In some ways it should have come as no surprise that Nephrite won the JRA Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown on Sunday. After all, trainer Aidan O'Brien had been responsible for four of the last nine winners of the race. But it did come as a surprise to many, who were sure that Born To Sea had only to turn up to consolidate his place as one of the favourites for next year's QIPCO 2000 Guineas.
Born To Sea had gone off the 8/11 favourite, and things looked to be going swell as he took the lead with just before the final furlong. Nephrite followed him through and it only took one touch of the whip from Joseph O'Brien to take him through to a 1 1/2 length success, and a halving of his odds from 20/1 to 10/1 by both Ladbrokes and Paddy Power.
Born To Sea's trainer John Oxx did not seem disheartened. "He ran well and I'm happy. He just didn't show his usual turn of foot on that ground. I thought he would handle it better. Johnny (Murtagh) said the ground didn't play to his strengths but the 2000 Guineas is still the plan."
It subsequently became clear that Born To Sea had finished lame and that may also help to explain why he was beaten. Yesterday Oxx announced that Born To Sea was now being treated for a muscle tear in his hindquarters. He said, "Born To Sea was quite lame 20 minutes after the race and was noticeably stiff behind. He was a bit better this morning but it was obvious that he had a muscle injury and he will be undergoing treatment for a few weeks for a muscle tear high up in his quarters."
Oxx thought the injury might have occurred as the horses left the starting stalls, as he felt that Born To Sea had been a bit awkward there. He went on, "We were inclined to blame the soft ground immediately after the race, but in the light of the injury that has been diagnosed, the ground, although not ideal, probably hadn't much to do with his defeat. It was irritating inasmuch as we didn't learn as much about him as we would have liked. But at least it isn't a serious long-term injury and he should be fine after a few weeks treatment. All things considered it was a good performance by him."
Nephriteâ€™s win means that at we move into the winter trainer Aiden Oâ€™Brien has two of the four market leaders next year's 2000 Guineas, as he is also responsible for the favourite, the impressive Racing Post Trophy winner Camelot. Both will be trained for the race. Of Nephrite O'Brien said, "We'll see how he winters, but he'll certainly be in the mix for the Guineas next year. You saw the first day what a nice horse he was and he's progressed since. He travelled well and Joseph gave him a confident ride. He'll have no problem with a mile, though I think he preferred quicker ground."
If Nephrite should go on and win the Guineas, he'll provide a second Killavullan â€“ Guineas double for Oâ€™Brien, following Footstepsinthesand who took the races in 2004/2005.