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Ground will be key to start of 2021 campaign for Love

Ground conditions are likely to dictate where Love will kick off her 2021 campaign.

Aidan O’Brien’s filly enjoyed a flawless 2020 – recording a pair of Classic victories with brilliant performances in both the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Oaks at Epsom.

After dominating her rivals once more in the Yorkshire Oaks, the daughter of Galileo looked poised for a mouthwatering clash with Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but was ruled out Europe’s premier middle-distance contest on account of the prevailing testing conditions.

And while a trip to America for the Breeders’ Cup was briefly mooted, O’Brien ultimately decided to give Love an extended holiday ahead of what he hopes will be an exciting four-year-old season.

Speaking via Zoom at the British Horseracing Authority’s two-year-old classifications press conference, O’Brien said of his top-class older filly: “She’s very well and cantering away at the moment.

“She will be ready for all those mile-and-a-quarter and mile-and-a-half races.

“She likes better ground and where she’ll start, I suppose, will depend on that.”

He added: “There’s the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, but we probably wouldn’t go unless it was nice ground.

“She should be there for all those nice middle-distances races during the summer and into the autumn.

“Physically, she’s done very well.”

O’Brien considering starting point for Derby favourite High Definition

Aidan O’Brien is favouring a Derby trial over a tilt at the 2000 Guineas with his unbeaten colt High Definition.

An impressive winner on his racecourse debut at the Curragh in the summer, the son of Galileo subsequently rocketed to ante-post favouritism for Epsom after storming home to win the Group Two Beresford Stakes in September.

O’Brien deliberately decided against running his charge in one of the end-of-season Group Ones and is excited to see what he can accomplish as a three-year-old.

Speaking on a press conference to discuss the European two-year-old classifications, O’Brien said of High Definition: “He’s a big, rangy horse with an unbelievably long stride. He’s uncomplicated and has a good mind and has done very well over the winter.

“In the Beresford it looked like he couldn’t win for most of the race as on the round track at the Curragh it’s tough to make up ground. It looked like he couldn’t win a furlong down, he had a chance half a furlong down and won very easy at the line.

“At the moment he’d probably be a shorter price to go to a Derby trial than the Guineas, but the lads (owners) will make a decision and see what they want to do.

“The Guineas is obviously a great trial for the Derby, but when we have other horses there for the Guineas, it’s very possibly that High Definition might go to a Derby trial.

“He might only have one run before the Derby if he was doing that, I think.”

St Mark's Basilica won the Dewhurst under Frankie Dettori
St Mark’s Basilica won the Dewhurst under Frankie Dettori (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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The three horses O’Brien currently has pencilled in as his chief Guineas contenders are St Mark’s Basilica, Wembley and Van Gogh.

St Mark’s Basilica, who has been crowned champion two-year-old in Europe for 2020, narrowly beat Wembley in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in October, while Van Gogh rounded off his season with a Group One success in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.

All three horses were beaten in their first two career starts before making marked progress – and O’Brien admits it is difficult to assess the juvenile crop overall, with the coronavirus pandemic meaning the season did not get under way until early June.

“The year was really a mess,” said the Ballydoyle handler.

“With St Mark’s Basilica, we kind of rushed him out to get a run into him and then rushed him back to run in the Heinz (Phoenix Stakes).

“It was all just happening too quick for him and he was on the back foot. In all fairness to him, he toughed it out and did man up.

“Wembley is another a horse we always liked. We thought he’d win at the Curragh first time and when he got to the front he was very green and babyish – he was like that a good bit.

“I suppose the form is open to question. Quite a lot of horses finished on top of each other, but Sir Mark’s Basilica and Wembley are two solid horses that are tough and learned a lot last season.

“Van Gogh is a big horse who was always going to be a big three-year-old – he could make an awful lot of improvement.”

The horse priced up as favourite for the Guineas with several bookmakers is Battleground, who won the Chesham at Royal Ascot and the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood before finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup.

Battleground wins the Vintage Stakes at GoodwoodFestival – Day One
Battleground wins the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, O’Brien raised the possibility of the son of the yard’s Arc heroine Found sidestepping Newmarket and instead being trained with a return to the Royal meeting for the St James’s Palace Stakes as his chief objective.

He said: “He’s a Guineas horse as well, like the other three, but it’s very possible that if all of them are going to the Guineas, Battleground could go to Ascot and maybe have a run before, rather than them all going to the Guineas.

“He’s a lovely horse and Newmarket would suit him. I suppose it depends on how they’re all going to fall, and obviously we’ll have to look at the Irish Guineas and the French Guineas as well.

“The English Guineas is the first one, so I’d imagine he will be in the mix for that, along with the two Dewhurst horses and Van Gogh.

