AIDAN O’Brien will bid to notch his first classic success of the season when travelling to Longchamp on Sunday for a crack at the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas - Europe’s feature events of the weekend.
The Ballydoyle maestro was out of luck with his candidates for the Newmarket classics last weekend, but there were more positives to take from this week’s Chester May Festival where emerging with a quality treble.
O’Brien’s sole win in the Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (3.30), the French equivalent of the 1000 Guineas, came back in 2001 when Rose Gypsy caused was a surprise winner, though the legendary trainer has a much better record in the colts’ Emirates Poule d’Essai des Poulains (2.50) with five wins (most recently with St Mark’s Basilica in 2021).
“We were delighted to have had a good week at Chester,” O’Brien told The Irish Field.
“Savethelastdance won well in the Cheshire Oaks and she seems to have come out of her race well since. We were delighted with how San Antonio did it nicely in the Dee Stakes too.
“Changingoftheguard [who finished third in the Ormonde Stakes on the same card] was having his first run in 11 months on ground that had turned soft and he just seemed to get a bit tired. Thankfully he looks to have come out of his race well.”
O’Brien will rely on his pair of Leopardstown trial winners to fly the flag in Longchamp’s feature events.
Impressive Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” 1000 Guineas Trial winner Never Ending Story is one of the prominent players in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches under Ryan Moore, out to give leading domestic hope Blue Rose Cen a stern test.
The form of Never Ending Story’s comeback win has been boosted since too, with runner-up Matilda Picotte finishing third in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and Leopardstown third Zarinsk landing the Group 3 Cornelscourt Stakes on her next start.
Conditions are expected to be testing at Longchamp, but the Leopardstown trials card was also run on heavy ground.
O’Brien said: “We were delighted with Never Ending Story’s first run back. She always worked like a very good filly last season but maybe she was a bit weak at that stage. We’ve been very happy with how she’s been since her last start.”
Upped in trip
Hans Andersen will bid to continue his perfect start to the season and follow up his Group 3 Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” 2000 Guineas Trial success in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains.
This test requires more, though, taking on the likes of exciting local trial winner American Flag and British raider Isaac Shelby, who took the Greenham Stakes on his seasonal return.
“Hans Andersen won on testing ground at Leopardstown on his first start of the season but drier ground would suit him better,” said O’Brien.
“He seems to be in good form since. This will be his first start over a mile but we always thought the step up in trip would suit him.”
On progressive three-year-old Paddington, who wasn’t declared for the Longchamp classic, O’Brien added: “The plan at the moment is for him to head to the Irish 2000 Guineas.”
The record-breaking trainer has won most top-level races in France, but not the Group 1 St Mark’s Basilica Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary. Wide-margin Naas maiden winner Boogie Woogie will attempt to put that omission to right in the fillies-only event.
“She finished second to Savethelastdance on her first start of the season at Leopardstown and ran very well,” said O’Brien.
“We were happy to get her head in front last time at Naas when winning a maiden very nicely.
“She was a little bit gawky when she hit the front so we’re putting cheekpieces on to sharpen her up for this, her first run in a Group 1.”