O’Brien’s Doncaster Date with Destiny

Could Saturday prove to be Aidan O’Brien’s ‘date with destiny’ as he saddles four in a bid to capture the Racing Post Trophy and finally break Bobby Frankel’s record?

Currently standing on 25 top-level winners for the season, the Ballydoyle master is set to launch a powerful assault in search of the magic 26. With three victories from the past eight renewals, this is a race that O’Brien often targets with his elite juveniles. Camelot won in 2011, and in Saxon Warrior and The Pentagon he has a pair that currently head the market for next year’s Epsom Derby.

Favourite for tomorrow’s renewal is Saxon Warrior. He’s unbeaten in two starts, having landed a maiden at the Curragh, and then capturing the Group Two Beresford Stakes at Naas. That last victory came on soft ground, though he’s by Deep Impact and should appreciate a sounder surface. He’s a powerful looking youngster, with the size and scope to progress nicely in time. This race often goes to lightly raced juveniles, with favourites having an impressive recent record of seven wins from the last 10. Ryan Moore takes the ride.

Your first 30 days for just £1

The Pentagon appears to be the stable’s number two, though Seamie Heffernan makes a habit of winning on the supposed second-string. Off the track since July, his bare form is possibly a little shy of what is required to win this. He beat the Jim Bolger trained Theobald last time, and that colt has since been thrashed on two occasions. Moore clearly thinks Saxon Warrior is the better of the pair, and he may be right.

The markets suggest that Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity is the main danger to Team Ballydoyle. His impressive victory in the Group One National Stakes last time looks to be the strongest piece of form. That success came on heavy ground, and there’s a danger that he was somewhat flattered by the inability of others to cope with conditions. His pedigree lacks the ‘wow factor’, and if the rain stays away I fancy he’ll be outgunned by one or more of O’Brien’s colts.

John Gosden has had another sensational campaign, and his Royal Lodge winner, Roaring Lion, looks a leading contender. He got the better of Aidan O’Brien’s Nelson on that occasion, despite finding Newmarket’s undulations a little unsettling. He’s a beautiful looking son of American stallion Kitten’s Joy, and though this is certainly his toughest assignment, he looks capable of a huge performance.

Aidan’s Seahenge is another Group Two winner, having captured the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September. He came up a little short in Group One company when third to another Ballydoyle colt, U S Navy Flag, in the Dewhurst a few weeks back. He’s certainly not without a chance, though it would be a surprise if he were the best of the Ballydoyle boys.

Jockey Andrea Atzeni is going for an incredible five Racing Post Trophy victories on the trot. He gets the leg-up on Martyn Meade’s Chilean. The youngster was an impressive winner of a listed event at Haydock last time. That came in testing conditions, and the form took something of a knock when the runner-up flopped at Pontefract earlier this week. Nevertheless, he has an exciting pedigree, being by Iffraaj out of a Duke Of Marmalade mare. The stallion’s standing was well advertised by Ribchester and Nathra in last week’s QEII. A drop of rain wouldn’t do his chances any harm, and at 14s he could be the each-way play.

Godolphin have supplemented Loxley, though the Charlie Appleby trained colt has only had one run in public. This gorgeous looking son of New Approach got going late, when dead-heating with a fair yardstick at Goodwood. He looked green that day, and though this race has favoured unexposed types, he’ll need to be far more streetwise to win. Nonetheless, that debut was full of promise, and connections clearly think plenty of him.

I fancy the ‘main man’ will get his record-breaking victory. Opposing O’Brien in juvenile Group One’s is a futile exercise. Saxon Warrior is beautifully bred and has the right kind of profile. I’m pretty sure that Roaring Lion will run a huge race, but at 14/1 I’ll take Chilean to hit the frame for each-way punters.

Racing Post Trophy – Greedy Atzeni Aims for Five In A Row

In recent years, the easiest way of landing the Group One Racing Post Trophy is to book Andrea Atzeni to ride.

He’s been aboard the last four winners, each time riding for a different trainer. Kingston Hill proved classiest of the quartet, finishing second in the Epsom Derby, before winning the St Leger back at Doncaster. He also ran a cracker that year to finish fourth in the Arc at Longchamp.

