IT was all business as usual and all eyes on the Derby at Epsom as Aidan O’Brien hosted a media visit organised by The Jockey Club on a wet Monday morning.

The master of Ballydoyle admits he is “dreaming” of winning the greatest flat race in the world for a record-extending 10th time, having saddled the likes of Galileo, Camelot, Ruler Of The World, Australia and Auguste Rodin to victory in the Epsom Downs showpiece.

City Of Troy remains the number one for the historic race next month with the Derby front and centre of a three-year-old colt’s season.

“Really the most important race every year is the Derby. All the horses that are running in all the trials is for that purpose. This year we purposely weren’t too hard on them for their trials because in other years we might have won loads of trials and run bad in the Derby.

“Even though they haven’t won, some have progressed so we have to just get a feel for where they are.”

And despite City Of Troy’s disappointing seasonal debut in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, when trailing home ninth of 11 runners on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile earlier this month, O’Brien remains upbeat and stuck to his initial thoughts expressed in the days after the race.

City Of Troy

b c (111-3)

Justify - Together Forever (Galileo)

“He’s done nothing since to make us change the plan. The plan was always to start with the Guineas and go on to the Derby and then go wherever after that and that’s where we still are.

“Sometimes it happens and obviously it happened in the Guineas… Sometimes things don’t work and really, I would always say that it’s my responsibility to make sure it works and when it doesn’t work, well we’ve done our homework but maybe we didn’t do it all properly.

“When he went down to the start he should have been relaxed but he went into the stalls and he was revved up. He wasn’t flustered but obviously his mind wasn’t in the right place, because he’s a very good natured horse as you can see. He’s very calm and relaxed but it all just happened at the wrong few seconds.

“It will make it very interesting the next day. For us, I’m not sure we’ve ever sent a horse to the Derby with as much ability as this. If we can get him to come out of those gates and everything to work properly for him then we can have him in the right place.”

City Of Troy won three times over seven furlongs as a two-year-old, before his disappointing run over a mile in the first classic of the season.

However, O’Brien has no concerns about stepping him up to a mile and a half in the Betfred Derby. He said: “I never thought any trip was a problem for him. You’re never sure until you do it but he has a big long stride and he’s usually very chilled and relaxed. It will be a very interesting race now.

“I suppose what he did last year – everything he was doing last year the statistics were adding up. His times, everything. He never disappointed us in any way.

“But we all know horse racing and we all know life – no one knows what’s going to happen in the next half hour. The Guineas just wasn’t meant to be. What we would have learned in the Guineas will hopefully help us to prepare him properly for The Derby.

“He’s obviously by Justify, who won a Belmont and all the other races … one thing you cannot stop coming out in anything is pedigree so hopefully if he’s well we can have him in the right place…

“We saw his potential very early, before he ran at the Curragh. He was half-speeding over four furlongs with two-year-olds and his pedigree always said middle-distance, no doubt.

“City Of Troy has an unbelievable mind. There is a lot of Galileo in him in that he gallops with his head very low and out with a very long stride for not a very big horse. He is very well balanced.

“We video all our horses and when he is in his box, he is the most alert horse – every little thing affects him.

“At the Guineas, everyone was there to see City Of Troy and I apologised afterwards because I felt I didn’t have him prepared properly and expected too much of him.

“It’s our job to have him prepared, to go to the races for Ryan (Moore) to sit on and the horse has to be in the right frame of mind and fit enough. I felt we let Ryan down – he wouldn’t ever say that because he never blames anyone except himself - but that is what I would have felt.

“If you are not open and honest, you can’t progress. If you don’t say what you feel, you can’t tweak things to make it better. Everyone knows we do our best every day.

“We have heart monitors, timing, weights, bloods and everything. When we are happy horses are in the right place mentally and physically, if all the other things add up you have a big chance. It’s hard to get all the ducks in a row and it has to be natural, you can’t force it.

“What you can’t measure is mind and determination and that is the most important thing – horse or human. Do they really want it?”


O’Brien was also philosophical about the best way to deal with defeat on the racecourse, praising his owners for how they respond in the face of adversity.

He explained: “The lads are unbelievable because they take disappointment on the chin, that’s the truth. I suppose we’ve been doing it for 30 years now.

“Everyone has to know what we are really thinking or dreaming because every day is so important and we might not be here tomorrow, so there’s no point in keeping it all together today and going to the races, kind of thinking that something is going to happen. So we tell everybody our feelings and our dreams and get from today to tomorrow. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and we all think there’s a reason why it didn’t happen, we delved into what we thought the reason was. At the moment we’re back dreaming again.”

‘The Derby is the race that I and everyone most look forward to’

O’BRIEN has a replica of Tattenham Corner, the world-famous bend which was put in by the legendary Vincent O’Brien decades ago, to prepare his Derby runners.

