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No joy for O’Brien in Japan Cup as Contrail ends on a high

Neither Japan or Broome could make their mark for Aidan O’Brien as favourite Contrail ended his career with victory in the Japan Cup in Tokyo on Sunday.

O’Brien mounted a dual assault on the 12-furlong Grade One, but they proved no match for the Yoshito Yahagi-trained winner, who was a two-length victor in the hands of Yuichi Fukunaga.

Contrail was smartly away before being settled in mid-field as Kiseki made an eyecatching move down the back straight, tracking round the field to grab the lead and build up a six-length advantage at one stage.

Fukunaga bided his time though and as Kiseki was reeled back in, Contrail started to get rolling and while he still had some distance to make up two furlongs out, he engaged an extra gear to take it up inside the distance.

The son of Deep Impact stretched clear of Authority, with Shahryar back in third, rounding off a memorable few weeks for Yahagi, who also saddled the first Japanese-trained Breeders’ Cup winners in Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine, victors in the Filly & Mare Turf and Distaff respectively at Del Mar.

Contrail has been a star for Yahagi and now retires to Shadai Stallion Station as the winner of five Grade One races.

Yahagi said: “All I have now is mixed feelings of relief and lonesomeness. In the colt’s latest start (Tenno Sho (Autumn)), he broke poorly so I told him, while he was walking in the paddock earlier, to stay calm at the start.

“It worried me a bit since the pace was slow and he wasn’t in that good a position, but we had tuned him up to perfection and the colt gave us all he had in the straight.

“I have to admit I was under a lot of pressure during the two years he was at my stable, but I think it has helped me in becoming more mature, and I can’t thank him enough. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to win the Arc with an offspring of his someday?”

Fukunaga added: “The colt had issues before his debut, so there were always concerns about his form, but I am so proud of how he proved himself today – I’m overwhelmed.

“All I did today was believe in him. He broke well and everything went just perfectly.

“He has given me every jockey’s dream and I am utterly grateful. The colt shone a bright light over a gloomy year due to the pandemic last season. I’m relieved that we can send him off to his next career with this victory.”

Japan was partnered by Yutaka Take and after a fair break, he settled on the inside but when asked for an effort in the straight, he could not mount a challenge and finished six lengths behind the winner in eighth.

O’Brien was represented by Pat Keating, who said: “The track may have been a bit too fast for this horse. He was able to secure a good spot but wasn’t able to keep up with the pace.”

Broome was slow to start under Ryan Moore and could not raise his effort two furlongs out, eventually finishing eight and a half lengths back in 11th.

Keating added: “He missed his break and that cost him.”

Moore echoed those feelings and said: “He missed his break. The pace was slow but he wasn’t able to pick up speed in the end.”

O’Brien not concerned by prospect of soft ground in Arc for Snowfall

Aidan O’Brien is unlikely to be using soft ground as an excuse should Snowfall fail to add to her already illustrious record in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The Deep Impact filly has looked head and shoulders above her generation this season – until last time out when she met with a shock first defeat of the campaign in the Prix Vermeille over the same course and distance she faces at the weekend.

Since a 16-length demolition of her rivals in the Oaks she has been among the favourites for the Arc, with an eight-length triumph in the Irish version coupled with a four-length success at York cementing her position.

However, she lost her spot at the head of the betting with a rather lacklustre showing in the Vermeille when she failed to catch Roger Varian’s improving Teona.

With the ground softening up in Paris it could turn into more of a stamina test – and O’Brien thinks that would suit Snowfall.

“I was worried about going to Epsom on soft ground, but obviously we saw what she did there. I think she’s a filly who stays very well and gets the trip well,” he said.

“Soft ground catches out some horses, but it doesn’t catch her out. Obviously she acts on it given what she did at Epsom. I don’t think she’s ground dependent, I don’t think it really matters too much.”

He went on: “We know that she handles soft ground and we know that she handles fast ground. On her Epsom run you’d say she might be better with a bit of ease.

“Looking ahead, it might be on the soft side, but I couldn’t see that it was going to be heavy or anything. I don’t think it’s to her advantage if it’s soft, but I don’t think it would be a disadvantage either.”

And of her eclipse last time out he said: “We were delighted with her run and we were delighted that we ran her because we saw how she behaved on better ground on a track like Longchamp and that is always an advantage before a big race.”

O’Brien is also planning to run Love, who was strongly fancied for last year’s race only to be ruled out when the ground went heavy.