“Whether Battleground goes there or goes for an easier race and then goes for the St James’s Palace – I suppose it will depend on how the spring is going with them all really.”

Aidan O'Brien can be expected to be a major force again in 2021
Aidan O’Brien can be expected to be a major force again in 2021 (PA)

O’Brien was a notable absentee from British racecourses last season, due to the restrictions put in place to combat Covid-19.

He is keeping his fingers crossed the situation improves during the coming weeks and months to allow more freedom of movement, while he is hopeful the current travel issues being caused by Brexit will also be resolved relatively soon.

“We’re taking it one day at a time like everybody else,” O’Brien added.

“I think there might be some new quarantine rules coming in for people in Europe, which mean you’ll have to quarantine for one or two weeks when you arrive (in Britain).

“If that is the case, it will be like going to Australia. When we go there, we send the people down to do their two weeks quarantine and they stay there then.

“We had a team in Newmarket last year, so something like that could happen again, but it would be great if we could all be there.

“We’re lucky that the Brexit thing should be resolved before it comes our way. Hopefully, come Guineas time, it will all be a little bit more straightforward.”

St Mark’s Basilica takes top honours in juvenile classifications

St Mark’s Basilica has been crowned champion two-year-old in Europe for 2020, in what the handicappers admitted was not a “vintage year” for juveniles.

The Covid-19 lockdown saw the British and Irish Flat seasons delayed by two months until June, with Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handicapper Mark Bird feeling the late start combined with “slightly muddled” form lines had seen last year’s juvenile crop rank lower than previous generations.

Nevertheless, St Mark’s Basilica achieved a rating of 120 in winning the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October, making him Aidan O’Brien’s 11th champion two-year-old and the seventh consecutive winner of that race to take the European crown. His rating is 8lb lower than that achieved by Pinatubo in 2019.

Stablemate Wembley, who was runner-up at Headquarters, is equal second in the classifications alongside Clive Cox’s Middle Park winner Supremacy, with a rating of 118. O’Brien’s unbeaten Derby favourite High Definition was given a figure of 115.

St Mark’s Basilica (right) beat stablemate Wembley at Newmarket
St Mark’s Basilica (right) beat stablemate Wembley at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Bird said of St Mark’s Basilica: “We rated his effort in landing the Darley Dewhurst Stakes as marginally the best form shown by a European two-year-old in 2020 and just ahead of that shown by the 12 other Group One-winning two-year-olds in Europe this year.

“At this stage of his career, he rates higher than his half-brother Magna Grecia who won the Qipco 2000 Guineas as a three-year-old and he appears to hold every chance of emulating his sibling in winning that event in 2021, with normal progression as a three-year-old.”

Supremacy was named the best British-trained juvenile of 2020
Supremacy was named the best British-trained juvenile of 2020 (Mark Cranham/PA)
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Supremacy is the leading British-trained two-year-old ahead of Charlie Appleby’s Autumn Stakes winner One Ruler on 114 and the Marcus Tregoning-trained Alkumait, the Mill Reef victor, on 113.

British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Graeme Smith said: “Supremacy became the latest in a long line of Group One-winning sprinters to emerge from Clive Cox’s stable over the last decade and achieved a rating of 118 when defeating the Group One Phoenix Stakes winner Lucky Vega in a deep-looking Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes.

“Very well bought for £65,000, he was the standout British-trained juvenile from Goodwood onwards and went into winter quarters as the highest-rated two-year-old his prolific trainer has ever handled.”

Pretty Gorgeous won the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket
Pretty Gorgeous won the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The O’Brien family also provided two of the three top-rated fillies, with Joseph’s Fillies’ Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous ranking on 113 along with his brother Donnacha’s Shale, who was victorious in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Wesley Ward’s Campanelle, winner of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny, was also awarded a mark of 113.

Sealiway emerged as the highest-rated French-trained colt on 116, following his impressive Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere victory, while Marcel Boussac winner Tiger Tanaka is the joint-highest rated French-trained filly along with Plainchant, who took the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, on 110.

Bird added: “In summary, 2020 could not be said to have been a vintage year for two-year-olds.

“While numerically, the 44 horses that made the classifications are in line with recent averages, the truncated nature of the season and the slightly muddled nature of some of the form lines mean that the champion juveniles of the year rank at the lower end of the historical scale.”

The handicappers also nominated their ‘dark horses’ to follow in 2021, with Smith pinpointing William Haggas’ Newcastle maiden winner Sea Empress as a filly on the up.

He said: “She showed a little bit of greenness (at Newcastle), slightly on and off the bridle, but come the business end she found it all pretty easy. She ran a fairly good time and I think it’s fair to say she wasn’t 100 per cent all out.

“I put a figure of around 97 on Sea Empress on her first time out and considering she showed inexperience early on and wasn’t all out, I think that was very promising indeed.

