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Thunder Moon firmly on course for 2000 Guineas

Joseph O’Brien is one trainer who does not want the current dry spell to end as he believes it will aid Thunder Moon’s chances in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

An impressive winner of the National Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend on just his second start – where recent Craven victor Master Of The Seas was fourth – the Zoffany colt finished third in the Dewhurst on his final outing.

While he was not disgraced behind St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley, both trained by his father Aidan O’Brien, the former champion jockey feels faster ground could help him turn the tables.

“He’s wintered very well. Obviously we put him away after the Dewhurst, but I was very pleased with that run. The ground went a bit slow on us and we probably weren’t drawn in the perfect position, but it was a very good run,” O’Brien told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“The plan all winter has been to go straight to the Guineas and not have a prep. He’s in good shape.

“His National Stakes win was a very good performance. It was a very messy race, but he got himself out of trouble and showed a fantastic turn of foot.

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“Turn of foot and speed are probably his two attributes, he’d love a bit of firm ground as he’s a strong traveller with a turn of foot, which he showed a couple of times last season. It would be pretty important to us that the ground is good or better.”

Thunder Moon is currently fourth-favourite for the Newmarket Classic, with the two who beat him in the Dewhurst ahead of him in the betting.

Declan McDonogh (with groom Kyle Shelly) is set to ride Thunder Moon in the Guineas
Declan McDonogh (with groom Kyle Shelly) is set to ride Thunder Moon in the Guineas (PA Wire)

“I don’t know if he’s classier (than the two who beat him in the Dewhurst), but I probably feel that we are the quickest horse,” said O’Brien.

“We travelled very well through the Dewhurst and looked the winner, but on the day there was a severe bias to the rail, we were drawn on the other side and also the ground was on the slow side so I thought it was a fantastic run.

“When we broke down the race afterwards we were very proud of his run, we’re looking forward to taking them on again on what we hope will be quicker going.

“His pedigree suggests he’ll stay further, I’m quite confident about the mile but after that I’m not sure how much further he’d go as he’s quite a pacey horse.

“I’d say Declan McDonagh is most likely to ride at Newmarket and we’ll go from there, but it hasn’t really been discussed yet. I’d imagine it will be Declan as he has a good relationship with him.”

O’Brien also has a live chance in the 1000 Guineas with Pretty Gorgeous, the Fillies’ Mile winner.

“She’s in good shape too, I’m pleased with how she’s wintered. She’s a big, powerful mare and the plan is to go straight there,” he said.

Mutasaabeq looked potentially smart in victory at Newmarket
Mutasaabeq looked potentially smart in victory at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A total of 25 colts remain in the Guineas following the latest forfeit stage, a number that could be boosted should connections opt to supplement Mutasaabeq.

Home-bred by the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stud, the son of Invincible Spirit was a six-length winner of a conditions event on the Rowley Mile earlier this month.

Trainer Charlie Hills said: “He’s in great form after his run at Newmarket, he didn’t lose much weight and seems to have taken the race very well.

“We haven’t spoken (about supplementing yet, it’s something we probably need to talk about for the rest of the week and decide by the end of the week really.

“We’ll certainly see him in Pattern company next time, but I’m not sure where yet – we’ll discuss it with the family and go from there.”

Fakir D’oudairies secures emphatic Marsh Chase success

Fakir D’oudairies finally landed the big pot his consistent efforts have deserved in recent seasons when bolting up in the Marsh Chase at Aintree.

Second in six Grade Ones throughout his career, including last time out in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, he was declared to run at Fairyhouse on Monday but pulled out on account of the quick ground.

Connections had been hoping for a softer surface on Merseyside – but the way he travelled and jumped on this occasion suggests there will be no worries in the future.

Master Tommytucker attempted to make all but, as is his wont, made several errors, including a spectacular one on the first circuit which saw Sam Twiston-Davies perform miracles to keep the partnership intact.

Heading to the third-last Politologue moved alongside his stablemate Master Tommytucker, with Nuts Well aiming to squeeze between the pair as Mark Walsh moved on the outside of all of them.

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It got very tight with Nuts Well coming off worst, forcing Danny McMenamin to take a pull and by then his chance had gone.

Sent off the 2-1 favourite, Fakir D’oudairies shot clear to give Joseph O’Brien a notable win, with Nuts Well holding off Itchy Feet for second, 11 lengths away.

O’Brien said: “We’re delighted with his win. Mark gave him a great ride, he jumped great and got into a great rhythm today.

Fakir D’oudairies was an emphatic winner
Fakir D’oudairies was an emphatic winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s been a very consistent performer for us and deserves another Grade One.

“He’s been running against the best of the best and always runs his race. We’re very proud of his win today.

“He was to run at Fairyhouse on Monday. He was at the track and we weren’t happy with the ground. It’s a touch of luck we sent him to Aintree instead.

“We’ll have a look at Punchestown. We’ll see how he comes home first – it’s a decision for next week.

“We’ll get today out of the way and go from there.”