Asked how important it is to his training operation, Aidan O’Brien said: “It’s vital. Obviously with Dr O’Brien everything was about the Derby and everything is really. Everyone can say whatever they want but the whole thoroughbred generation every year is measured in the Derby and that’s just the harsh reality of it.

“I know it’s very hard to get a horse good enough to run in or good enough to win it and some horses don’t go on from it. Because it’s the ultimate test some horses find it very difficult.

“But there has to be a barometer and that is the barometer so everything in Dr O’Brien’s time, everything was about winning the Derby so every horse that works every day canters around ‘Tattenham Corner’ every day and its repetition.

“If you are not able to get into a rhythm, you’ll very quickly get blown out. That’s what makes Epsom such a unique place – you need pace to come out of the gates, then you have the climb and you have to sit and relax across the top and then the ground starts falling away from you.

“Everyone talks about handling Epsom and Tattenham Corner – what makes you handle it is ability and class, you have to be travelling.

“I think the Derby is the race that I and everybody most looks forward to. The build-up and on the day, everyone is just so fascinated about what is going to happen.

“When you have a horse that’s gone through the trials and gets there then you have a chance as anything is possible. That’s what makes it fascinating for every breeder – a Derby winner can come from anywhere.”

Aidan O’Brien ran the rule over some of his other Betfred Derby Festival contenders.

Los Angeles

B c (11-1)

Camelot - Frequential (Dansili)

We were very happy with Los Angeles yesterday. The horse that made the running – that was the way it was going to suit him. Maybe we should have sat a bit closer to him if it had been a stronger race but Wayne (Lordan, jockey) was very happy with the horse. He’s a big relaxed horse. We always thought he would step up big time when he went to a mile and a half and we were very happy with the way that he won so he’s definitely a possible.

He’s going to progress big time. I don’t know if you saw him yesterday but he was carrying plenty too. He’s a big, burly horse. He has a big chance.


B c (123- 31)

Justify - Wedding Vow (Galileo)

There’s been a lot of interest in him from Hong Kong and all these places so it’s possible too. He was always a horse that was going to step up going to a mile and a quarter and we always thought he was going to step up even further if he went further.

We went to the all-weather at Chelmsford. In case he was forward enough he would have gone to the Kentucky Derby but when we ran him he wasn’t forward enough and that’s why he went to Chester. Ryan was very happy with him. He’s got plenty of class, he’s lazy and finds plenty for pressure. He gave him a great ride too.

Diego Velazquez

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Frankel - Sweepstake (Acclamation)

Diego Velazquez is in both (the Betfred Derby and French Derby). The reason for going to France was the lads were thinking of going to the French Derby and that’s right-handed.

We thought if we finished in the first four in France then he would run a massive race in the French Derby but he has an option because he’s still in the Derby at Epsom as well.

Christophe (Soumillon) rode him and he said he’s going to win a group race very quickly, this horse, so he was very impressed with him.

Betfred Oaks fillies

Ylang Ylang

B f (11931-5)

Frankel - Shambolic (Shamardal)

We weren’t sure whether Ylang Ylang would get the trip as she was keen and that is why her disappointing runs came in the middle. When we got her back and taught her how to relax, she was like a middle-distance filly and that is what she was like in the Guineas as well.

We thought going to the Guineas that she was an Oaks filly given the way she had been working and that is how she ran. Ryan was very happy with her. He let her find her feet and he felt she came home very well.She won her first two races and then on her next two runs was a little bit keen and disappointed. Her run in the Moyglare was a shocker. She was able to reverse it when she got into the right mindset.

Rubies Are Red

B f (3-22)

Galileo - Red Evie (Intikhab)

She is a sister to Found (the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner). She had a run last year and surprised us – she was third and then this year she went to Leopardstown and one of Joseph’s beat her.

The plan had been to go to Lingfield so rather than going for another maiden we stuck with the plan. Ryan said she was very green at Lingfield and he nursed her. Because of that, she got a long way back but when he straightened her up, she really came home well.

She is definitely an Oaks-type filly. Her running style is like Found’s in that she takes her time and comes late.

Henry Longfellow

B c (111-8)

Dubawi - Minding (Galileo)

There was also an update on Henry Longfellow’s showing in the French 2000 Guineas, (eighth of 13 after trouble in running) O’Brien said: “That was a tactical error on my behalf. I said to Ryan to take his time on him because it was his first run and he hadn’t been away and he’d never been on that type of track.

“Ryan took his time but then found himself in a way that he couldn’t get out and to get out he had to keep coming back to get out but as he kept coming back, they kept going by him and by him and by him, and the next thing he ended up too far back off a slowly run race.

“He’s come in like he didn’t have any kind of race … he was very happy in himself so we just put that down to a lovely experience.The plan with him was, if everything went well, was to go to the St James’s Palace so we’re going to stick to that plan. I’ll probably have more confidence in him the next day to tell Ryan to go forward with him in the St James’s Palace.”