Tag Archive for: Donnacha O’Brien

Sissoko scores stylish Curragh success

Donnacha O’Brien could have a Classic prospect on his hands in the shape of Curragh winner Sissoko.

The Australia colt was a six-length winner of the Friarstown Stud Irish EBF Maiden after starting at 5-1 under Gavin Ryan, showing a good turn of foot to easy pull away from 3-1 favourite Sun King and leave the rest of the field a further five and a half lengths behind.

A debut run at the same track in September saw him finish sixth of 15 runners, but this time he seemed to have overcome that initial greenness and was professional in victory at the second time of asking.

“We always thought a lot of him,” the trainer said.

“He was actually one of my best early ones, but he just pulled a muscle and I had to leave him off until a few weeks ago.

“He ran well first time, he was very green, and he was impressive today. Hopefully he’s as good as we think he is.”

The winner holds an entry for the Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday week, although O’Brien feels he is likely to end his season and hold out for Derby trials next year.

“There is the Eyrefield next week and he’s still in the Vertem Futurity Trophy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was him finished and we bring him back for a Derby trial early next year,” he said.

“You’d be hoping he’s a Derby-type of horse with Australia putting in good stamina. But whether he’s up to that or not we’ll see.”

Jessica Harrington also had a maiden winner on the same card as Dark Vega triumphed in the Bill Hanlon Memorial Irish EBF Maiden at 22-1.

The Lope De Vega filly was steered to a neck success over Boundless Ocean by Nathan Crosse on her racecourse debut. Her better-fancied stablemate Paris Lights was third.

“She’s a lovely filly, very relaxed, very calm and did it well,” Harrington said of Dark Vega. “That’ll probably be her for the year now.

“I’d say that was probably a very good maiden. I’m delighted with her and it’s lovely to get a winner for Maurice (Regan, owner and breeder).

Dark Vega could be a filly with a future
Dark Vega could be a filly with a future (PA)

“She’s going to be a mile filly the way she finished that out. We’ll look for something early on with an ease in the ground.

“She might end up a Guineas filly, you don’t know, it’s a long time between now and then.”

She added: “I’d say the other fella (Paris Lights) needs a mile plus now and he’s going to be a mile-and-a-half horse next year.

“Shane (Foley) said he’s still looking around him. He’ll be all right.”

Harrington and Regan then enjoyed a Curragh double as the Foley-ridden Anner Castle was victorious at 5-1 in the Hollywoodbets Now Streaming All Irish Racing Maiden.

“It’s lovely to get a win out of him and it’s great for Newtown Anner (Regan’s stud) to have a double on the day,” Harrington said.

“He deserves that, he’s a great big baby and is better since he got castrated – he’s behaving much better.

“He might go for a handicap, he needs a mile and a half upwards and nice easy ground. We just didn’t get soft enough ground for him during the summer.

“He was going to go to the sales, but they might keep him now.”

Fernando Vichi boosts Bolshoi Ballet with Nijinsky victory at Leopardstown

Fernando Vichi underlined Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet’s Epsom credentials as he ground out victory in the Listed Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown.

Donnacha O’Brien’s winner had finished an aggregate of 12 lengths behind his father Aidan’s Bolshoi Ballet in his two previous races this season.

As O’Brien senior relies on the latter as his sole Derby contender on Saturday, Fernando Vichi advertised the form of his back-to-back Group Three Leopardstown victories in the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

Gavin Ryan had the 5-1 winner in front after a furlong as he moved up to a mile and a half for the first time and, after remaining prominent throughout, kicked clear into the straight.

O’Brien’s favourite The Mediterranean came under pressure turning in – and although staying on to good effect in the closing stages, he could get no closer than a three-quarter-length second at the line. Joseph O’Brien’s Ruling completed the family’s clean sweep, the same distance again back in third.

Fernando Vichi’s victory fuelled his own Classic aspirations, with this month’s Irish Derby likely to be next and then a move further up in trip possibly on his longer-term agenda.

Donnacha O’Brien said: “He had a good run the last day – and we always knew he was going to be a mile-and-a-half horse, at least.