Walsh said: “He deserved his day in the sun. He’s been running great all season, so I’m delighted he got his head in front.

“He had a hard race at Cheltenham in the Ryanair, but Joseph had him in great shape and he’s done it well today.”

Following the race, the stewards looked into the incident that saw the interference, and deemed Politologue’s jockey Harry Cobden guilty of improper riding. He was suspended for eight days.

Cobden is currently third in the race to be champion jockey behind Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton, and his ban is set to begin on April 23, the penultimate day of the jumps season.

Paul Nicholls also reported that a post-race endoscopic examination of Politologue revealed the gelding had bled.

Pretty Gorgeous given Leopardstown weekend option

Leading Classic contender Pretty Gorgeous could make her seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown on Sunday.

The Joseph O’Brien-trained filly is one of 26 entries for the Group Three Ballylinch Stud ‘Priory Belle’ 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes over seven furlongs.

A daughter of Lawman, she is behind only Aidan O’Brien’s Santa Barbara in the ante-post market for the Qipco 1000 Guineas following her victory in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October.

There are a number of smart performers among the potential opposition – including O’Brien senior’s Joan Of Arc, Empress Josephine and Mother Earth, who was third at Newmarket and ran a fine race when runner-up to Aunt Pearl in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland.

Also featuring is Donnacha O’Brien’s Shale, twice a conqueror of Pretty Gorgeous last season, most recently in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Poetic Flare could put his big-race credentials on the line in the Listed Ballylinch Stud ‘Red Rocks’ 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes.

Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach colt won two of his three juvenile outings, with the highlight being the Group Three Killavullan Stakes over this course and distance.

Thirteen possibles have been assembled for the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes.

The Group Three contest has been a real Derby pointer over the years, famously won by O’Brien with Galileo 20 years ago and High Chaparral 12 months later.

Harzand won the Ballysax for Dermot Weld in 2016
Harzand won the Ballysax for Dermot Weld in 2016 (Niall Carson/PA)

The shortest in the Epsom betting of O’Brien’s contenders for this year’s renewal is Cleveland – and he could also call on the unexposed Arturo Toscanini and Lough Derg.

Dermot Weld last won the Ballysax in 2016 with Harzand, who went on to Derby glory on his next start. The master of Rosewell House has two in the mix this weekend, in the shape of Wuqood and Blue For You.

Wuqood was just touched off by Bolger’s Flying Visit in the Eyrefield Stakes and could re-oppose, while Blue For You beat subsequent dual Group One runner-up Wembley at Galway in July but has not been seen since.

Guineas contender Pretty Gorgeous ‘looks fantastic’

Joseph O’Brien believes the experience Pretty Gorgeous gained in winning the Fillies’ Mile will stand her in good stead when she returns to Newmarket for the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Having had three battles with the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Shale before the Fillies’ Mile, winning only once, Pretty Gorgeous took advantage of a below-par run from her old rival to win the Group One last October.

“We are very pleased with her. She came through the winter really well and looks fantastic,” O’Brien said of Pretty Gorgeous, in a stable tour for Attheraces.com.

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“We haven’t decided yet whether we will run her in a Guineas trial or go straight to the Guineas. We saw last year that she handles soft ground well, but I think she’ll prove quite versatile on that front.

“The experience that she got at Newmarket in the Fillies Mile can do her no harm, with a view to going back there for the 1000 Guineas. I could see her getting a mile-and-a-quarter in due course, for sure.”

O’Brien has a similar quandary for Thunder Moon, who lost his unbeaten record in the Dewhurst when third – having won the National Stakes on just his second outing.

“He was brilliant for us last year. He was deadly in the National Stakes, and I thought he ran very well in the Dewhurst,” said O’Brien

Thunder Moon was a good winner of the National Stakes
Thunder Moon was a good winner of the National Stakes (PA Wire)

“He was drawn in the wrong part of the track that day – and the ground was softer than ideal – so it was a very good run in the circumstances, I thought.

“He came through the winter very well and is in great shape. We haven’t made a final decision on whether to run him in a trial or go straight to the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but that’s what his target is.

“It looks as though a mile will be his trip. We are excited to see how far he can go this season.”

Twilight Payment took his form to a new level on joining O’Brien from Jim Bolger, and won the trainer a second Melbourne Cup in November.

“He had an incredible season last year, and his win in the Melbourne Cup was very special. He had a break when he came home and looks great,” said O’Brien.

“We’re looking forward to what will hopefully be another good season for him. The Gold Cup at Royal Ascot will be considered along the way. We’ll take it race by race with him.”

Late call on Fakir D’oudairies’ Cheltenham options

Joseph O’Brien plans to make a “last-minute” call on which race Fakir D’oudairies will contest at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

The JP McManus-owned six-year-old has performed well in defeat on each of his two previous appearances at the showpiece meeting – finishing fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 and runner-up in the Arkle Trophy 12 months ago.