“I think she’s by far one of the most interesting dark horses this time around.”

Smith also gave favourable mentions to the Roger Charlton-trained Love Is You, winner of the Radley Stakes, and Twisted Reality, a Nottingham maiden victor for Ralph Beckett in November.

Shandra won on her only start last year
Shandra won on her only start last year (Brian Lawless/PA)

Bird underlined the promise of the Dermot Weld-trained Shandra, who won a Curragh maiden on her only start in 2020.

He said: “Dermot has a wonderful phrase for his best horses, saying ‘they’re stayers with speed’, and I think with her pedigree, she has the raw material to develop into that type of filly. She’s a May foal by Sea The Stars and I like her a lot.”

Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Santa Barbara and Wordsworth, a full-brother to Kew Gardens, also earned Bird’s attention, with Storm Legend also predicted to do well.

Aidan O’Brien fined £4,000 following Fillies’ Mile mix-up

Aidan O’Brien was given a £4,000 fine following a hearing into the confusion which surrounded his runners in last year’s bet365 Fillies’ Mile.

The Ballydoyle handler was doubly represented in the Newmarket Group One in October, and it was initially thought his 50-1 shot Snowfall had finished a close-up third in the hands of James Doyle, with stablemate Mother Earth eighth of the 10 runners under William Buick.

However, posts on social media soon questioned the outcome – and it became evident the horse that had passed the post in third was in fact 18-1 chance Mother Earth, the darker of the two fillies, with the lighter Snowfall back in the field.

While Doyle was correctly sporting the pink cap and the number nine saddle cloth assigned to Snowfall, he was in fact riding Mother Earth.

O’Brien was not at Newmarket – and on viewing a recording of the race he immediately contacted the British Horseracing Authority to alert them to the mistake and that his on-course staff, based in Britain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, had saddled the horses incorrectly.

The BHA later amended the result, with Mother Earth placed third and Snowfall eighth.

O’Brien – who was quick to apologise for the incident – was handed his fine following an independent disciplinary panel hearing on Thursday, while the ruling body confirmed it was taking steps to try to prevent a similar situation arising in the future.

A BHA spokesperson said: “Since the incident at Newmarket, additional ID checks have been in place at major Flat fixtures to minimize the risk of a reoccurrence.

“A longer-term piece of work has been ongoing since October to look at the additional resource, technology and funding required to implement a further ID check once horses are saddled.

“It is particularly challenging in the current environment due to the additional resourcing requirements that the BHA’s Covid-19 protocols already place upon staffing levels, but additional checks are being carried out on a discretionary basis.

“We will continue the work looking at the feasibility of implementing an additional check following saddling permanently and communicate any changes to participants and the public as necessary.”

O’Brien hails ‘amazing’ Magical as brilliant mare heads for retirement

Aidan O’Brien has paid tribute to Magical after the retirement of the multiple Group One-winning mare Magical was confirmed.

The daughter of Galileo won seven times at the highest level, including back-to-back victories in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

She looked set to start her broodmare career after rounding off her 2019 campaign with victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot, but was brought back as a five-year-old this season and it has proved a wise decision as she has added three further Group One wins.

Since successfully defending her Irish Champion Stakes crown in September, Magical has finished third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot, second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and third in the Hong Kong Cup.

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She was second three times to Enable in her career, most memorably in an epic Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in 2018.

O’Brien offered brief hope she could return to the track in 2021 in the immediate aftermath of her outing at Sha Tin earlier this month, but her retirement was officially announced by Coolmore on social media on Tuesday.

Coolmore posted on Twitter: “Brilliant 7-time Gr.1 winner Magical has been retired and will join the broodmare band @coolmorestud. Mating plans yet to be decided.”

O’Brien told PA: “She was a great filly, she ran at the very top level all the time until she retired.

“She was ultra-consistent and just an amazing filly, really. She travelled a lot. She won three Group Ones this year and I was delighted to have her again this year, it was a brave decision of the lads to keep her in training.

Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernan with Magical after victory in the Irish Champion Stakes
Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernan with Magical after victory in the Irish Champion Stakes (PA)

“The days that stand out are the Champion Stakes. She was amazing, she always turned up. She was tough, she was consistent and had a super mind and was very sound.

“Her mum (Halfway To Heaven) was a queen, she was a queen and she was by Galileo, so I suppose you could call him the king.

“It would be exciting to train her offspring.”

In all Magical won 12 of her 28 career starts and was placed on a further 10 occasions, earning almost £4.9million in prize-money.

Magical likely to be retired as O’Brien looks forward to exciting 2021

Aidan O’Brien believes there is a “good chance” Magical will be retired following her narrow defeat in Hong Kong last weekend.