Love was a game winner of the Prince of Wales's Stakes
Love was a game winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (David Davies/PA)

“I think she’ll be fine on soft, but she’s a very good mover so the better the ground the better it would suit her,” said O’Brien.

“She’s a year older now. We’d planned on running her unless the ground was going to get very bad and hopefully I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Love was also surprisingly beaten on her most recent outing, albeit attempting to give 10lb to the 110-rated La Petite Coco and only going down by a short head, meaning she lost little in defeat.

“Everything has been good since, we used it as a prep for the Arc, she went around a right-handed bend like Longchamp and she seems to have come out of the race very well,” said O’Brien.

Broome is O’Brien’s third-string, but a high-class one as the winner of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and second in the Prix Foy last time out.

“He was kept in training at five specifically for the Arc. We kept him at a mile and a quarter earlier this season, then went up in trip for the first time at Saint-Cloud and we were delighted with that run, he ran a very good race,” said O’Brien.

“He went to Ascot (King George) and ran well, but missed the kick and ended up a bit further back than we thought. We were then delighted with his run in the Arc trial.

“He gets the trip very well, he’s very uncomplicated and handles all types of ground. He’ll be ridden forwards like always, you can let him bowl along.”

When pressed for his views of the opposition, O’Brien said: “Tarnawa is a very good filly, she’s proven over the trip so you have to have the utmost respect for her.

“The way we go into every race is we totally respect every horse and try to have our own horses as well as we can. The opposition is very good.”

Broome sweeps aside Saint-Cloud field for first Group One triumph

Broome sealed a fine weekend for Aidan O’Brien as he secured a first Group One victory with an all-the-way success in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud at the Parisian track.

Fourth in 2019 Derby at Epsom when sent off a 4-1 shot, Broome was limited to just two outings last year but has undergone a renaissance this term, winning three of his five starts.

Edged out in Group One company on his penultimate start and second to Wonderful Tonight in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, the son of Australia faced seven rivals over 12 furlongs in France, as O’Brien sought to add further top-level success after St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse on Saturday.

Partnered by Colin Keane, Broome was soon at the head of affairs and while the prolific Baron Samedi, trained by O’Brien’s son, Joseph, settled on his heels, the winner was still travelling much the best at the top of the straight.

Baron Samedi started to drop back as Broome forged on, with Ebaiyra launching a late challenge, but Broome was a length too good. Gold Trip took third with well-fancied Arc runner-up In Swoop only fourth.

Keane was notching his first top-level success in France, in what was also his first ride at Saint-Cloud.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s my first time being here, but it’s a lovely track and I had a nice, willing partner, so hopefully it’s the first of many here.

“Speaking to Aidan beforehand, he said to keep it pretty simple and if nothing was happy to go, to make your own way. He’s a very uncomplicated horse, very genuine and stays well. Nothing was really going on, so I was happy to let my lad roll along, he pricked his ears and was taking me the whole way.

Aidan O'Brien has had another weekend to remember
Aidan O’Brien has had another weekend to remember (Nigel French/PA)

“He galloped right to the line and was very deserving of it to be fair. He’s been very consistent this year, so it’s nice to get the Group One beside his name.

“He was just denied at the Curragh and he ran well at Ascot the last day.”

Asked if Broome – who is part-owned with Coolmore by Japanese connections – could be a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe contender in the autumn, Keane added: “I wouldn’t put them off anyway!

“He very uncomplicated, acts on most grounds and gets the trip well, so I’m sure they’ll have plenty of fun with him for the rest of the year.”

Yasufumi Sawada, who manages Masaaki Matsushima’s racing interests, confirmed a date in Paris in October will be on the agenda.

He said: “This is Mr Matsushima’s first Group One win. I just spoke to him on the phone and he is very happy!

“Broome will now be aimed at the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.”

Broome seeking Tattersalls Gold at the Curragh

Broome, Serpentine and Tiger Moth give Aidan O’Brien a particularly strong hand in this year’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.

While the very testing ground has prevented O’Brien from running last season’s star three-year-old Love on Sunday, the strength in depth at Ballydoyle still means he can field a Derby winner as well as a Melbourne Cup runner-up.

However, it is Broome who is set to go off favourite – having won three times already this season, including in the Mooresbridge Stakes last time out.

Beaten only half a length by stablemate Anthony Van Dyck in the 2019 Derby, he ran just twice last season, tackling two miles at Ascot on Champions Day on his second start.

Back at 10 furlongs this season, he has looked a different proposition.