“Gavin gave him a lovely ride today. He got a nice, easy lead – but he quickened up well.

“He put lengths on them and then got a little bit lazy in the last half-furlong. I thought it was a good performance.

“I think he’s earned a shot at the Irish Derby now – that looks like the obvious target.

“He’s a horse that stays very well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we step him up again after that.”

Asked if the St Leger could therefore come into the equation later in the season, the winning trainer said: “I think so. There is a lot of stamina in his pedigree – and he has a nice, lazy, relaxed way of going.

“I see no reason why he shouldn’t be (a Leger horse).

“He quickened up very well today, so he deserves a shot at a big one over a mile and a half before we start thinking that way.”

Donnacha O’Brien wary of testing conditions for Shale

Donnacha O’Brien is praying the ground does not become testing for Shale’s run in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

A Group One winner last season in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, Shale is out of two Classic winners in Galileo and Homecoming Queen.

Last season saw her come up against Pretty Gorgeous – trained by O’Brien’s brother Joseph – in four different races, with the score two wins each. The twice she was on the receiving end, though, the ground was slow.

“She’s run well on soft ground but was never at her best,” said O’Brien, as he assessed Shale’s prospects on Sunday.

“That’s why she got beaten by Joseph’s filly (Pretty Gorgeous) – the ground was easy, (but) when she won it was quick ground.

“I don’t think she’s at her best on soft ground. I hope it’s not heavy, but we’ll have to see what it is like come the day.

“Galileos are genuine and they stay well. Those two things combined usually mean that they are fairly effective on soft ground.

“She’s not the biggest of fillies but she’s filled out and she’s strong. Sometimes horses either handle it or they don’t, in terms of their action, so I’m not sure whether strength is going to make her any better on it.

“She has run well on easy ground before – so unless it’s heavy I think we’ll be happy to run.”

The official going at the Curragh is soft on the straight course and soft, yielding to soft in places on the round course.

Shale expected to step up in Irish Guineas

Donnacha O’Brien is convinced Shale will improve a great deal for her first start of the season when she runs in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.

The filly is bred for great things, being by Derby winner Galileo out of a Guineas heroine in Homecoming Queen, and last year showed she had inherited plenty of ability.

She enjoyed a great rivalry with Pretty Gorgeous last season. The pair met four times, winning two each, and Shale gained a top-level victory herself in the Moyglare Stud Stakes – before disappointing in the Fillies’ Mile.

On her reappearance in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last month, she was only fifth of 15 – but her trainer expects her to take a big leap forward next weekend.

“She’s in good form and is going straight to the Curragh now,” said O’Brien.

“We’re very happy with her. She would have really needed her first run a lot – my older ones were really taking a run, and I was actually delighted with her.

“I’m expecting a big run from her at the Curragh.”

Emperor Of The Sun earns Ascot Gold Cup tilt

Emperor Of The Sun signalled his staying potential with an emphatic, career-best victory in the Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes at Leopardstown.

Donnacha O’Brien’s four-year-old belied his odds of 18-1 in a six-strong field of proven performers, prominent throughout before storming clear in the straight to win by three and a half lengths under Gavin Ryan.

Emperor Of The Sun had previously won just a 2019 Galway maiden from 10 attempts – although he did also outrun big odds on his seasonal return in the Group Three Vintage Crop Stakes when third at Navan last month, just behind the reopposing Master Of Reality.

He put that rival in the shade this time, along with Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment and dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song – who got closest to him as she stayed on to take minor honours.

Last year’s Derby runner-up Amhran Na Bhfiann was sent off favourite, but faded well out of contention to finish only fourth, having raced close to the pace until halfway.

Betfair and Paddy Power responded to Emperor Of The Sun’s victory by cutting him from 50-1 to 20-1 for next month’s Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

The winning trainer said: “He was good. It seems the further he goes the better he gets.

“He has one gear – he grinds and is able to keep going. We’ll probably look at the Gold Cup now, and he might even be better over that trip.