The brilliant mare looked set to start her broodmare career this year after rounding off her 2019 campaign with victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

However, she was brought back as five-year-old this season and it has proved a wise decision, with the daughter of Galileo claiming another three Group One wins to extend her top-level tally to seven.

She finished a close-up third in the Hong Kong Cup – and while O’Brien initially offered brief hope that she could return to the track in 2021, he now expects her retirement to be officially confirmed before the new year.

Magical in winning action at Ascot
Magical in winning action at Ascot (Simon Cooper/PA)

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme, O’Brien said: “I suppose there’s a good chance that she won’t (stay in training).

“We were delighted to have her from last year. She’s back from Hong Kong and seems in good form.

“I suppose there’s every chance that she won’t come back, but the lads (owners) will decide next week what they want to do.

“She’s incredible really. What makes her unusual is she’s been running at the top level since she was two and she’s as sound as a bell.”

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The undoubted heir to Magical’s crown as the top older filly at Ballydoyle is Love, who completed a Classic double with brilliant displays in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Oaks at Epsom earlier this year.

Having added the Yorkshire Oaks to her tally during the summer, she looked set for a mouthwatering clash with Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but was withdrawn due to the prevailing testing conditions in Paris.

O’Brien ultimately ended up having no runners in Europe’s premier middle-distance contest, or any of the supporting races that weekend, due to fears over contaminated feed.

Much will be expected of dual Classic winner Love next season
Much will be expected of dual Classic winner Love next season (Bill Selwyn/PA)

Of Love, O’Brien said: “She’s a very special filly. It’s easy to forget what she did in the Guineas and then what she did in the Oaks.

“She’s very uncomplicated and something to really look forward to for next year. She had a canter this morning, everyone is happy with her and she’s done very well physically.

“She had a little break after Arc weekend as she was trained for the Arc like there was no tomorrow. When you do that, they do need a little bit of a rest, so she got that and she’s just back cantering away slowly.”

Other three-year-olds rising four the trainer is looking forward to next season are Hong Kong Vase hero Mogul and Serpentine, who was the subject of much debate after winning the Derby at Epsom in June under an enterprising ride from Emmet McNamara.

“The late start to the season didn’t suit Mogul. We had planned on getting two runs in before the Derby, but obviously that wasn’t to be and everything was a little bit forced and a little bit rushed,” O’Brien added.

“He’s a big, powerful horse and the more racing he got the better he got – we did get him there in the end.

Serpentine was a surprise winner of the Derby
Serpentine was a surprise winner of the Derby (Bill Selwyn/PA)

“Serpentine is a very relaxed horse who stays very well. He’s very uncomplicated and very balanced and a very well-bred horse – we did believe that it could happen (winning the Derby).

“He had to be a good horse to do what he did.”

O’Brien will also possess plenty of strength in depth in the three-year-old division, with Dewhurst one-two St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley, Battleground and the hugely exciting Derby favourite High Definition all proving their worth as juveniles.

O’Brien said: “We have some nice two-year-olds. Because the season was such a mess, the two-year-olds kind of got lost in the middle and we had to run some of them a little bit more than we wanted to – Wembley would be an example of that.

“Like every year there’s horses that are going to make good improvement and some might not make the improvement that we hope. It will be interesting to see what the spring will bring.”

Of High Definition, he added: “He was always very special. He’s a big, long, scopey horse with a great mind. The plan was always to give him two runs and he was seriously impressive in the Beresford Stakes – it was unbelievable.

“He’s always been a very exciting horse and the plan was always that he would be trained for the Derby next year. He’s had his two runs for education at the Curragh and would have learned a lot.

“It’s possible (he could run in the 2000 Guineas), but not definite. We’ll see how he trains in the spring and whether it’s the right thing to do or not. I don’t think he’d have any problem with it pace-wise as he’s a high cruiser who gets the trip really well.”

Racing luminaries pay tribute to Frankie Dettori on 50th birthday

As Frankie Dettori celebrates his 50th birthday, leading figures from the world of racing have saluted his enduring talent:

Sir Anthony McCoy, 20-times champion National Hunt jockey

Tony McCoy (left) and Frankie Dettori at Sandown
Tony McCoy (left) and Frankie Dettori at Sandown (Tony Harris/PA)

“Frankie is like Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods – there’s just something different about him.

“I read a quote from a great philosopher, who said ‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see’. That is what Frankie is like – obviously there’s a lot of talent there, but there’s also that little bit of genius in him that means he can see things faster and better than other people can.

“With the exception of Lester Piggott, he’s the best-known person in racing. A lot of people can talk the talk, but not many can walk the walk, but he has – all around the world.

“Frankie doesn’t need anyone to say how great he is. He’s a brilliant person as well as a brilliant jockey – he’s got it all.”