The son of Kapgarde was pulled up on his first start over three miles in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on his penultimate outing, before reverting to two miles to finish second to Chacun Pour Soi at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Fakir D’oudairies has the option of taking on Chacun Pour Soi again in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase next Wednesday, or stepping back up in distance for the Ryanair Chase the following afternoon.

“He’s in the Queen Mother and the Ryanair, and it will be between those,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.

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“At this stage it might be slightly favourite that he’ll go for the Ryanair, but a final decision hasn’t been made yet. Being quite honest, it will probably be left until the last minute.

“We’ve been very pleased with his preparation. He disappointed us a bit at Christmas, but he ran very well back at Leopardstown last time – and has been well since then.

“Chacun Pour Soi looks an outstanding horse, and this season he’s been untouchable really, but wherever you go at Cheltenham you’re going to meet the top animal in that division – there’s no easy touches.”

Fakir D’oudairies is set to be part of a team of “around 12 runners” for O’Brien in the Cotswolds next week.

The Piltown-based trainer could be well represented in the Grand Annual Chase, with both Embittered and Entoucas in the mix, while Busselton is an interesting contender for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

O’Brien said: “Embittered might run in the Arkle or the Grand Annual. He ran well in the County Hurdle last year and has performed well in all his starts this year, so we’re hoping for a good run from him.

“I don’t know if he has a huge amount up his sleeve, but I’m happy enough with the mark he has.

“Entoucas is in good shape, too. He has a couple of options, and the Grand Annual is one of those. He’ll go there with an each-way chance.

“The Boodles might be more likely (than the Triumph Hurdle) for Busselton. He’s run very well in his two runs for us so far, and we’re very pleased with him – I think he’ll acquit himself well in whatever race he goes for.”

He added: “It’s going to be a different Festival to what we’ve been used to, but we’re looking forward to the week.

“There’s some great races, and I think we’re well represented.

“Hopefully they all stay in one piece between now and next week.”

Zoffanien sets up Cheltenham run with Naas victory

Zoffanien is bound for the Cheltenham Festival following a runaway victory at Naas on Sunday.

Having been placed on four of his previous five starts over obstacles for Denis Hogan, the French import was the 6-4 favourite to open his account as he stepped into handicap company for the first time.

A week on from stealing the headlines with a remarkable riding performance aboard the Hogan-trained Young Dev at Navan, conditional jockey Hugh Morgan enjoyed a far more straightforward time in the Paddy Power Road To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle.

Always travelling strongly, Zoffanien moved to the front between the final two flights before pulling nine lengths clear on the run-in – a performance which prompted Paddy Power to slash his odds for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham to 12-1 from 20-1.

Hogan said: “He did it nicely and to be fair he’s run into one or two (good horses). He got a few pounds for finishing second the last day, so we said that we’d claim the 5lb and Hugh did us no wrong last weekend in the same colours. We gave him irons today!

“He’ll probably go for the Fred Winter (Boodles) now, and he’d no business going for it if he didn’t win today. Hopefully he comes out of that OK and gets there in one piece. He handles soft ground and he stays well.”

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Joseph O’Brien and JJ Slevin combined to land the most valuable race of the afternoon – the 40,000 euros Paddy Power ‘From The Horse’s Mouth’ Podcast Novice Handicap Chase.

Despite the burden of top-weight, 5-1 shot Home By The Lee proved 10 lengths too strong for 11-4 favourite Enjoy D’allen.

Home By The Lee was a wide-margin winner
Home By The Lee was a wide-margin winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s a very excitable horse at home and got very wound up at Leopardstown last time. He was very relaxed in the paddock today and went down last lovely and relaxed,” said O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell.

“He jumps and he stays. You think he’s beat a long way out, but he comes there and he tries. He’s an honest horse.

“It’s nice to get his head in front again. I’m sure there is plenty for him at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”

Egality Mans was one of three winners on the card for Willie Mullins
Egality Mans was one of three winners on the card for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Egality Mans (8-11 favourite) completed a treble on the card for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with victory in division one of the Paddy Power Livestream UK & Irish Racing On The App Maiden Hurdle.

The champion trainer and jockey had earlier successfully combined with Cilaos Emery and Echoes In Rain for graded race success.

Mullins said of Egality Mans: “As you can see, he looks like a horse that wants to go chasing sooner rather than later, but we’ll let him finish out the season novice hurdling.

“He definitely needs a fence. He’s the build of a chaser and jumps like one. We’ll probably head to Fairyhouse.”

Mullins and Townend were widely expected to make it four from four on the day in division two, but 4-5 favourite Micro Manage was too keen for his own good in front and was mowed down on the run-in by Enda Bolger’s Genois (100-30), with Mark Walsh the winning rider.

“He’s a nice horse and the nicer ground today was a help,” said Bolger.

“He’ll get further as well, so hopefully we’ll find something for him in the next month or so and end up going to Punchestown for a race.

“He’s a chaser down the line and I’m chuffed with that.”