The Racing Post Trophy usually goes to a juvenile that is likely to get a fair bit further at three, often becoming prominent in the betting for the Epsom Derby. The final Group One of the British Flat racing season has gone to several outstanding types since its inception in 1961.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Sir Henry Cecil is the most successful trainer in the prestigious event’s relatively short history. Reference Point was his standout winner when romping to a five-length success in the race then known as the William Hill Futurity, back in 1986. He opened his account at three with victory in the Dante Stakes, before the bold front-runner powered his way to success in the Derby at Epsom. He went on to take the King George, the Great Voltigeur and then the St Leger back at Doncaster. He disappointed in his final career start in the Arc, but was found to be lame after the race.

Aidan O’Brien has had plenty of success and will be throwing everything at Saturday’s renewal with the Bobby Frankel record in his sights. In 2001, the outstanding High Chaparral landed the Racing Post Trophy on his third career start. Considered to be Ballydoyle’s second-string, he beat the more fancied stablemate Castle Gandolfo by less than a length.

Having taken a pair of trials at the start of his three-year-old campaign he headed to Epsom as second-favourite to stable companion Hawk Wing. The pair had the race to themselves, and once again it was High Chaparral that got the better of a more fancied member of the team. He followed Epsom with victory in the Irish Derby, then after a long absence managed a creditable third in the Arc. He ended his three-year-old season with a stunning success in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He was to return to America at four, and in one of the most thrilling finishes in Breeders’ Cup history, dead-heated with Johar in the ‘Turf’ with Falbrav a head back in third.

Motivator for Michael Bell and Authorized for Peter Chapple-Hyam both took the Racing Post Trophy as juveniles before returning at three to win the Dante on the way to Epsom glory in the Derby.

The last horse to tread a similar path was another Ballydoyle inmate, the wonderfully talented Camelot. An impressive winner of the Racing Post at Doncaster in 2011, he was made a short-priced favourite for the following year’s Derby. However, Aidan O’Brien announced that he would first target the Guineas at Newmarket.

He duly arrived at Newmarket as favourite for the 2000 Guineas, and in a thrilling finish defeated French Fifteen by a neck. An odds-on favourite to take the Derby, the result was never in doubt, as he stormed clear to land Epsom’s showpiece by five lengths. It was a devastating performance from a wonderful colt. After victory in the Irish Derby, Camelot was given a break and prepared for an attempt at the Triple-Crown. An odds-on favourite for the St Leger, the race failed to go as planned. Trapped on the rail, he gave valuable lengths to Godolphin’s Encke and was unable to peg back the winner.

As mentioned earlier in the piece, Atzeni has won the last four renewals of Racing Post Trophy, though only Kingston Hill truly made a mark as a three-year-old. The jockey will look for his fifth straight win on Saturday when partnering the Martyn Meade trained Chilean. It’s sure to prove a high-class renewal, with Ballydoyle likely to send a small battalion in search of the record breaking Group One success. The winner will likely be installed as favourite for the following year’s Derby and hope to emulate illustrious winners of past Racing Post Trophy’s.

Alter egos 17: BB tries for a GG double

Brendan Bracken- Big Brother

Brendan Bracken- Big Brother

Brendan Bracken [/caption]The First Viscount Brendan Bracken (1901-1958) was an Irish born journalist who turned politician and became Conservative MP for North Paddington. Read more

Alter egos 13: Cristoforo Colombo

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

criscolSo begins the poem describing the historic journey in which Cristoforo Colombo set out to find a western passage to India, ended up in the Bahamas and was declared the first white person to land in what later became called America. He had a big team behind him, with a crew of 90 sailors on board his ship, the Santa Maria, with two other ships in his convoy. Read more

Camelot yet to prove O’Brien claim that he’s the best

The renewal of a partnership in yesterday’s Arc that had rarely worked together for the past five years prompted speculation in some quarters that it could become a regular sight during next year’s flat season. Frankie Dettori rode Camelot for the Aiden O’Brien/Coolmore team, a move which could further undermine his position as a key employee of rivals Godolphin. Read more

All change in the Arc market

Orfevre - Japanese Triple Crown winner

The weekend saw three different horses heading the market for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe early next month. Read more

Sat TV Trends: 15th Sept 2012

Who Will Land The Oldest Classic?