Aidan O’Brien, record-breaking trainer:

Frankie Dettori winning the St Leger for Aidan O'Brien aboard Scorpion in 2005
Frankie Dettori winning the St Leger for Aidan O’Brien aboard Scorpion in 2005 (PA)

“Frankie is a wonderful jockey, he always has been. He’s a fabulous rider and a great fellow.”

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Ed Dunlop, who teamed up with Dettori for big-race wins with the mares Snow Fairy, Ouija Board and Lailani:

All smiles for the Snow Fairy team following the 2012 Irish Champion Stakes
All smiles for the Snow Fairy team following the 2012 Irish Champion Stakes (PA)

“He’s been a wonderful ambassador, he’s a wonderful jockey and is a great person, There’s no-one quite like Frankie!

“He’s ridden Group One winners for us and for many other other people. And we all wish him a very happy birthday.

“He’s ridden Lailani, Ouija Board, Snow Fairy – who were all great horses for me. He’s hard to get hold of now, but we’ve loved having him riding our horses.”

American trainer Wesley Ward, who uses Dettori whenever he can, particularly at Royal Ascot, with horses like Lady Aurelia and Campanelle:

Frankie Dettori celebrates victory in Queen Mary Stakes with Lady Aurelia in 2016
Frankie Dettori celebrates victory in Queen Mary Stakes with Lady Aurelia in 2016 (David Davies/PA)

“I’m 52 and Frankie is 50 – he sure does look a lot younger than me!

“I hope he keeps going. He’s the greatest jockey in the world, that’s for sure, and has accomplished more than anyone.

“Long live the King!”

Peter Chapple-Hyam, trainer of Dettori’s first Derby winner Authorized:

He had to wait until his 15th attempt, but Authorized gave Frankie Dettori a Derby at last in 2007
He had to wait until his 15th attempt, but Authorized gave Frankie Dettori a Derby at last in 2007 (Rebecca Naden/PA)

“He’s a fantastic jockey who has stood the test of time.

“I think I used him as a 7lb claimer and I remember him winning a maiden on Dr Devious (in 1991).

“I was very confident Authorized was in good form going into the Derby. I suffer with panic attacks and anxiety, but the good thing going to Epsom was nobody wanted to speak to me as everyone wanted to speak to Frankie, so me and the horse could go there nice and easy.

“He’s been superb and age has certainly not stopped his ability – he’s riding better than ever.”

Ray Cochrane, Dettori’s long-time friend and former agent:

Ray Cochrane received a bravery award for saving Frankie Dettori's life in a plane crash
Ray Cochrane received a bravery award for saving Frankie Dettori’s life in a plane crash (John Stillwell/PA)

“It’s hard to believe he’s 50, although it does seem a lifetime ago when we first introduced to each other at Luca’s.

“He’s still doing well for an old boy! He’s a brilliant jockey and has been a great ambassador for the sport – he’s the best.”

Sir Michael Stoute, who has combined with Dettori to win big races all over the world:

Sir Michael Stoute hugs Frankie Dettori after Conduit won the St Leger
Sir Michael Stoute hugs Frankie Dettori after Conduit won the St Leger (John Giles/PA)

“Frankie has a perfect physique in addition to which he is a gifted horseman with a very competitive nature. It is a good mix!”

Magical third as Normcore lands Hong Kong Cup

Aidan O’Brien’s Magical could finish only third as Normcore claimed top honours in the Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.

Magical looked set for retirement after rounding off her 2019 campaign with victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

However, she was brought back as five-year-old this season and it has proved a wise decision, with the daughter of Galileo claiming another three Group One wins to extend her top-level tally to seven.

Since successfully defending her crown in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, Magical had finished third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and second to Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

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She was well fancied to provide O’Brien with a first Hong Kong Cup success, but was under pressure before the home turn under Ryan Moore – and while she boxed on tenaciously in the straight, she had to make do with minor honours.

Normcore, trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara and ridden by Zac Purton, delivered his challenge wide and finished best to win with by three-quarters of a length and with a little in hand.

Magical was only narrowly denied the runner-up spot by last year’s winner Win Bright.

Aidan O'Brien with Magical
Aidan O’Brien with Magical (Healy Racing/PA)

“She ran a stormer,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.

“She had a tough race in Ascot in bad ground and we backed her up in Keeneland, again on slowish ground. Doing something like that can maybe take a little bit of the edge off.

“She ran very well today and ran home very well, but she was a little bit lacklustre from the gates and in the first half of the race.

“We saw how genuine she is – she’s an unbelievable filly really”

Asked whether Magical would now be retired, O’Brien added: “The lads (owners) will chat between themselves what they want to do for a week or 10 days after the race. Then they’ll talk to us and decide.

“She looks great after the race and seems to have pulled up sound. I suppose we’ll take her home and see what the lads want to do.