Light Brigade (4-1) won the Paddy’s Rewards Club Handicap Hurdle for trainer Charles Byrnes and jockey Kevin Brouder, while Gerri Colombe (1-2 favourite) won the closing Paddy Power (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.

Druid’s Altar cut for Cheltenham following Naas triumph

Joseph O’Brien will be hoping lightning can strike for a third time in the case of Druid’s Altar.

The previous two winners of the Naas Rated Novice Hurdle, O’Brien’s Band Of Outlaws and Gordon Elliott’s Aramax, have gone on to win the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Sent off the 13-8 favourite, Druid’s Altar was hard pressed on the run-in by Zoffanien, but Hugh Morgan galvanised him and he ended up going away to win by two and a quarter lengths.

Betfair and Paddy Power cut the winner to 14-1 from 25s for the Boodles next month.

Assistant trainer Brendan Powell said: ““He has a good attitude and stays well. Hugh said he was better there with a bit of company, because he’s made it a few times.

“He was in top-class company on his last few races and it’s nice to get his head in front again. He’s done it nicely in the end and he seems to cope with most types of ground.

“He’s a big horse and will jump a fence some day.”

Owner JP McManus and jockey Mark Walsh enjoyed a treble on the card, instigated by expensive French purchase Gentleman De Mee (2-7 favourite), trained by Willie Mullins, in the second division of the Naas Business Club Members Maiden Hurdle on his Irish debut.

Mullins said: “He had a setback early in the season, so I hadn’t as much done as I would have liked. It was pure natural ability what he did there.

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“He jumped well, a bit green looking at the Irish hurdles, even though he’s schooled over them before. Mark thought he was in control at all stages and I’m very happy with the performance.

“He’s in the Supreme and the Ballymore, and to me he’d be looking more like a Ballymore horse. I’ll see what connections want to do, but I think he’ll improve as he goes up in trip.”

Mullins and Walsh also teamed up to win the feature Opera Hat Chase with Elimay, while Walsh then rode Elliott’s Minella Till Dawn (12-1) to victory in the Naas Handicap Chase.

Elliott said: “He’s a bit of a monkey, but he has plenty of ability. Mark knows him well and gave him a good ride today. He’s a bit hot and cold and thankfully it worked out today.

“He missed the fifth-last and got a bit close to the last, but other than that he wasn’t bad. We’ll try to find something similar.”

Elliott also took the concluding bumper with Eyewitness (13-2), ridden by Jamie Codd.

The trainer said: “He’s come forward a lot from his first run. He was very green the last day and we could ride him the way we wanted to ride him today.

“He stays and is a nice horse. He probably doesn’t want real winter ground.

“He could mix it between the Flat and bumpers and will go over hurdles. He’ll do everything.”

Hurricane Cliff (13-8) floored the odds-on Captain Kangaroo in division one of the Naas Business Club Members Maiden Hurdle.

The pair jumped two out together, before the winner just began to assert and ultimately was always doing enough from the last to prevail by two and a half lengths in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.

Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “I was a bit disappointed with him in Leopardstown at Christmas so we said we’d sit with him and wait a bit longer. He ran well at Punchestown and it’s lovely to see him go and do it here.

“He’s learning all the time and is a lovely big scopey horse. He should be good over a fence in time.

“We’ll aim for the festivals here later on in the spring.”

A gamble on the Charles Byrnes-trained Rough Terrain went astray in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, with the 2-1 favourite beaten when taking a tired fall at the last.

The race was won by Philip Dempsey’s Fou Diligence (7-1) under Tommy Brett.

“He’d been knocking on the door and you’d be hoping he hadn’t missed his chance. He was consistent last year and then got a knee injury and it took him a while to come back,” said Dempsey.

You Raised Me Up is already eight and had finished third in the Ladbrokes Hurdle at last year’s Dublin Racing Festival.

However, he only won for the first time over hurdles in September and followed up when finishing with a late flourish in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle – a race the same connections won with City Island in 2019 who went on to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle next time out.

“We were waiting for a bit of nicer ground and I didn’t think we were going to get it,” said Brassil after the success of his 9-2 chance.

“Anyway I wanted to run him here to qualify for the final in Punchestown and also a stepping stone to running in the County Hurdle in Cheltenham.

“Sean and Bernadine (Mulryan, owners) like to go to the festival meetings.”

French Light could provide landmark success at Punchestown

Keri Brion expects to have a clearer idea of French Light’s potential ambitions after running in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

The six-year-old is one of a handful of horses currently based in Ireland with the former assistant to US Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard – and made a promising Irish debut when finishing second at Clonmel last month.

Having missed an intended appearance in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival, French Light instead tests the water at Listed level this weekend.

Brion said: “He had a little cough before Leopardstown. It was nothing too serious, but he needed to be 120 per cent to go up against those horses, so we decided to wait for this weekend.

“Quite a few of the horses in the race on Sunday are probably future graded horses, but we think highly of ours and he’s come on a lot from his run at Clonmel, so we’re looking forward to it really.

