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Thunder Moon on Royal redemption mission for O’Brien

Joseph O’Brien has put a line through Thunder Moon’s disappointing display in the 2000 Guineas and hopes he can bounce back in the St James’s Palace Stakes next week.

The event for three-year-old colts at Royal Ascot usually brings together the Guineas formlines along with those who missed the Classics for one reason or another.

Thunder Moon went off an 11-2 chance at Newmarket but trailed home last of the 14 runners.

“Thunder Moon obviously disappointed at Newmarket, so we’ve put a line through that run. We had an eye on the Irish Guineas but when the ground looked like it was going to be soft – which it was – we rerouted to go to Ascot and his preparation has gone well,” O’Brien told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“Nothing really came to light other than the fact he got very upset pre-race, we didn’t have much of an excuse. He’s been well since, unfortunately these things happen and we’ve just put a line through it.

“There’s always the possibility (that he hasn’t trained on) but his work has been nice at home. He’s always been a sharp worker and his work has been good in preparation for this race. You never know until they do it on the track and that is where it matters.

“I think it’s a suitable race, a relatively easy mile compared to the Curragh, it’s certainly easier than that, so it looks a good race for him. I think he goes there with an outside chance, certainly a good chance if he can get back to his best form.”

O’Brien has also suffered disappointment with his leading juvenile filly from last year, Pretty Gorgeous, who had to miss Newmarket and could only finish seventh in the Irish Guineas.

Pretty Gorgeous won the Fillies' Mile last year
Pretty Gorgeous won the Fillies’ Mile last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She’s done really well. It was well documented we didn’t have the smoothest of runs with her but I was pleased with her at the Curragh, I was pleased with her comeback run and I’m excited to get her out again,” said O’Brien.

“I think her ideal ground is the easy side of good, but she’s proven effective on all surfaces. I’m happy enough with the ground for her.

“I feel good with the Ascot team, we might not have any outstanding chances but we have some nice chances. I think Pretty Gorgeous might be our best chance going over there. I’d be very pleased if we can get one on the board.”

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.

“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.”

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.

“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.”

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.

“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.”

Dewhurst option for National hero Thunder Moon

The Dewhurst Stakes is a possible next port of call for Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon following his impressive display at the Curragh on Sunday.

An emphatic winner on his racecourse debut over the course and distance little over a month ago, the son of Zoffany faced a big step up in class for the Group One National Stakes.

However, O’Brien’s youngster vindicated his trainer’s decision to supplement for the race – displaying a devastating change of gear to leave his rivals trailing in his wake and rocket to the head of ante-post lists for next year’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The Piltown handler watched the action at the Curragh unfold from home as a precaution following jockey Shane Crosse’s positive test for Covid-19 on Friday.

Speaking on Monday morning, O’Brien said of Thunder Moon: “We were very happy with him. It was a bit of a messy race, but he showed a great turn of foot to go away and win well.

“We did supplement him, so we were hopeful he’d run a nice race, but I suppose I was surprised by the manner of his victory.”

Considering future plans, he added: “If he was to run again this year, the Dewhurst would probably be the race for him, but we’ll see how he comes out of the race on Sunday and a lot will depend on the ground as well.

“The Breeders’ Cup is there as an option as well, but that wouldn’t be on my radar at the moment.

“He’s an exciting colt.”

O’Brien was widely expected to land top-level honours in the preceding Moyglare Stud Stakes with Pretty Gorgeous, who was a hot favourite to supplement her course and distance win in the Debutante.

Pretty Gorgeous (left) chases home Shale in the Moyglare Stud Stakes
Pretty Gorgeous (left) chases home Shale in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (PA)

However, Debutante runner-up Shale – trained by Joseph’s brother Donnacha – reversed the form with a narrow success.

O’Brien said: “Pretty Gorgeous ran a great race. I think the two of them are very good fillies and whichever one of them gets the rub of the green on the day might come out on top.

“We’ll see how our filly comes out of it, but we have the option of the Fillies’ Mile or the Prix Marcel Boussac and there’s also the Breeders’ Cup.

“We’ll see how we go, but I’d say she probably just wants one more run this year, with Newmarket and France being the likeliest options.”

Thunder Moon rockets into Classic picture with National strike

Thunder Moon ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on just his second start.

Joseph O’Brien’s youngster is now joint-favourite with some bookmakers for next year’s 2000 Guineas, such was the authority of his display.

The Group One contest was robbed of a little of its lustre when Aidan O’Brien’s Royal Ascot winner Battleground was ruled out, but it still had the look of being the best race of its type this season.

There was no doubt Thunder Moon was being asked a big question after just one run – but the way he quickened up suggests he is a colt of the highest order.

Out of luck in the Moyglare half an hour earlier with Pretty Gorgeous, Declan McDonogh was briefly short for room when Master Of The Seas shot clear, but when a gap opened on the rail, Thunder Moon did not need asking twice and he quickly took advantage.

The son of Zoffany, sent of a 15-2 chance, soon put the race to bed and won by a length and a half from the staying-on Wembley, with St Mark’s Basilica third and Master Of The Seas fourth. Lucky Vega endured a troubled passage and was unplaced.

McDonogh said: “He quickened very well. I was just caught on heels a little and had to bite the bullet and sit and suffer, but he showed great heart when he got a bit of room.

Celebration time for Declan McDonogh
Celebration time for Declan McDonogh (PA)

“He was always giving me the feeling that he was going to run them down and he was very impressive. He was impressive the first day, but you never know what you’re beating.

“He’s got a serious will to win because when you are racing and it got tight he just wanted to run by them.”

He added: “The ground was as slow as he wanted, he has a real fast-ground action – fast ground suits him really well. He seemed like he was in third gear all the way.”