O’Brien confident Luxembourg can make his mark despite Derby absence

Aidan O’Brien is already looking forward to seeing what Luxembourg can do later in the year after being forced to rule him out of the Cazoo Derby at Epsom next month.

Unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile last season, the son of Camelot spent the winter months as ante-post favourite for the premier Classic.

He cemented that position by finishing third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but O’Brien revealed he had suffered a setback last week and confirmed on Sunday he now requires a spell on the sidelines.

While disappointed Luxembourg will miss out on a trip to Epsom, O’Brien remains excited about his prospects going forward.

“You have to put it in perspective. I’m disappointed for the lads (owners), but we’ve done our best and that’s the reality and we move on,” said the Ballydoyle handler.

“It’s only a waste of energy thinking about it. We just move on and believe me, he’s a really good horse – we’d be confident in that.”

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There are obvious comparisons to be made between Luxembourg and St Nicholas Abbey, who finished sixth in the Guineas in 2010 but subsequently missed the Derby and ultimately the rest of his three-year-old campaign.

It did not stop him progressing into a top-class performer, however, as he went on to win three Coronation Cups at Epsom, a Breeders’ Cup Turf and a Dubai Sheema Classic.

Aidan O'Brien still has high hopes for Luxembourg
Aidan O’Brien still has high hopes for Luxembourg (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Luxembourg probably has more scope than St Nicholas Abbey, so it will be interesting,” O’Brien added.

“Because of what happened in the Guineas, we didn’t really see what he was able to do and he was only beaten two lengths.

“He’s very classy and what he did in the Guineas, he shouldn’t have been able to do. He ended up totally on the back foot (having stumbled) and for a horse that was bred to be a mile and a quarter/mile and a half horse to come with a run like that, it was a very serious run for a middle-distance horse.”

While the early part of the season was dominated by Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, O’Brien has roared back in the last couple of weeks by winning a number of key Derby trials with the likes of new Epsom favourite Stone Age, Changingoftheguard, United Nations and Star Of India.

Charlie Appleby has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season
Charlie Appleby has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season (Tim Goode/PA)

O’Brien sees the competition provided by Appleby as healthy for his yard and the sport as a whole.

He said: “Obviously for us, it focuses your mind. It’s very competitive everywhere and you can’t take your eye off the ball and don’t get complacent.

“We think the more competitive, the better. You’re going to get beat loads of times, but that drives everyone on. You have to get beat and feel the hurt to experience the joy then when you do win.”

O’Brien also faces two significant threats from within his own family, with sons Joseph and Donnacha now firmly established as Group One-winning trainers.

While O’Brien senior has won pretty much every big race the sport has to offer at this stage, he insists the exploits of his sons keeps him on his toes.

He added: “I tell them anything, but they don’t tell me anything!

“The reality of it all is there is no substitute for a young mind and that’s what I love about them. I’d be watching what they’re doing and the things they’re coming up with and thinking if we can add that to our system.

“We always do our best to win no matter what, but I’m always happy when the lads beat us. They are 100 per cent rivals, but I’m still always delighted when we are beaten by them.

“Believe me there’s no inch given anywhere, but that’s the way it is and that’s our job. There’s no horse sidesteps anyone to fix it for another horse, but it’s a tough game.

“I was second twice to Joseph in the Melbourne Cup! It’ll never stop being amazing and that’s the way it goes. I’m always delighted for him.”

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