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Aidan O’Brien’s guide to his Classic contenders

21 Mar 2018

The champion trainer gave the latest news on many of his leading Classic hopes on Wednesday.

Saxon Warrior was unbeaten in three races last year. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Aidan O’Brien opened up his Ballydoyle stable to the media on Wednesday to help launch the new Irish Flat season which gets under way at Naas on Sunday.

O’Brien won 13 of the 35 QIPCO British Champions Series races last year and a dozen of them contributed to his world record tally of 28 Group 1 wins in the year.

The QIPCO 2000 Guineas, at Newmarket on May 5, is the first race in the Champions Series, swiftly followed by the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Headquarters 24 hours later.

The following month comes the Investec Oaks and Investec Derby at Epsom.

Here is what the champion trainer had to say about his leading Classic contenders, plus some of his older brigade:

THE COLTS:

SAXON WARRIOR

He’s done very well and is a massive, big, physical horse. He was a big horse last year but he’s bigger this year. We have our eye on the Guineas and we’re just hoping that we have him ready in time for it.

He could well get a mile and a half as he has a relaxed way of doing it, so it will be very interesting with him. He’ll probably go straight for the Guineas. He could go for a run but I’d imagine he’ll probably go for a racecourse gallop instead.

The only race that really suits us before the Guineas is Leopardstown. The Craven is too close to travel over and the Greenham is the same as we wouldn’t like to travel them that close. Often for their first run they take a little bit of time to recover from it.

AMEDO MODIGLIANI

He’s very well. He’s in the ‘could be anything’ category. He’s a Galileo, he travels like a miler and he goes through his work very easy. We purposely are probably not going to go to the Guineas with him.

He’s a little bit natural and a little bit like St Nicholas Abbey. We trained St Nicholas Abbey for the Guineas, who was a very generous horse and wanted to do it, and it just wasn’t the right thing long-term for him.

He missed his three-year-old career after it so we’re going to go very gentle with this fellow. I think we’re going to go to the Derby trials, and still won’t be sure whether he’ll get a mile and a quarter, but we’ll go that way and feel our way and if he doesn’t, we’ll come back in trip.

He’ll be an interesting horse.

SIOUX NATION

He worked yesterday morning and we were kind of debating whether to go to Leopardstown for the (Guineas) trial with him, but obviously they all can’t go.

Donnacha (O’Brien) rode him work and he was of the opinion that he was a fast horse. He could be a five- or six-furlong horse and we’d keep him on good ground. He’s a big, powerful horse.

ST PATRICK’S DAY

He’s a brother to American Pharoah and he just came to us about a month ago. We think and hope that he’ll be a Royal Ascot horse and he’ll have a run or two before. It could be the Jersey or the St James’s Palace, that’s what we are thinking.

I’m dreaming at the moment what he could be. He only had two runs in America, placed the first time and won the second.

THE PENTAGON

We’re very happy with him. We didn’t think that he would run as well in the Racing Post Trophy as he did (finished third).

He was off for three weeks and missed a lot of time. We were really wanting to get a run into him as we wanted to see was he as good as he showed at the Curragh when Ana (O’Brien) rode him, and obviously he was.

He’ll go for a Derby trial, even though we left him in the Guineas. I think that’s the way he’ll be going.”

US NAVY FLAG

He’ll go to the Guineas. Whether he’ll go to Leopardstown or not before we’ll have to see as he was a horse that took a bit of racing last year.

The reason we went to America at the end was to see if he would get a mile but it was a little bit of a non-event because obviously it was on the dirt and they went very hard and the first two got burned off.

With his work this year you’d say that there is a good chance that he could get a mile. That’s why we might go to Leopardstown with a view to thinking about going to Newmarket afterwards. It would give us a little bit of a feeler with him.

GUSTAV KLIMT

We’re thinking the Guineas with Gustav Klimt and he could go to Leopardstown on the way there for the trial. Because he missed the second half of last year, and he’s a little bit round still, he might take a run in Leopardstown.