“The ground is going to be soft or soft to heavy, but I don’t think is going to be any worse than it was at Clonmel and I like the fact we’re coming back from almost two and a half to two miles.

“This run will tell us where we’re going next, for sure. I know there’s only six runners, but there’s some good horses up against us, so this will give us a pretty good gauge as to where we’re at.”

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French Light’s five rivals include the Willie Mullins-trained Power Of Pause, who has already won over the course and distance and was last seen finishing third in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Noel Meade is in contention for Punchestown honours
Noel Meade is in contention for Punchestown honours (PA)

Noel Meade saddles recent Navan scorer Thedevilscoachman, while Joseph O’Brien is represented by Fire Attack and the long-absent Uhtred, who has not been seen in competitive action since landing a Listed bumper at Navan in December 2019.

“Fire Attack made a really promising hurdling debut when second in a Grade Three novice at Navan in November, but hasn’t built on that in two starts since,” O’Brien told Betfair.

“He isn’t the easiest of rides as he can get quite strong in his races, but he has the ability to be competitive in this sort of company if headgear (hood) can convince him to race more efficiently.

“Uhtred is a promising horse that has won both his starts in bumpers and made a promising hurdling debut in between those two wins last season.

“We had a small setback with him earlier this season which held us up, but he is a good shape now and ready to run. This is a tough enough ask for his seasonal reappearance, but we’ll be hoping that he can show plenty of promise.”

Harry Kelly’s rank outsider Confusionanddelay completes the line-up.

Alpha Des Obeaux is in action for Gordon Elliott at Punchestown
Alpha Des Obeaux is in action for Gordon Elliott at Punchestown (Brian Lawless/PA)

The most valuable race on the card is the 80,000 euro Punchestown Grand National Trial, in which Gordon Elliott could saddle six runners.

The Cullentra handler has declared top-weight Alpha Des Obeaux, as well as 2019 winner Dounikos, Roaring Bull, Monbeg Notorious, Out Sam and second reserve General Principle.

Elliott said: “Alpha Des Obeaux hasn’t been at his best this season and could never get involved in the Thyestes last time. It would be hard to have confidence in him, but at home he is showing that he still retains plenty of ability, so it wouldn’t shock me if he were to bounce back to form.

“Dounikos won this race two years ago and has done very little of note since then. He has dropped back to a rating which would give him a chance, though.

“Roaring Bull isn’t the easiest to predict, but he was second in the Troytown this season and he also ran much better than his final position in the Paddy Power Chase would suggest. I could see him running a big race here.

Monbeg Notorious is another Gordon Elliott contender
Monbeg Notorious is another Gordon Elliott contender (PA)

“Monbeg Notorious should find this race right up his street and this could just suit him better than the two he has contested so far this season. He is another horse who is starting to look reasonably handicapped.

“Out Sam could run well. On his four starts this season I think he has shown that he can win again and the twice he has fallen he looked like he was going to run well both times.”

O’Brien has a trio of hopefuls in Smoking Gun, Thermistocles and High Sparrow, while Peter Fahey’s The Big Dog and Midnight Maestro from Enda Bolger’s yard are among the market principals.

Leger winner Galileo Chrome retired to stand as National Hunt stallion

Joseph O’Brien’s St Leger winner Galileo Chrome has been retired to stand as a National Hunt stallion at Starfield Stud.

The colt went through his three-year-old season unbeaten in four outings, progressing with each race.

The son of Australia was ridden by Tom Marquand at Doncaster, after regular rider Shane Crosse tested positive for Covid-19 before making the journey.

O’Brien said: “Australia was one of the best I rode and Galileo Chrome is easily one of the best I’ve trained.

“Unbeaten this year culminating in the St Leger, I think he could have been the leading middle-distance horse in Europe next year.

“However, fortunately for breeders, he retires to stud and offers an opportunity to use a top-class racehorse. He’s a beautiful looking individual with all the qualities I look for. I could not recommend him enough and look forward to training his offspring.”

Michael Orlandi, who manages the Compas Stallions who stand at his Starfield Stud in Mullingar, County Westmeath, said: “A tall, scopey, athletic individual with a fantastic walk, Galileo Chrome was one of the best three-year-olds in training this year.

“A great physical, with a star-studded pedigree, he is everything that National Hunt breeders look for in a stallion.”

Fakiera flashes home late for Monksfield gains

Fakiera finished with a flourish to claim a last-gasp victory in the BetVictor Casino “Monksfield” Novice Hurdle at Navan.

Gordon Elliott had saddled three of the last four winners of the Grade Three contest in Death Duty (2016), Samcro (2017) and Fury Road (2019), and this year fired a twin assault, with 4-1 shot Fakiera the apparent second string behind the previously unbeaten Farouk D’alene.

The latter, who was the even-money favourite, made much of the running under Jack Kennedy, but displayed a tendency to jump and hang to his right and ultimately weakened to finish fourth.