“She would be some mare to have for next year. If she comes home well and everything is well, we’d love to have her (in training next year), but it will be the lads’ decision.”

Mogul charges to Hong Kong Vase victory

Mogul produced a dominant display to provide Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore with a third victory in the Longines Hong Kong Vase in Sha Tin.

The Ballydoyle handler saddled Highland Reel to claim the Group One prize in 2015 and 2017, with Moore doing the steering on both occasions.

Mogul lined up with strong claims, having finally claimed the Group One victory he had long promised in the Grand Prix de Paris on his penultimate start, before finishing a creditable fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland last month.

Hong Kong favourite Exultant led the field into the home straight, but he was unable to resist Mogul’s late charge, with three lengths separating the pair at the line.

Columbus County was a close-up third, with French raider Royal Julius finishing last of the seven runners.

O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing: “We’re delighted with him. He’s a big, powerful, strong horse who is made like a miler. It was only when we started riding him patiently and riding him more for speed than stamina that we’ve seen the best of him.

“Ryan gave him a lovely ride. He settled lovely and quickened very well.

“He’s a very exciting horse for next year. I think anything from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half on nice ground (suits).

“Ryan says he’s really matured and is really improving. He’s got a very solid mind.”

O’Brien looking to Magical for first Hong Kong Cup success

Magical bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with his first victory in Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong Cup.

The brilliant mare extended her Group One tally to seven when successfully defending her crown in the Irish Champion Stakes in September, subsequently finishing third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and second to fellow Irish raider Tarnawa at the Breeders’ Cup.

Magical has travelled to the Far East for what could be her swansong before retirement, with her rider Ryan Moore hoping to secure a third Hong Kong Cup success following his previous triumphs aboard Snow Fairy (2010) and Maurice (2016).

O’Brien said: “Magical has travelled plenty and she likes travelling. Pat (Keating, travelling head lad) has been happy with her since she arrived there. Everything looks perfect at the moment.

“She’s a relaxed filly with a good mind and she’s raced all the way from seven furlongs to a mile and a half. She’s a mature adult now and she’s very easy to handle, very straightforward and very genuine.

“She’ll be very happy if there’s a good pace on – that would suit her. She likes to be at a high tempo to be seen at her best.”

Magical renews rivalry with French challenger Skalleti, who was one place and half a length ahead of her in the Champion Stakes.

Jerome Reynier’s stable star had previously beaten subsequent Arc hero Sottsass in a Group Three at Deauville, before winning the Prix Dollar for the second year in succession on Arc weekend.

“We beat Magical last time, but this might be more to her taste and we are here to see what we can do,” said Reynier.

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“He is quite exceptional. It’s rare to have a horse that can win a Premio Roma and two Prix Dollars on heavy ground going right-handed, who can also win on the all-weather at left-handed Marseille-Vivaux and a Prix Quincey up a straight 1,600 metres at Deauville on good ground. He adapts to anything.

“I am quite confident and he’s a horse that never disappoints.”

O’Brien has enjoyed more success in the Hong Kong Vase, having saddled Highland Reel to win the race in both 2015 and 2017.

This year’s Ballydoyle representative is Mogul, who finished fifth behind the aforementioned Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last time.

“We always thought a lot more of him than he was showing in his runs until he won the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. He’s a big, powerful horse and you would be hoping the plan is to keep him in training next year as well,” said O’Brien.

“The Grand Prix de Paris was a good race and it was the first time we really took the decision to drop out completely, take our time and ride him for pace. That’s what we did and it worked very well.”

Mogul’s opponents include Reynier’s Royal Julius and Hong Kong favourite Exultant, who won this race in 2018 and finished third last year.

Golden Sixty is the undoubted star attraction in the Hong Kong Mile, having extended his winning streak to 10 – and claimed his 13th win from 14 career starts overall – with a brilliant performance in the Jockey Club Mile three weeks ago.

Trainer Francis Lui said: “I’m confident on the horse but the overseas horses – their form is good.

“I’m very happy with his trackwork because he was quite relaxed – everything is ready.”

Jockey Vincent Ho added: “He’s a super horse. He’s got a great mentality – he just wants to chase whatever is in front of him in the straight.

“Every jockey dreams of a horse like this. When you’re on him, it’s just so special.”

Irish hopes are carried by O’Brien’s surprise Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Ken Condon’s stable star Romanised.

O’Brien said: “We always had it in our heads that Order Of Australia could be a miler, but he’s by Australia, so we started him as a Derby-type horse and he ran very well when fourth in the Irish Derby.

“We then went back to a mile and a quarter and he ran very well in a French Derby, so it was always possible we were going to back in distance, but it looked like we were going to run out of time.

“In the Breeders’ Cup, he looked like a horse you could shorten up a little bit more because he travelled strongly through the race and we were over the moon with the run.