“Broome lost his way last year,” said O’Brien.

“We started him at a lower level this year. He has had three trials in Ireland, and I have been very happy with him in all of them.

“He ran a very good race in the Derby. We always thought a mile and a half would suit him this year, and he has only been a mile and quarter yet, but I am very happy with him.

“He won on soft ground earlier in the spring there, and he seems to be in good form.”

O’Brien’s Serpentine caused a huge shock in the Derby last term, building up a huge advantage going around Tattenham Corner which he held on to all the way to the line.

He was beaten in two subsequent starts, in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Champion Stakes.

Stablemate Tiger Moth was beaten a head in the Irish Derby and most recently found only Twilight Payment too good in the Melbourne Cup.

“The other two are just ready to start back,” added O’Brien.

“Serpentine is working very well. Ten furlongs is probably not ideal for either of them really, but they have to start somewhere.”

Stiff opposition comes in the form of the mares True Self, who is reunited with Hollie Doyle, and Search For A Song – along with Jessica Harrington’s four-year-old filly Cayenne Pepper.

Broome sweeps aside Mooresbridge opposition

Aidan O’Brien’s Broome completed a hat trick of victories when taking the Group Two Coolmore Sottsass Irish EBF Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh.

The five-year-old started his season with a Listed win in the Devoy Stakes at Naas in March, following up that victory with a Group Three triumph in the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh in April.

Starting as the 4-9 favourite for Monday’s contest, the entire son of Australia prevailed more comfortably than the two-length winning margin would suggest in the hands of Ryan Moore

“He’s a lovely horse and he’s come back very well this year,” the jockey said.

Broome after winning the Coolmore Sottsass Irish EBF Mooresbridge Stakes (PA)

“There is plenty left in there and he kind of played with them to be honest.

“He’s unbeaten at 10 (furlongs), but I do think he’ll get further.”

On the bay’s chances of holding his own when returned to Group One level, Moore added: “He’s only had a couple of goes and has been fourth on two occasions, so he’s entitled to have another go at it.”

Noel Meade’s Helvic Dream came home in second, with Joseph O’Brien’s Twilight Payment a further four and a half lengths behind in third.

Broome digs in for Alleged success

Broome had to work hard to justify odds-on favouritism in the Holden Plant Rentals Alleged Stakes at the Curragh.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge had looked smart in 2019, winning two Classic trials before finishing a close fourth in the Derby at Epsom, but he subsequently lost his way before returning to winning form on his comeback at Naas last month.

Sent off the 1-2 market leader on the back of that run, Broome was slowly away, with Ryan Moore pushing him up early to sit in fifth as Numerian set the early pace.

Broome looked in a perfect position to challenge, but Moore was having to get to work on the turn for home and had ground to make up on the frontrunners with two furlongs to run.

It looked as though Thundering Nights had produced a winning effort when she collared Up Helly Aa at the furlong pole – but Moore was not giving up on Broome, who responded to his every urging to poke his head in front just strides from the post.

Broome eventually prevailed by half a length, with Up Helly Aa hanging on to third, a further two and three-quarter lengths adrift.

Betfair make Broome a 12-1 chance for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, but O’Brien is eyeing a switch back up to 12 furlongs from a mile and a quarter.

He said: “He’s a lovely horse and will probably love going back up to a mile and a half.

“It was nice that he didn’t have to make the running, and Ryan was very happy with him.

“He can have a look at races like the Coronation (Cup) and the Tattersalls (Gold Cup).”

Trainer and jockey were completing a quick Group Three double after the Gladness Stakes victory of Lancaster House.

Following Broome’s success, O’Brien added: “Ryan felt the pace was nice early and then dropped in the middle of the race.

“He had to work a bit harder than if the pace was consistent over a mile and a quarter. He’s brave.”

Love set to wait for Mooresbridge Stakes

Love is likely to wait a little longer to make her eagerly-awaited return to action.

The dual Classic-winning filly features among the entries for the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday – but Aidan O’Brien is instead set to run stable companion Broome, who was an impressive winner of the Listed Devoy Stakes at Naas last month.

O’Brien said: “Broome is likely to run in the Alleged at the Curragh on Saturday. He’s already had a run, and Love might wait for the Mooresbridge (May 3, at the same course). It’s a long year, and we might wait a bit longer with her.”