Fakiera had opened his hurdling account at the fourth attempt with a narrow success at Fairyhouse at the start of the month following three successive runner-up finishes.

He looked booked for a place at best between the final two flights, but powered home in the hands of Keith Donoghue to get up and beat Fire Attack by half a length.

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Donoghue said: “He did it well. He travelled easy during the race and was probably doing a little bit too much.

“He relaxed coming out of the back straight and I wasn’t in a rush with him as I knew he’d come home well.

“Stamina is his thing and he did well to win over two miles last time. We always knew with a step up in trip that he would improve.”

The Willie Mullins-trained Blackbow made an impressive start to his career over fences in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners’ Chase.

A high-class bumper performer, the seven-year-old failed to get his head in front in four hurdling starts last season, but jumped slickly on his chasing bow under David Mullins and passed the post just over four lengths clear of hot favourite Entoucas.

“He jumped very well. He got his own way in front and that helps a free horse,” said the winning jockey.

“He’s well able to jump and when he relaxes he just shows what he can do. He’s a classy horse when he puts it all together.”

Castra Vetera gave weight and a sound beating to her rivals in the Listed Coolmore N.H. Sires Irish EBF Mares INH Flat Race.

Carrying a double penalty for previous bumper wins at Fairyhouse and Naas, Joseph O’Brien’s charge received a positive ride from Tom Hamilton and dug deep at the business end to repel the challenge of Party Central by almost four lengths.

O’Brien’s assistant, Brendan Powell, said: “Tom said there was going to be no pace and she stays well – she galloped them into the ground.

“She’s done a lot of schooling at home and jumps very well. I’d presume that will be the route she’ll take now and she could be good.”

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.

Joseph O’Brien strikes Melbourne gold again with Twilight Payment

Joseph O’Brien once again denied his father Aidan in the Lexus Melbourne Cup as Twilight Payment made all to lift the Group One contest at Flemington.

The trainer registered his first win when Rekindling held off O’Brien snr’s Johannes Vermeer by half a length in 2017, and the distance was the same this time around as Tiger Moth just failed to reel in the Jye McNeil-ridden winner.

Charlie Fellowes’ British raider Prince Of Arran, placed in the last two Melbourne Cups, came agonisingly close to victory once again, finishing with purpose to be beaten a head in third in a race that was marred by the death of last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who was euthanised after fracturing a fetlock.

Of beating his father once again in the Australian event, O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing: “We both realise how hard it is to win on the world stage in these big, big races, but I am very lucky that I have been able to win a couple of big races.

“Dad has been very lucky, he has won a lot of big races, I’d be delighted for him if he had won, and I’m sure he is for me having won. We do our best on the track and whatever happens out there happens.

“I was really too nervous to see what was going to happen. I was hardly able to watch, but it was a fantastic ride by Jye and a fantastic effort by all the lads with the horse.”

McNeil executed a perfect front-running ride, with the field well strung out on the home turn before Twilight Payment, who was previously trained by Jim Bolger and finished 11th in the race last year, kept finding for pressure in the finish.

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McNeil told www.racing.com: “I encouraged him (Twilight Payment) to go forward, because that was the plan. Then he just found such a lovely tempo at the top. It was just a matter of amping the rhythm up at just the right stage and I am glad it all worked out.

“Joseph wanted me to be a step ahead of the field and really get them chasing. What he lacks in class, he makes up in his staying ability.

“I’m peaking on my run 200m out. I’m using all of my might not to use too many whips, very vocal, trying to encourage him.

“It was very surreal crossing the line in front. I’ve got goosebumps from then and they’re still here now.”

O’Brien added: “Jye gave the horse a fantastic ride. Credit goes to the lads who have looked after Twilight Payment for the last month or so. They’ve done a fantastic job with the horses down there.”

Kerrin McEvoy was thrilled with Tiger Moth’s effort in second, beaten half a length, on what was only his fifth career start, but there was a sting in the tail for the rider, who was fined $50,000 and banned for 13 meetings for misusing his whip.

McEvoy pleaded guilty to the charge after it was found he hit Moth 13 times before the 100-metre (half-furlong) mark and 21 times in total. He is not permitted to strike his mount more than five times before the 100-metre mark.

Tiger Moth finished second for Aidan O'Brien
Tiger Moth finished second for Aidan O’Brien (PA)

McEvoy said: “It was a great run for a young horse having only his fifth start in a race. He’s run really well.”

Fellowes and rider Jamie Kah were ruing their luck after Prince Of Arran endured a troubled passage at the top of the straight, before flying home to claim third, adding to his second of last year and third in 2018.

The Newmarket handler said: “He’s a remarkable horse. He’s done everything right and if he had enjoyed a bit more luck, he could well have gone even closer.

“He was just very unlucky on the home bend. Jamie had him in a perfect position, she got him into a good rhythm and then he couldn’t find a run, which we knew was a risk from his draw, but he’s run a great race.