“They are good horses there (today) – behind Stradivarius they are the ones that are up there in the betting for the Gold Cup. You have a dual Irish Leger winner – they are proper horses, and it was a real test of stamina.

“He’s seems to be improving and he’s exciting.”

Elliptic puts down Royal Ascot marker with Tipperary victory

Elliptic emerged as a Royal Ascot candidate with an impressive victory at Tipperary on Tuesday evening.

The Donnacha O’Brien-trained filly showed a smart turn of foot in picking up her rivals from two furlongs out, running on strongly to account for Quick Suzy by a length and a half in the Yeomanstown Stud “El Kabeir” Irish EBF Fillies Maiden.

Sent off the 3-1 favourite, the Gavin Ryan-ridden winner is a daughter of Caravaggio.

O’Brien said: “A lot of mine are taking a run and she is a nice filly. She looks to be exciting, has plenty of pace and Caravaggios look very fast.

“She was working very well, working like a really nice fast filly. She was very green for the first few furlongs and I thought she wasn’t going to do anything today, but once she got a bit of light she really took off.

“We will step her up in class now, she’ll have no problem getting six (furlongs), although she was green today more than flat out. She’ll look quicker the next day with a bit of experience.

“You’d have to look at Royal Ascot. We’ll have a look at the calendar and see if we give her another run before it, but you’d be thinking she could be a Queen Mary or Albany filly.”

O’Brien brothers to form Racing League team

Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien will work together as one of 12 teams in the Racing League competition which launches next summer.

The new initiative will see teams compete across 36 races – with each event worth £50,000 and total prize-money of £1.8million – over six weeks at Newcastle, Doncaster, Lingfield and Windsor.

The O’Briens will form the Irish team, with Tim Easterby and Richard Fahey representing the north while Charlie Fellowes, Hugo Palmer and George Scott are combining to form the first Newmarket-based squad.

There are three teams in the south, comprising of Andrew Balding and Richard Hannon as one side, George Baker, David Menuisier, Gary Moore and Amanda Perrett as another, with Wiltshire-based trainers, Roger Charlton, Alan King, Martyn Meade and Brian Meehan also banding together.

Six teams are still to be announced, with each outfit nominating 30 horses and three jockeys, plus a team manager who will decide on a selection for each race.

Oli Harris, Racing League’s chief marketing officer, said: “We’re thrilled by the broad range of support from trainers. We will shortly confirm the remaining six teams followed by details of the jockeys chosen to represent each team.”

In a change to previously stated rules, and with regard for the British Horsracing Authority’s review of the current whip rules which due to be published next year, the competition will no longer be a ‘hands and heels’ event in 2021.

Shale and Pretty Gorgeous face off again at Newmarket

Donnacha and Joseph O’Brien are both looking forward to a fourth clash between Shale and Pretty Gorgeous in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile.

Shale gave younger brother Donnacha the bragging rights when showing Pretty Gorgeous the way home in the Silver Flash at Leopardstown in early August, before the latter comprehensively gained her revenge in the Debutante Stakes at the Curragh a couple of weeks later.

Shale came out on top by three-quarters of a length when the pair met for the trilogy in last month’s Moyglare Stud Stakes, and her trainer is hoping she can double her Group One tally at Newmarket on Friday.

He said: “The ground is probably going to be a bit softer than ideal, but she’s in good form and we’re hoping for a big run.

“There’s not a lot between our filly and Joseph’s, obviously. I think the step up in trip is going to suit my one, so it will be good fun watching them run against each other and I’m sure it will be another good race.

“There’s some other smart fillies in the race and it will be interesting to see how the Irish and English form lines stack up.”

Pretty Gorgeous had been due to contest the Prix Marcel Boussac at ParisLongchamp, but was declared a non-runner after all horses trained by the O’Brien family were withdrawn from their races on Arc day due to issues surrounding contaminated feed.

Pretty Gorgeous wins the Debutante Stakes
Pretty Gorgeous wins the Debutante Stakes (Niall Carson/PA)

Her trainer said: “She’s in good shape. It looks a very good race and we’re looking forward to seeing her run.

