AIDAN O’Brien has formed the backbone of his Royal Ascot squad as the Ballydoyle handler attempts to claim the top trainer award for a fourth year on the bounce.
O’Brien has received the accolade eight times and will once again send over a formidable team to the five-day fiesta of flat racing.
And speaking from the Curragh on Friday, the master trainer outlined plans for some of his big-hitters.
He said: “Rhododendron will go for the mile race (Queen Anne) along with Deauville.
“Gustav Klimt will go for the St James’s Palace, and U S Navy Flag may go for that race as well.
“Washington DC and Battle Of Jericho will probably go for the King’s Stand, and Different League may go back to five (furlongs) for that race as well. Merchant Navy will go for the Diamond Jubilee.
“Lancaster Bomber will probably go for the mile-and-a-quarter (Prince of Wales’s), and Murillo has the choice of the Jersey or the Commonwealth. Clear Skies may go for a mile-and-a-quarter handicap.
“Giuseppe Garibaldi won well at Leopardstown and he might go for the Queen’s Vase. Sometimes they take two or three runs and then they start coming. Southern France is in that race as well.”
“Yucatan may drop back for the International (10 furlongs) here on Derby weekend, and Idaho will go for the Hardwicke.”
Mendelssohn, on the other hand, is likely to have two more runs in America before he takes aim at the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 3rd.
The colt looked the real deal in the UAE Derby at Meydan in March, but he had an awful time of things in the Kentucky Derby, when last of 20 runners in horrendous conditions.
O’Brien has long viewed Mendelssohn as a Breeders’ Cup Classic horse, and is keen to give him more experience in America before the big one at Churchill Downs.
He said: “We’re training him for a race at Belmont (Dwyer Stakes, July 7th) – a Grade 3 on the dirt – which is the same day as the Eclipse. He’ll either go for the Eclipse or Belmont, and it looks like he’ll go to America.
“We’re thinking that’s where he’ll go, then the Pennsylvania Derby before the Classic. Come the Classic, he’ll hopefully be there all guns blazing.”
On Mendelssohn’s painful experience in the Kentucky Derby, O’Brien added: “We knew before that on the slop it would be a different world.
“Ryan (Moore) always felt he was a dirt horse but he’d never been on the slop before. It was over very quickly and he just looked after him. It was a good experience for us.”