“We’ve been happy with him since and we’re looking forward to seeing him running again.”

Romanised was a beaten odds-on favourite at Dundalk on his latest outing after blowing the start, but Condon is confident he can make his presence felt at Sha Tin.

He said: “If Billy (Lee) is where he wants to be, Romanised will be the last horse off the bridle. He’ll travel for you further than anything else. I can see him doing that and he might just enjoy it.

“I’m looking forward to it and the fire still burns in him, while he looks a picture for the time of the year.”

Of Golden Sixty, he added: “I’ve watched a few of his races and he can produce a quick quarter-mile when he needs to and go under 22 seconds – he’s got that ability.”

Magical in Hong Kong Cup mix

Aidan O’Brien’s Magical heads the stellar cast in contention for the hugely valuable Longines Hong Kong International meeting at Sha Tin.

Staged on December 13, the card is worth more than £9million in prize money across four Group One contests, three of which offer the largest purse on turf over their respective distances.

Seven-time Group One winner Magical is engaged in the Hong Kong Cup, run over a mile and two furlongs, and was most recently seen finishing a length behind Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.

Her last victory was in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, where she saw off the horse that tops this year’s Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, the Godolphin-owned Ghaiyyath.

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Magical is likely to be joined by stablemate Peaceful, who took the Irish 1,000 Guineas this season, with Jerome Reynier’s Prix Dollar winner Skalleti also representing the European contingent.

The Japanese flag is flown by last year’s victor Win Bright, who is undefeated in two runs at the track, while the home side field 2019 Hong Kong Derby winner Furore.

The Hong Kong Mile is also contested by a former winner, as Admire Mars returns to defend his crown for Japanese trainer Yasuo Tomomichi.

The colt faces stiff opposition from Golden Sixty, who has put together a remarkable 10-race winning streak and bids to claim his first Group One title.

Beauty Generation, who took the race in both 2017 and 2018, is also set to take part as he looks to return to winning ways for new trainer David Hayes.

Ireland are represented by two runners from Ballydoyle, surprise Breeders’ Cup Mile hero Order Of Australia and Lope Y Fernandez, who finished third in the same race – with Ken Condon’s dual Minstrel Stakes and 2018 Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Romanised also entered.

Hot King Prawn carries the hopes of Hong Kong in the six-furlong sprint, in what will be a quick turnaround from his winning performance in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint on November 22.

He will face Classique Legend, a new recruit to the yard of leading Hong Kong trainer Caspar Fownes, and Singapore’s Inferno, a two-time Grade One winner.

Grand Prix de Paris winner and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up Mogul lines up for Ballydoyle in the Hong Kong Vase – alongside the globe-trotting Royal Julius, who was the victor in the 2019 Bahrain International Trophy.

Five-time Group One winner Exultant bids to regain the title, having prevailed in 2018 and then missed out last year when third behind the aptly-named Glory Vase.

Magical on course for Hong Kong Cup

Magical remains in full training and is being aimed towards the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin next month.

Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One winner was last seen being caught late on by Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, which followed on from her meritorious run in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

O’Brien has enjoyed a bonus season with the five-year-old whatever happens in Hong Kong, as it was assumed she was going to be retired this time last year.

The decision to keep her in training has been well rewarded, with Group One victories in the Pretty Polly Stakes, the Tattersalls Gold Cup and a barnstorming display in the Irish Champion Stakes over Ghaiyyath.

“At the moment the plan is to take her to Hong Kong,” said O’Brien.

“She’s still in full work at the moment and that’s what we are looking at the minute.

“She ran very well in America, we were very happy with her at the Breeders’ Cup.”

Order Of Australia leads home remarkable Mile clean sweep for O’Brien

Order Of Australia led home a one-two-three for trainer Aidan O’Brien with a shock victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

The three-year-old colt only got into the race after One Master was scratched on Thursday and was sent off an unconsidered 73-1 outsider.

His jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot himself only got the ride after Christophe Soumillon tested positive for Covid-19 and completed an unlikely double after he also replaced Ioritz Mendizabal on Audarya in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Order Of Australia had only won two of his seven previous races and had fallen short in two previous attempts at the top level – but he came good when it mattered, to give O’Brien his first win in the race.

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Halladay made the running until the straight, where there was all to play for until Order Of Australia swept on the outside to take the honours under another confident ride by Boudot.

The son of Australia kept on to hold his stablemates Circus Maximus and Lope Y Fernandez, giving Ballydoyle a remarkable clean sweep.

Kameko, the 2000 Guineas winner, had every chance under Oisin Murphy but finished out of the places, as did Irish Guineas victor Siskin.

O’Brien said: “We always thought that as the season went on a mile on fast ground on a flat track would be ideal for Order Of Australia.

“He’s a horse that quicken very well and he had been working well.”