“We’re obviously meeting Donnacha’s filly again and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

“It’s probably not the ideal preparation after last weekend, but we’re hoping for a good run.

“She has handled a bit of juice in the ground.”

Aidan O’Brien saddles a couple of outsiders in Mother Earth and Snowfall, while the home team is headed by the unbeaten Indigo Girl, who bids to provide John Gosden with a fifth Fillies’ Mile success.

Impressive on her racecourse debut at Yarmouth, Indigo Girl successfully graduated to Group Two class less than a fortnight later in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster.

Indigo Girl is reopposed by the second, third and fourth from the May Hill in Dubai Fountain (Mark Johnston), Zabeel Queen (Roger Varian) and Lilac Road (William Haggas).

Isabella Giles has won four of her five starts for Clive Cox and earned her step up to the Group One level by winning the Group Two Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago.

Isabella Giles represents Clive Cox
Isabella Giles represents Clive Cox (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She’s been a very pleasing filly and has enjoyed easy ground, which she’s likely to get on Friday,” said Cox.

“We’re obviously stepping up to a mile, but she’s come out of the Rockfel so well and we’re pleased she’s taking this step.

“It’s a strong race, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Seattle Rock (Sylvester Kirk) and Star Of Emaraaty (Kevin Ryan) complete the 11-strong field.

Injury forces Fancy Blue into retirement

Fancy Blue, who gave Donnacha O’Brien his first two Group One victories in his opening year in the training ranks, has been retired due to injury.

The daughter of Deep Impact, owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Sue Magnier, got the County Tipperary-based handler off to a dream start when winning the French Oaks at Chantilly in July.

She doubled her Group One tally for the 22-year-old O’Brien when lifting the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood later that month.

Fancy Blue was third in the Matron Stakes on her only other subsequent start. She was due to take her chance in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp on Sunday but was one of the horses withdrawn because of contaminated feed.

“After sustaining a tendon injury in routine work yesterday morning, the decision has been made to retire Fancy Blue,” O’Brien posted on Instagram on Tuesday evening.

“We’ll always be grateful for her and what she’s done for us. We look forward to seeing her offspring on the track.”

Fancy Blue won four of her six starts and amassed over £527,000 in total prize money.

Shale gets the better of Pretty Gorgeous as dream season continues for Donnacha O’Brien

Donnacha O’Brien’s Shale got the better of his brother Joseph’s Pretty Gorgeous in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.

The two fillies have clashed three times now this season, with Shale currently holding the upper hand with two victories to one.

Pretty Gorgeous was sent off the 11-10 favourite having comprehensively outpointed Shale when they last met in the Debutante Stakes.

Shale (9-2) had two and a half lengths to find with Pretty Gorgeous, but was always in the right place under Ryan Moore.

Declan McDonogh had Pretty Gorgeous close enough if she was good enough and the two of them had a real battle inside the final furlong.

But try as she might Pretty Gorgeous could not get past, and Shale provided her young trainer with another Group One at such an early stage of his career.

A daughter of Galileo, Shale was cut to 12-1 from 20s for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair.

“It was a lovely performance. She was one of the first off the bridle and at halfway I didn’t think she was going to do anything, but she found plenty for pressure,” said O’Brien.

“She was always a nice filly, but wasn’t one we thought would be capable of winning a Moyglare at the start of the year – she’s kept progressing the whole way.

“Her last run was good and Joseph’s filly is very classy, they are two very good fillies.”

O’Brien – who has won Group Ones in Ireland, Britain and France this year, his first with a licence – added: “Speaking to Ryan it will either be the Fillies’ Mile or France (for the Prix Marcel Boussac) next. It’s not been a bad first year!

“Fancy Blue ran very well in the Matron on Saturday, I wasn’t deflated she got beat – I probably shouldn’t have run in hindsight because I expected the ground to be soft but the rain never came. I thought she did very well to finish third.”

Fancy Blue bids to add Matron glory to Classic success

Donnacha O’Brien is looking forward to starting Fancy Blue’s autumn campaign in the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The filly gave the first-season trainer a first Classic success in the French Oaks at Chantilly and backed that up in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwoood.