“Take nothing away from the winner though – Jye McNeil gave him a brilliant and brave ride from the front and he got his fractions absolutely spot on. The best horse won on the day.”

Prince Of Arran is now likely to head to the Saudi Cup meeting at Riyadh in February, with Fellowes not planning too far ahead with his stable star.

He added: “I just felt this year was his year. He had a perfect preparation and it looked a winnable race, but we just needed a bit more luck.

Prince Of Arran was placed once again
Prince Of Arran was placed once again (Graham Clark/PA)

“We will get him home and see how he is, but Saudi Arabia would likely be the next stop.

“We will just take it one race at a time with him. He’s a seven-year-old and while he does save a bit for himself, which perhaps could give him a longer shelf life at that top level, if ever we were worried about him, either in preparation or after a race, we wouldn’t take any chances.

“He’s an amazing horse and owes us nothing.”

Joseph O’Brien bags second Melbourne Cup with Twilight Payment

Joseph O’Brien sent out his second winner of the Lexus Melbourne Cup as Twilight Payment triumphed in the Group One contest at Flemington.

O’Brien claimed the two-mile event with Rekindling in 2017 and he again was on the mark as Jye McNeil’s mount fended off Tiger Moth, trained by O’Brien’s father Aidan, to take the prize.

Charlie Fellowes’ British raider Prince Of Arran, placed in the last two Melbourne Cups, again finished with a flourish to take third.

However, the race was marred by a fatal injury to last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who was euthanised after fracturing a fetlock.

McNeil had his mount prominent throughout with Tiger Moth also to the fore in the early stages before settling back into third.

With five furlongs to run, the 23-strong field was well strung out and Twilight Payment was winding it up in front and Twilight Payment had lengths to spare entering the closing stages.

However, Tiger Moth charged home late, but Joseph O’Brien again denied his father, as he did three years ago when Rekindling beat Johannes Vermeer.

Joseph O'Brien is now a dual Melbourne Cup winner
Joseph O’Brien is now a dual Melbourne Cup winner (PA)

O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing: “Jye gave the horse a fantastic ride. Credit goes to the lads who have looked after Twilight Payment for the last month or so. They’ve done a fantastic job with the horses down there.

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“This was our first full year with him, he came to us halfway through last year. Going through the summer, he ran a couple of huge races at the Curragh.

“I was worried today he might have got a bit of pressure on the lead, but the horse has an incredible heart and Jye gave him a fantastic ride and he has a huge will to win.”

Twilight Payment was previously trained by Jim Bolger, until he was bought by Lloyd Williams, who also owned Rekindling.

O’Brien said: “It’s a privilege to train for the people that I train for and the horses that we have.

“We really appreciate the support and the success when it comes, but it’s a tough game as everybody knows and it’s a fine line from the top and the bottom. I’m just very appreciative.

“The proof that he got the fractions spot on is watching the race when you see Tiger Moth finish, but the horse is incredible and I’m just thankful of the support and the work everyone has done with the horse, at home as well.”

Aidan O'Brien had to settle for second behind Joseph again
Aidan O’Brien had to settle for second behind Joseph again (PA)

Of beating his father once again in the Australian event, O’Brien added: “We both realise how hard it is to win on the world stage in these big, big races, but I am very lucky that I have been able to win a couple of big races.

“Dad has been very lucky, he has won a lot of big races, I’d be delighted for him if he had won, and I’m sure he is for me having won. We do our best on the track and whatever happens out there happens.

“I was really too nervous to see what was going to happen. I was hardly able to watch, but it was a fantastic ride by Jye and a fantastic effort by all the lads with the horse.”

Tiger Moth finished second for Aidan O'Brien
Tiger Moth finished second for Aidan O’Brien (PA)

Kerrin McEvoy was thrilled with Tiger Moth’s effort in second, beaten half a length, on what was only his fifth career start.

He told www.racing.com: “We were able to get across into a nice spot. We dropped in and got a nice lead and he travelled really well.

“The winner kept running, I just had to pick up to get into the race, which he did, but the winner was just a bit strong today.

“It was a great run for a young horse having only his fifth start in a race. He’s run really well.”

Prince Of Arran was finishing fastest of all at the line and jockey Jamie Kah was left ruing her luck after their three-quarter-length defeat.

She said: “He was super unlucky. He really deserves it. He just had no luck on the turn.”

Fellowes tweeted: “Incredibly proud of Prince Of Arran. Another wonderful run in Australia’s great race. Thank you
@AledBeech for looking after him so well, thank you Jamie Kah for a lovely ride, thank you to the Obaida family for sending him to me to train. 4th time lucky next year?”

Dashing Willoughby finished down the field at Flemington
Dashing Willoughby finished down the field at Flemington (Bill Selwyn/PA)

The Willie Mullins-trained Stratum was 20th and jockey Jordan Childs said: “He ran OK. We got up on a nice spot, travelled good. They were just a bit slick for him when the pace quickened.”

Dashing Willoughby beat just one horse home for trainer Andrew Balding.