It's Ladbrokes St Leger Day and we've got all the key trends and stats ahead of the LIVE C4 races this Saturday..... Read more

Each way the call as nine run in St Leger

Camelot eased - but no chance of any value

The final declarations for the final classic of the season, the St Leger, confirmed a field of nine would go to post tomorrow. Bookmakers were left in two minds as to whether this was a good thing for them or not. Read more

Trainer Stats 11th Sept 2012


O'Brien's Horses Are In Form

Andy Newton’s got plenty of hot yards to look out for, plus he looks at the form of the Gosden and O’Brien stables ahead of Saturday’s St Leger...... Read more

Trainer Stats: 15th Aug 2012

Tregoning Horses Are Hitting The Mark

See who is on Andy Newton’s ‘HOT TRAINERS’ list this week....... Read more

Sat TV Trends: 2nd June 2012

Pressure On Aidan To Land The Derby

Andy Newton is on hand with all the trends & stats at Epsom, Musselburgh & Haydock this Derby Day Saturday. Read more

Does a small Derby field matter?

Tattenham corner

Tomorrow’s Derby field of nine runners is the smallest for over 100 years, since Orby won in 1907. He was the first Irish trained winner of the race, and also the first to complete the double of winning the English and Irish Derby. Over the next few weeks there’s a clear possibility that Camelot will become another Irish trained horse to complete the double. Read more

Trainers Stats: 31st May 2012


Haggas Has His Horses In Great Form

With Epsom the main focus this week Andy Newton looks at which trainers are heading to the Surrey track in form. Read more

2012: A flat season to remember?

Frankel is not the only star this flat season

Frankel is not the only star this flat season

It seemed impossible to think that, after Sea The Stars in 2009 and Frankel in 2011, racing could ask for yet another wonder horse. And, of course, there is every chance that racing will not find that all-conquering beast, despite the promising beginnings of the 2012 season.

But, as reader Laurence F reminded me this morning, this 2012 flat season is shaping up to beat them all.

Let's look at the various international strands that could come together at different stages in the season, and how they came to be a player in this most compelling of part-work dramas.

First up, let's start with the weekend just passed. A certain unbeaten horse, let's call him Frankel (seeing as that is his name), stretched his winning streak to double digits with a facile success in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

That tenth success was his seventh over a mile - the other three coming at seven furlongs - and the way he travelled in the race leads me to believe that it would take an absolutely turbo-charged equine to beat him at any distance from six furlongs to a mile and a quarter.

If connections shared my view - which they probably won't - that would open up an array of mouth-watering prospective matches. The most vaunted of these is the clash of the hemispheres against Australia's own wonder mare, Black Caviar. This little beauty is an astonishing twenty-one races unbeaten.

Black Caviar comes to town next month...

Black Caviar comes to town next month...

That sequence includes nineteen stakes races, and eleven Group or Grade 1 contests. She still has a little way to go to beat Goldikova's fourteen G1's, but is on the case!

Black Caviar is on track to run at Royal Ascot this season, her first trip outside of Australia, and we are very lucky to have her. She has won at up to seven furlongs (though only once at that distance), with her regular trip being six furlongs.

The interesting thing for me is that her seven furlong win was perhaps more impressive than a number of her victories over a furlong shorter. This opens the door to a possible clash with Frankel, albeit barely sufficiently to allow a shard of optimistic sunlight to illuminate the metaphorical room... if you catch my drift.

In truth, it is somewhere between unlikely and impossible that the two will race against each other. With each accumulated victory, the fear of defeat becomes stronger. In such a context, and with paddock value aforethought, it would take two monumentally sporting decisions on the part of connections to get this show on.

But, while they're still racing, we can still dream. 🙂

[Stop press: I've just heard that QIPCO have agreed to sponsor a seven furlong conditions race on Ascot King George day - 21st July - with the same finances as the Sussex Stakes. This would appear to be the most likely spot for a match, albeit still extremely unlikely...]

Camelot and Joseph are not done yet this season...

Camelot and Joseph are not done yet this season...

Your first 30 days for just £1

Perhaps a more likely tussle, and still one worthy of significant savouring, is between Frankel and Camelot, the unbeaten winner of this season's 2000 Guineas, a crown he inherited from... Frankel himself.

Camelot's next run will be in the Derby in less than two weeks time. Assuming he wins there - which is, naturally, a very dangerous assumption - talk of the triple crown of Guineas, Derby and St Leger will be rife.

But the Derby is the first week of June and the St Leger is in mid-September. It may well be that the sensible play for connections of Camelot is to 'put him away' (i.e. give him a mid-season break) for a month or six weeks.

