Aidan O’Brien landed the Dewhurst at Newmarket on Saturday, as he closes in on Bobby Frankel’s world record Group One haul.
Just one more top-level success is required for O’Brien to reach 25 in a season, and match Frankel’s amazing achievement. After an unsuccessful trip to Canada last night, Team Ballydoyle will now head to Ascot for Champions Day next Saturday in search of the history making victories.
U S Navy Flag proved a stunning winner of the Dewhurst, which saw O’Brien colts filling the first four places. You need to bring your ‘A’ game to stand any chance of wrestling Group Ones from the clutches of Aidan and the boys. Sadly for favourite backers, Expert Eye was some way short and ultimately hugely disappointing. Sweating profusely, then restless in the stalls, Sir Michael Stoute’s exciting prospect did himself no favours by running with the choke out. He was one of the first beat before being eased down in the latter stages.
The winner could not have been more impressive. Drawn wide, Ryan Moore switched to the rail and controlled the race from start to finish. He kicked clear just inside the two-pole, comfortably holding off a battalion of stablemates. The outsider of O’Brien’s quintet, Mendelssohn, finished a surprise runner-up, followed by Seahenge, with Threeandfourpence completing the Ballydoyle Blitz.
Moore appeared impressed with the much-improved U S Navy Flag, when saying: “He’s got better through the year. He’s a very honest horse who keeps finding a bit more each time he comes to the track. It’s a credit to Aidan to do what he’s done today, the first four home, and they’re all nice horses that should be better next year.”
O’Brien was, as ever, humble in victory, saying: “It’s a big team effort all the way along, from the people that are involved very early with those horses as foals, and before they are even born, all the way to the people directly involved today. It’s great satisfaction for everybody, a massive team effort with lots of cogs in the wheel.”
When asked about Bobby Frankel’s record, the trainer added: “It would be massive for everyone but we don't think about it really. We take one race at a time but it would obviously be a massive achievement for our team. We would be very honoured, but we will take one day at a time.”
That magic 25 could have been landed at Newmarket, had September had a clearer path in the Fillies’ Mile. When a gap finally appeared inside the final furlong, Seamie Heffernan was unable to make up the ground on Karl Burke’s gutsy filly Laurens. An ever-diminishing nose was all that separated the pair at the line, much to the delight of winning jockey PJ McDonald.
It was a first Group One success for the talented jock, and he was clearly thrilled when speaking to ITV after the win: “It’s absolutely amazing, all those years, I’m 35-years-of-age now, and all that hard work. The relief when that number got called out, it’s amazing. I was praying I had it, but I hadn’t got a clue.”
PJ then praised the handler, who was moved to tears: “All credit goes to Lucy, she rides this filly every day, and has done since she came in. You know, it’s a massive team effort and everybody has played their part.” When asked by Rishi Persad for a quick word on what the success meant, the tearful handler said: “Just everything, I can’t even speak.”
There’s little doubt that the winner is both talented and tough. She also has the physical scope for further improvement, and the pedigree to stay further as a three-year-old.
The runner-up is a much smaller filly and improved considerably for the return to a sounder surface. She’s also bred to get further, being by Japanese Stallion Deep Impact out of the Irish Oaks winner Peeping Fawn. It’s an exciting pedigree, though connections will be hoping for a growth spurt or two over the winter.
Aidan O’Brien’s Magical had been sent-off favourite, but ran a little flat in finishing fourth. This race may have come a little soon after her exertions in Chantilly, when filling the same spot in the Prix Marcel Boussac.
Magic Lily ran a cracker in third on only her second career start. She’s another with the physique to progress as a three-year-old, giving Godolphin hope of breaking the Ballydoyle stranglehold on the one-mile filly division.
For now, it’s onwards and upwards for O’Brien and his team. Attention turns to Ascot and a re-writing of those record books.