan O’Brien being mob-handed in the Derby at Epsom, but it looks as if he could have a quartet of representatives in the St Leger at Doncaster on September 15.
And it was clear who was the first choice among that band of thoroughbreds, too.
When asked whether he had any trouble splitting the four, O’Brien told reporters on Wednesday: “No, I suppose Kew Gardens is the horse we want to improve - we always loved him.”
He added: “We were delighted with Kew Gardens’ run (at York when third in the Great Voltigeur), even under the penalty it probably wasn’t ideal but we felt like we had to have a run and we thought it was the perfect place to give him his prep. Obviously he stays further; we always thought that Doncaster would suit him, and hopefully the ground would be nice for him.”
Watch video analysis of the Great Voltigeur from The Verdict
The Ballydoyle 32Red Sprint Cup team is still up in the air:
The going at Haydock is currently good, good to soft in places and the GoingStick reading was 7.1 on Wednesday morning. There is a fair chance of rain on Friday and possibly Saturday, which makes running all five a difficult proposition.
There is also the possibility of fast ground runners such as Spirit Of Valor running in Australia, and requiring quarantine in the near future.
“Its possible it’s not decided yet, we’re kind of playing around with the idea bringing Gustav back to six, so we will obviously have to decide that today,” O’Brien said.
“He worked yesterday and we were very happy with him, obviously he’s by Galileo and his mother is a very fast mare (triple six furlong winner Massarra).
“I was speaking to the people at Haydock and the ground could get on the slow side of good, but nothing is decided in stone yet.”
Saxon Warrior could finish his season at a mile:
The 2,000 Guineas winner is slated to run in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes next week, followed by the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
The son of Japanese sire Deep Impact is 4-1 for the Leopardstown contest next Saturday and is the same price for the mile event on Champions’ Day next month.
Saxon Warrior returned from a bug-enforced hiatus to finish five-lengths adrift of Roaring Lion in the Juddmonte International a fortnight ago, and it was his first start since beaten a neck by John Gosden’s charge in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July.
Aidan O’Brien revealed at York on this website the extent of the illness some of his horses endured during the summer and Saxon Warrior could well improve for his Knavesmire outing next week.
“After Sandown, he was properly sick so all we want to do is try to get him healthy, and that was the reason for going to York, but we were happy with his run,” he said.
“For the first run back we had to be gentle with him just to get him back going.”
“It went through the whole place but he was properly sick, you know?
“The three races we had in our mind were obviously York, Leopardstown, and he might go back to the mile at Ascot - that’s what we had in our heads.
“He’s very comfortable over a mile, when he ran over a mile he won the two Group Ones. We always thought he would stay at middle distances but next time will tell us.”
Flag Of Honour worthy of interest in Irish St Leger:
Since Flag Of Honour stepped up in distance to 1m6f for the Curragh Cup in July he has remained unbeaten at the staying distance.
He defied a penalty to hold off Twilight Payment from the front in the Irish St Leger Trial last month in really gritty style and looked as if he could do with a lead and being produced later.
There could be more to come, and he was heavily punted on Wednesday to make it a hat-trick at the expense of stable companion Order Of St George, a two-time winner of the race.
At the start of trading on Wednesday Order Of St George was a best-priced 4-5 with Flag Of Honour 10-1, but at 5pm on Wednesday the Gold Cup winner was 5-2 with Betfair and the young pretender slashed down to 9-4.
With doubts surrounding the participation of Order Of St George, that price may drop through the floor with quoted possible rivals such as Weekender, Capri, Best Solution and Red Verdon most likely to run elsewhere. If Algometer and Desert Skyline run they, too, may be worth a second look in the markets at big prices.
“Order of St George might not make it as he’s feeling a little bit of age at the moment, but the four horses we mentioned [for the St Leger] are the four we’re looking at, we might take Flag of Honour instead of going to Doncaster,” Aidan O’Brien said.
When asked why Flag Of Honour had taken so well to being stepped up in trip the trainer replied about the son of dual Derby winner Galileo: “He’s very honest and straightforward horse.
“He had some very good runs in France in the spring, and when he went up to a mile and a half he was very comfortable.
“I think he always got a mile and a half well, but when he went up to it he seemed to get it.”
Anthony Van Dyck could have just one more run this season:
Anthony Van Dyck is the 14-1 second favourite behind Too Darn Hot for the Investec Derby after the son of Galileo took his winning run to three with his victory commanding victory in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh last time.
He showed with that success that he could operate on rain-softened ground, and, having already won on good to firm and over a mile there is little left this season to prove other than how classy he might be.
A run in the Group One Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend, a race Aidan O’Brien has won 11 times, is now in store and that could well be it for the season.
“He’s lovely, the plan is to go to the National Stakes,” O’Brien said. :He can step up after that, or he can finish so he has his three runs or his four runs now, he has experience so if everything is well we will look at maybe doing that, that’s what we’re thinking.”
Mendelssohn ran the best race of his European season since his extraordinary blitz in Dubai when second to the dual surface performer Catholic Boy in the Grade One Travers Stakes at Saratoga a fortnight ago.
The son of Scat Daddy is now a best-priced 25-1 for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 3 and has been pencilled in by Aidan O’Brien to run in the Grade One, 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on October 7.
It is a programme laid out by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin’s Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow.
“We were very happy with that,” O’Brien said of Mendelssohn’s Travers run.
“That was the first run in a three -race program, we just wanted to get him there, start him and get him back and that’s what he did, he ran a nice race.
“We were thinking of going to Belmont for the Gold Cup - it’s five weeks from the last run to this one, then five weeks until the Classic so we’re thinking of that at the moment, its not definite but were thinking about it because he came out of the last race well.”
“The Classic was the long term plan and that’s what we were looking for. Listen, we have done the first two legs so whether we go for another one between the Classic or just go straight to the Classic we will have to decide shortly.
U S Navy Flag heads to quarantine this week:
Watch video analysis of U S Navy Flag's July Cup win from The Verdict
Bookmaker opinion is divided as to U S Navy Flag’s chances in The Everest next month.
The July Cup winner enters quarantine this week ahead of the idiosyncratic six-furlong event at Royal Randwick in Sydney that is worth $AUS13million (£7.2million).
The son of US sire War Front is a best-priced 14-1 with Betfair to beat Australia’s finest sprinters at their own game, but is as short as 6-1 elsewhere. Trapeze Artist is the 4-1 favourite.
Australian sprinters have made hay at Royal Ascot, and even at Glorious Goodwood and York down the years ever since the hulking Choisir broke the mould at the Royal meeting in 2003 and O’Brien is under no illusions about how big a challenge scaling the heights of The Everest will be.
“Very much so, yes,” he said, when asked about it being quite a challenge to take on the Australians in their own backyard.
“He had a tough early part of the season and he needed a break after the July Cup, and we thought to be fair to him it was the right thing to do, and this race popped up.
“He was a very fast horse last year and the minute we brought him back this year you saw what happened.”