Ryan Moore with Love after victory in the Yorkshire Oaks
Ryan Moore with Love after victory in the Yorkshire Oaks (David Davies/PA)

As well as winning the 1000 Guineas and Oaks, Love put the Yorkshire Oaks on her CV last season – on her last run of the campaign.

A planned outing in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was abandoned because of heavy ground at ParisLongchamp.

Broome was returning to winning ways with his victory at Naas. Among his efforts over the past two years were fourth-placed finishes in the Derby and Coronation Cup.

Classy Broome headlines Aidan O’Brien treble at Naas

Broome put a barren spell behind him as he swept to victory in the Plusvital Devoy Stakes at Naas.

The son of Australia was a very smart three-year-old, winning two Group Three contests at Leopardstown and finishing a close fourth in the Epsom Derby in 2019.

Things had not gone right for him after that and he had been confined to just two starts since he was sixth in the Irish Derby that summer.

However, the Aidan O’Brien-trained five-year-old put his troubles behind him when dropped in class to Listed company and in distance to a mile and a quarter.

Seamie Heffernan had the 7-2 chance in the perfect position on the heels of the pace-setting Sunchart, with very few getting into it as Broome kicked on over a furlong out, scoring by three and a half lengths from the front-runner.

Sonnyboyliston was six lengths away in third place, and a return to a higher level now beckons for Broome.

O’Brien said: “You’d be very happy with him. Last year we couldn’t get him right all season, but everything has gone really well with him through the winter and into the spring this year.

Aidan O'Brien gets a debrief from Seamie Heffernan after the victory of Broome
Aidan O’Brien gets a debrief from Seamie Heffernan after the victory of Broome (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s very versatile, from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. He might come back for the Group Three Alleged Stakes.

“He’s a beautiful mover. You could see he was getting stuck in the ground a little bit, but it didn’t stop him.

“He’s very good form and wasn’t beaten far in the Derby. He’s a very solid horse.

“Hopefully we can look at races like the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Coronation Cup and Ascot with him.”

Tenebrism looks a smart prospect
Tenebrism looks a smart prospect (Brian Lawless/PA)

O’Brien and Heffernan were completing a double after Tenebrism made a taking debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Coming from the pace, the 7-2 favourite was well on top at the line, having three and three-quarter lengths from Gaire Os Ard.

The daughter of Caravaggio was the Ballydoyle handler’s first two-year-old runner of the campaign.

O’Brien said: “She was always very natural from day one and she’s able to quicken up very well, which is what the dad was able to do. You would have to be very happy with her. It’s her first day away.

“She’s smart and we can look at all those quick races for her.”

Empress Josephine lived up to her breeding
Empress Josephine lived up to her breeding (Brian Lawless/PA)

Empress Josephine (3-1) gave O’Brien and Heffernan an 80-1 treble when living up to her breeding with a smooth success on her belated debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

A full-sister to seven-times Group One winner Minding, she looks to have a big future of her own judged on her highly-promising performance.

She stayed on strongly to score by a length and a quarter from New York Angel, with Group Three-placed Ahandfulofsummers half a length back in third.

O’Brien said: “She’s a sister to Minding and you’d be delighted with her. That was a lovely start for her and she’ll stay further.

“Minding was unusual in that she went from a mile to a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half and then back to a mile.

“Seamus was very happy with her. We didn’t get her out last year. It was a bit of a mess with a few of them stopping and starting and she was one of them.

“She’ll have an option now of going to Leopardstown for a Guineas trial or waiting a bit longer.”

Epona Plays claimed Group Three honours
Epona Plays claimed Group Three honours (Brian Lawless/PA)

Epona Plays gave weight all round to register a second Group Three success in the Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes.

The Willie McCreery-trained filly overcame the testing conditions to add this contest to her one at the same level at Gowran Park in September.

Wayne Lordan had Epona Plays (12-1) in second place as Parent’s Prayer attempted to make all the running.

Archie Watson’s British raider stuck to her task, but she was worn down in the final furlong by Epona Plays, who pulled clear, despite her welter burden, to score by a length and three-quarters.

McCreery said: “I’m delighted to give Wayne a Group Three winner and we go back a long way. He always rides to instructions.

“I thought today they were not coming from off the pace. The main thing with this filly is not to miss the break as she rears in the stalls, but she jumped out smart today.

“She’s a tough, honest filly and is owned by a lovely man in Renzo Forni from Italy. He loves his racing and would love to be here. He bred her and this is the third daughter from the mare to get black type for him.

“She’ll be entered in the Group Two Ridgewood Pearl Stakes at the Curragh.”