“It’s a great weekend, the biggest in Irish racing and I’m excited about having horses to run,” he said.

“Fancy Blue starts out on her autumn campaign in the Matron Stakes and while the trip might not be ideal, she does have good form over a mile and she ran well in the Irish Guineas over this distance.”

Peaceful, who beat Fancy Blue in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and was a close third to her in France, is one of three rivals trained by his father, Aidan. So Wonderful and Love Locket are his other runners with 11 declared in total.

Johnny Murtagh is hoping Know It All can repeat her run in the Prix Rothschild when she was only beaten three-quarters of a length in third place behind Watch Me.

“Know It All ran very well in the Rothschild in France, so the plan was always to come back to the Matron,” he said.

“She’s fresh and well – she’s the best horse we have in the stable. I thought if we had a good horse this year, it was her.

“She ran well last year and just got caught in a Group Three, but this year has gone quite smoothly for her. Her first run was nice, she won a Group Three the next time, so we’re all guns blazing towards the Matron Stakes.

“She’s a very big filly, good breeding. Sheikh Fahad owns her and she has a good sire (Lord Kanaloa) – I didn’t know much about him, but he’s one of the top stallions in Japan.

“I think she’s going there with a great chance. She has to improve seven to 10lb to be involved in the finish with all the good fillies’ that are in it.”

Murtagh also saddles Champers Elysees, who has won her last three races culminating in a Group Three at Gowran Park.

“When she won at the Curragh, I thought ‘this one will get some black type’. She was supposed to be sold, but the deal fell through,” he said.

“Her performance in Galway blew me away. I was very surprised the way that she won, the way she travelled and the way she quickened on ground that we weren’t sure about.

“Since Galway she’d had very clear run – it’s been smooth, her work has been good and she hasn’t missed a day. At the start of the year, did I think she would be rated 110? No, but she has a great heart. She’s always been a couple of lengths behind Know It All, but she’s getting closer now.

“She has to improve seven to 10lb again and it’s her first time over a mile.”

O’Brien senior is happy to give Vatican City another chance in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile.

“We went a mile and a half in the Derby and it was probably too far,” he said.

“We brought him back to a mile at Goodwood and he got galloped into going down the hill. A shoe got pulled off and he lost his action quickly. It was a non-event and we learnt nothing from it. He’s very well.”

The Ballydoyle handler also has Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch in the 10-runner field.

Ken Condon is hoping Trais Fluors will put his best foot forward.

“If you look at his form when he was trained by a master in Andre Fabre, he didn’t win enough,” he said.

“He’s good at coming third or fourth and we often joke ourselves that he could be third in a Group One and be third in a claimer – he’s just that type of horse.

“If everything fell right and he’s in good humour and on a going day, he’s a talented sort of horse. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet – he’s mercurial, but he has enough ability to run well.”

British interests rest with John Quinn’s Safe Voyage, the David O’Meara-trained Escobar and Century Dream, representing Simon and Ed Crisford.

O’Brien senior feels Tiger Moth’s class will stand him in good stead in the Group Three Paddy Power “Is It 2021 Yet?” Stakes.

The Galileo colt was just beaten by his stablemate Santiago in the Irish Derby on only his third start and has his first race since then.

“He’s good. He’s had a nice long break and is in good form. We think he’s a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-a-half horse,” he said.

“He has a little bit of class.”

Tiger Moth now takes on older horses, including Buckhurst and Patrick Sarsfield.

Murtagh steps Fourhometwo up into Group Three company in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes after opening his account on his second start at Galway after a sound debut run when runner-up at Gowran.

“He was still a bit green at Galway, a bit raw and learning on the job, but he’s a gorgeous horse and is owned by some really nice people that I met out in Australia,” said Murtagh.

“He’s a talented horse and we will find out how good he is.”

There are plenty of promising types among the 10 runners, including the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair of Liffey River and Snapraeterea.

“Both have earned their place in the race and we’re hoping they can run with credit in what looks a good race,” he said.