He was a little bit wrong behind last year and we think it was a muscle behind.

Others:

O’Brien also nominated Flag Of Honour, Nelson, Gardens Of Babylon, James Cook, Kenya and Rostropovich as colts who could take in a Derby trial to test their mettle.

THE FILLIES:

CLEMMIE

She’s had a stone bruise the last few days but she’s good and she’ll probably go straight to the Guineas.
She has wintered well and we’re very happy with her.

Obviously she’s not as big physically as Churchill (full-brother) was but everything is right with her.

She’s fast and I wouldn’t be sure how much further than a mile she’d stay. Obviously she’s a Group One winner over six furlongs.

SEPTEMBER

We’ll probably train September for the Guineas, but with the view that she could get the Oaks trip.

She’s wintered well. She’s put on enough weight and physically she’s changed.

She’s not very big and never was but she has a very big attitude. She believes that she’s big in her own head. She has a big personality.

She’s out of a big powerful mare, Peeping Fawn (dam) was a big, strong mare. She ran a massive race in the Fillies’ Mile last year (finished second) and ran a massive race in America as well (third at Breeders’ Cup).

You’d imagine she should stay. Deep Impact (sire) won over a mile and seven (furlongs) and Peeping Fawn won over a mile and a half.”

HAPPILY

Happily has wintered very well. We were very happy with her all the way along last season.

You could say her run at the Breeders’ Cup wasn’t good, but she missed the break and got stopped three times down the straight. Ryan (Moore) just minded her then.

You’d imagine she’ll definitely get a mile and a quarter and could get a mile and a half because she has a very laid back way of doing it. She has very strong form.

Others

Actress might go to the fillies’ (Guineas) trial in Leopardstown and Dramatically the same. I Can Fly is a very nice filly and she could be a Guineas filly as well. She finished third in a Group race at Newmarket (Oh So Sharp Stakes) towards the backend. She might go to Leopardstown with a view to going to the Guineas.

OLDER HORSES:

RHODODENDRON:

They are predicting 20 millimetres of rain between now and Sunday at Naas and if that comes, it’ll make it tough going.

We were thinking of starting Rhododendron there and then maybe going to France for the Prix Ganay. If that went well then she could come back and have a look at Newbury (Lockinge).

She doesn’t have to run Sunday. She could have a racecourse gallop and then go to the Ganay.

HYDRANGEA

She’s back going but we’re thinking we might train her with the Arc in mind, so we won’t be too busy early on in the year with her.

We’ll look at the trials on the way there. She’s an unusual filly in that she won a Group One over a mile and was then to able to go and win a Group One over a mile and a half.

It’s a very rare thing for that to happen in soft ground.”

CAPRI

We have the Coronation Cup in our heads for Capri and he might have a couple of runs before that. He could go for the mile-and-a-quarter race at Naas (Alleged Stakes, April 8).”

Others

Cliffs Of Moher is going to go the same kind of route as Capri. He mightn’t stay as well as Capri and he might be a mile-and-a-quarter horse.

Order Of St George will be trained for the Gold Cup and will have a couple of runs before it.

Idaho is going to Dubai. He’s in good shape and goes there for the mile-and-a-half race (Sheema Classic). Then he’ll come back and we’ll see where we go.

The mile and a half suits Idaho because he ran in the middle of December and we have other mile-and-a-half horses as well. He’s our most forward at the minute.

Lancaster Bomber and maybe Deauville could run in the mile-and-a-furlong race (Dubai Turf) and Washington DC is in the Al Quoz Sprint.

Lancaster Bomber we think gets a mile well but we’re not sure if he gets a mile and a quarter. He loves fast ground and he doesn’t mind travelling

Yucatan is good. He’ll start in some of those Group races and we’ll go gently with him. He didn’t run the second half of last year but we always liked him and we’ll go gentle with him this year.