Despite that possibility, the prospect of a meeting between Frankel and Camelot in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown in July remains live enough. Frankel's next mooted run is in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on the 19th June. It is then two and a half weeks before the Eclipse on the 7th July. That may be too short a gap between races, especially if Frankel has as tough a race as he did last year in the St James Palace Stakes on the same Royal Ascot Tuesday.

Either way, it does seem a more plausible proposition that Camelot will meet Frankel at some point, especially given the attractive weight for age allowances the former will receive in the middle part of the season.

I'll Have Another bids for Triple Crown glory

I'll Have Another bids for Triple Crown glory

Talking of triple crowns brings us onto the next contender for global supremacy in this potential annus mirabilis for flat racing. Across the pond we go to North America, where Doug O'Neill's I'll Have Another added the Preakness Stakes to his Kentucky Derby title on Saturday night.

In front of an enormous crowd of 121,000 (!) at Pimlico racetrack in Maryland, I'll Have Another reprised his narrow defeat of Bodemeister achieved a fortnight earlier at Churchill Downs.

Like Big Brown in 2008, he will go to the behemothic Belmont Park to contest the Belmont Stakes as a triple crown winner in waiting. It is to be hoped that, unlike Big Brown in 2008, he at least finishes the race without injury.

One of the most famous statistics in US sport's stats-obsessed consciousness is that Affirmed was the last horse there to achieve the triple crown of Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, back in 1978.

I'll Have Another has looked to have something left at the end of his races to come past Bodemeister at the ten furlong trip of the first two legs. Whether there is sufficient stamina in reserve to retain his unbeaten run this year over an extra quarter mile remains to be seen.

Belmont's very long (by US standards) turns have found many a potential champion out, and the last four winners have returned at 38.5, 11.9, 13.0 and 24.75 to one.

There is also the small matter of I'll Have Another's trainer's somewhat dubious record with doping - see Ian's article here - which must add at least an element of dissatisfaction to a possible triple crown victory.

Danedream will be bidding for back-to-back Arcs

Danedream will be bidding for back-to-back Arcs

Onwards, for there are further top drawer beasties ready to stake their claim to be the pick of the pile.

How about Germany's wonder mare, Danedream, who started her four year old career with a win at Baden Baden yesterday? Last year's Arc winner is likely to be pointed towards that prize again this term, though she is unlikely to meet any of the others mentioned in this post, with the exception of Camelot.

Or perhaps you're more a fan of the remarkably tough, as well as talented, Cirrus Des Aigles? This chap ran eleven times last year, and has already won over two million quid in prize money this term from three starts!

He's historically been a ten furlong horse, but his win in the  mile and a half Dubai Sheema and subsequent success in the mile and three-eighths Prix Ganay implies he might be tilted towards the Arc this time around.

Cirrus Des Aigles could be top middle distance horse

Cirrus Des Aigles could be top middle distance horse

Before then, he's tantalisingly entered in all of the Coronation Cup at Epsom, the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the Eclipse at Sandown. So there must be every prospect that we'll see the ferrous Frenchie... the Gallic galloper... over here soon. I for one will be there wherever he runs in this country. Top, top horse.

Oh yes, and were he to run in the Eclipse, it could potentially be against Camelot and Frankel. What a race that would be!

If that sextet - Camelot, Frankel, Black Caviar, I'll Have Another, Danedream and Cirrus Des Aigles - isn't enough to induce a salivatory soaking, then you're not easily pleased!

Other older horses, such as St Nicholas Abbey, Fame And Glory (back as a winner at the weekend), and So You Think - and that's just from the Ballydoyle farm - will further spice this season's flat racing feast.

And perhaps French Fifteen will step up to become champion miler. Or maybe Bonfire will turn up the heat* (insert your own pun here) on Camelot and co in the Derby.

Then there are darker horses lying in wait, such as Italy's Crackerjack King, who has recently moved to Marco Botti in Newmarket.

And yes, maybe, just maybe, Khajaaly will come back and win for the Geegeez Racing Club again... 😀

After a fairly... well, flat... start to the flat season, things are bubbling up magnificently now, and there is much indeed to look forward to. It is just possible that we will look back on 2012 as one of the great flat racing seasons.

Bring it on!!!



O’Brien weighs up his Derby options

Aidan O’Brien could have an Epsom Derby all to himself. With the race less than three weeks away he still has 25 horses entered in the race and is seriously thinking about adding to that number by supplementing Daddy Long Legs. Read more