Boudot – who would have ridden the William Haggas-trained One Master – said: “I spoke to Aidan, who was very confident about this horse. He said I should be positive and as he is fast and a proper horse I should ride him from on the pace.

“He travelled very nicely throughout and produced a good turn of foot when I asked him.”

He added: “Christophe gave off a positive test for Covid and my horse got into the race as One Master was a non runner.

“It’s a dream come true for me and I’m thankful to my agent, who must be one of the best in the world.”

Kameko’s rider Oisin Murphy said: “I got him into the perfect position that I wanted going down the back. I thought the track would suit him and that he would travel, but he didn’t pick up.

“While this is disappointing, it doesn’t indicate how good he is. It’s just that he has trained hard all year, he’ll make a wonderful stallion.”

Colin Keane said of Siskin: “He behaved himself down at the stalls, but gave me the impression in the race that the year had caught up with him.”

Fire At Will silences big guns in Juvenile Turf

Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground had to make do with the runner-up spot as Fire At Will claimed a surprise victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland.

A son of War Front out of the yard’s Arc heroine Found, Battleground was strongly fancied to provide O’Brien with a fifth victory in this Grade One contest following the previous triumphs of Wrote (2011), George Vancouver (2012), Hit It A Bomb (2015) and Mendelssohn (2017).

Winner of the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood this summer, Battleground raced in midfield for much of the way and was still back in the field rounding the home turn, as Wesley Ward’s front-runner Outadore set sail for home.

Michael Maker’s Fire At Will reeled in the leader inside the final furlong before pulling nicely clear in the hands of Ricardo Santana Jr.

Battleground finished strongly for Ryan Moore to beat Outadore to second, with Jessica Harrington’s Cadillac not far behind that pair in fourth.

Ralph Beckett’s pair of New Mandate and Devilwala, as well as Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet, finished unplaced.

Maker said of the 33-1 winner: “I thought he was way overpriced – he’s done nothing wrong and is a very professional and classy horse.”

Moore said of Battleground: “He ran a lovely race, I like him a lot. He’s a horse with a big future.

“He ran on really well at the finish, but the winner had gone.”

Shane Foley was happy with Cadillac, and may have been closer with a shade more luck.

He said: “He got shuffled back on the first turn, but then ran on in the straight. He stays the trip very well.”

Frankie Dettori, meanwhile, felt the season had caught up with New Mandate.

He said: “I think he’s over the top, he ran with the choke out. It was one (run) too many.”

Kameko seeking glorious farewell at Keeneland

Guineas hero Kameko bids to go out in a blaze of glory in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Andrew Balding’s colt has raced over a variety of distances since winning the season’s first Classic at Newmarket – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex at Goodwood and over 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York.

He got back on the winning trail over a mile in the the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket in September – and having since sidestepped the QEII at Ascot on account of the testing conditions, he is set for his swansong this weekend before being retired to stud in 2021.

David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “The horse is in great shape – I’ve seen some lovely photographs of him looking imperial and he’s apparently very well.

“It would be fantastic if he could win a Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“We just have to hope he gets his luck in running and if that is the case, I think we’ll see him at his best.”

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Kameko is part of a strong European presence in the race, with Ger Lyons’ Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Siskin also set for the final outing of his racing career following a recent announcement he would stand at stud in Japan.

Colin Keane’s mount appears well placed in stall four – and Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, reports the son of First Defence to have settled in well to his new surroundings.

He said: “The draw is what it is, but certainly we have no complaints.

“The horse has travelled out there and seems in good form.

“He’s coming into it fresh, Ger is very happy with him and we hope the track will suit.”

Aidan O’Brien declared Circus Maximus, Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia in a bid to win the race for a first time, with the latter getting a run following the withdrawal of the William Haggas-trained One Master.

The tough-as-teak Circus Maximus was fourth in last year’s renewal and appears to be the stable’s first string.

O’Brien said: “We think he’s in good form. He’s a tough, hardy, consistent horse who gets a mile well.

“We think and hope the conditions will suit him.”

Safe Voyage (centre) represents Yorkshire-based John Quinn
Safe Voyage (centre) represents Yorkshire-based John Quinn (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The raiding party is completed by John Quinn’s Safe Voyage – who has won two Group Twos this season and was last seen finishing a close-up third behind One Master in the Prix de la Foret.

“He’s been training well and we sidestepped the QEII at Ascot because we didn’t want to throw too much at him,” said Quinn.

“At York he was able to dominate, but at ParisLongchamp it was a little bit more tactical and became a test of speed, which caught him out. He was galloping through the line that day, so we were pleased with how he finished.

“Tactically, I think he’ll be able to be comfortable at Keeneland. There will be some very nice horses in the race, but if everything went well, we can dream that he will win – he’s certainly got a chance.”