His rider Michael Walker said: “He’s not right, the horse. He’s not right. Action-wise he’s not right.”

German runner Ashrun finished 10th while last year’s winner Vow And Declare was 18th.

Egan puts Mishriff decision behind him with Traisha triumph

David Egan shrugged off losing the plum ride on Mishriff at Ascot on Saturday by steering Traisha to victory in the feature British Stallion Studs EBF Beckford Stakes at Bath.

Egan is retained by Prince Faisal, who has given the ride on the French Derby winner in the Qipco Champion Stakes to Frankie Dettori.

The young jockey put that behind him to take the Listed honours on Irish raider Traisha, trained by Joseph O’Brien.

“Frankie won on him (Mishriff) the last day when I wasn’t able to go due to a suspension, but hopefully I’ll have another good day on him sometime,” Egan told Sky Sports Racing.

“It’s part of racing. The Prince has been very good to me. He sent me to Saudi where I finished second on him and I won a nice race in Newmarket, so it’s been a good connection with the Prince and I’m still retained to him. It’s just on this occasion he decided to use Frankie and I respect his decision.

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“For his horses, he pays a lot of money. His breeding operation is probably very important for this next ride so he wants the best in the business, so I can’t give out to myself being jocked off by the best.”

Egan showed his talent with a composed ride on Traisha (4-1), who bounded clear on the far side rail in the final furlong to land the Listed spoils by three lengths from Urban Artist.

“When the gap came two out, I either had to commit or wait sitting and I decided to go,” he said.

“She had a little look in the last furlong, but she is a very straight-forward filly and Joseph was confident beforehand.”

O’Brien said: “She has been consistent and progressive all year. It’s nice to win a stakes race with her. She’s a very well-bred filly.

“There’s a chance she might stay in training next year. The decision will be with the owners so we’ll wait and see, but there is a chance.”

Megan Nicholls revealed she has taken out a licence to ride over jumps after guiding Quel Destin (5-4 favourite) home for her father Paul in the Signs Express Handicap.

The 3lb-claiming apprentice did mix both codes earlier in her career, but has concentrated solely on the Flat since 2015.

“I will be here for the all-weather and also I’ve just got my jumps licence back out. It’s no big job, we’re not aiming for a National or anything like that, but hopefully for a few bumpers,” she said.

“I would ride over hurdles if Kev (partner, Kevin Stott) allows me. We’ll see what happens. The main thing is we’ll get going again on some of those bumper horses.

“Sometimes when the jumps are snowed off, they have jumpers bumpers at Lingfield, Kempton and Wolverhampton. I ride at those tracks a bit more regularly, so hopefully (I can) have a bit of fun with some of them.”

Joseph O’Brien excited at things to come from Pretty Gorgeous and Thunder Moon

Joseph O’Brien is lining up a twin assault on next year’s Guineas meeting with Fillies’ Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous and Dewhurst third Thunder Moon.

While it is not set in stone that neither will run again this year, O’Brien appears to be thinking that way at the moment, as he reflect on two big performances.

What made the victory of Pretty Gorgeous more special for O’Brien was that she was ridden by Shane Crosse, who missed the win on Galileo Chrome in the St Leger having tested positive for Covid-19.

“They both ran great, I was very proud of them and they are two exciting horses going forward,” O’Brien told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

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“It was a fantastic performance from Pretty Gorgeous, Shane gave her a confident ride, she was tough when she had to be and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

“It gave me a lot of satisfaction to see Shane win a Group One. Obviously what happened before was unfortunate missing the Leger, but that is the way things go and it was out of everyone’s control.

“It was great for him to get a Group One win and I’m sure he’ll have plenty more in the future.

“It looks like she’s finished for the year, I’d say we’ll put her away and train her for the Guineas.”

Thunder Moon had finished in front of Dewhurst one-two St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley when winning the National Stakes, but the form turned around at Newmarket on a softer surface.

Thunder Moon (in red) was third in the Dewhurst behind St Mark's Basilica
Thunder Moon (in red) was third in the Dewhurst behind St Mark’s Basilica (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’d say, I might be biased, but the ground was far from ideal,” said O’Brien.

“He travelled extremely well. We didn’t have an ideal draw given how the races had been run all day and he was just found out in the last half a furlong in the tough going. He’s exciting going forward.

“The Curragh race probably wasn’t as strongly run as the Dewhurst, but the ground was the biggest variation from the Curragh. I think they are three very good colts and I’m not suggesting for any minute we’re going to beat them the next time we meet, but I think we’d prefer better ground.

“I don’t know if he’s necessarily going to be a sprinter, but it suggests he’ll be a quick miler who’ll appreciate top of the ground.

“He’s out of a Sadler’s Wells mare from a middle-distance family and I’d be very hopeful of him staying a mile next season.

“It’s very unlikely he’ll go to America (Breeders’ Cup). We’ll keep options open but at the moment we’re looking at the Guineas, like with Pretty Gorgeous.”