IT is no surprise that Aidan O’Brien is well represented at the top of the table for the two-year-old classifications and, as ever, the year ahead looks very bright for Ballydoyle.

Little Big Bear is O’Brien’s 12th European Champion Juvenile while Blackbeard, Auguste Rodin and Victoria Road joined the son of No Nay Never in the top 10.

On Tuesday morning, O’Brien joined a press conference call to reflect on the best performances of his juveniles and look ahead to the season, which the first main port of call will be the 2000 Guineas, for which Little Big Bear and Auguste Rodin top the market.

Little Big Bear was ruled out for the season after his Phoenix Stakes romp, which came over six furlongs but O’Brien is confident the son of No Nay Never will get a mile.

“We were looking forward to the National Stakes,” he said. “He always showed plenty of speed, but when he stepped up to six furlongs he did really improve and I remember Ryan saying he’d get seven on his ear after the Phoenix.

“He’s by No Nay Never who is a big influence on speed, but there’s a good chance that a mile could be within his compass this year. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.

“That (2000 Guineas) is what we’re thinking at the moment.”

Vertem Futurity winner Auguste Rodin is clear favourite for the Derby and it’s also clear how highly regarded he is by O’Brien.

“We think Auguste Rodin is a very good horse,” he said. “We were nearly not running him in the Vertem Futurity as he’s a lovely, big, slick horse and we were worried about the ground.

“He’s a very good mover with a good mind, we always thought he’d be a better horse at three and we think he’ll get middle distances, so the plan with him is he’ll probably start in the Guineas and see where we go from there.”

O’Brien went on to suggest that Victoria Road improved significantly when upped in trip and that he could be a “French Guineas, French Derby-type horse.”

He also was positive on the prospects of his best juvenile filly from last year, Meditate. “With Meditate, the twice she got beat it was probably our fault,” he added. “When she got beaten in the Moyglare, she’s a filly that has plenty of speed and we made the running with her over seven furlongs in soft to heavy ground, so that didn’t make a lot of sense when you look back.

“Then we might have panicked a little bit and ran her back in the Cheveley Park a bit too quick. She ran very well, but was probably a little bit flat.

“We were very happy going to America that she’d had a bit of time to freshen up and we knew the way we wanted to ride her this time. We always thought she was a very high-class, high-quality filly.”

With Blackbeard retired, the Andrew Balding-trained Chaldean is the clear next best juvenile going into the 2023 season after he won the Dewhurst, where his same owners’ Nostrum (Sir Michael Stoute) was back in third.


Juddmonte racing manager Barry Mahon also joined the call to look ahead to the season.

“It’s a nice position to have a number of nice two-year-olds,” he said. “I suppose we’re a little far away to be making plans but in an ideal world we would like to keep them apart, possibly one for England and one to France or Ireland but there’s a lot of work to be done and if one had a little setback along the way, then it would be nice to have a replacement to fill in for the English 2000 Guineas.

“I think we’ll aim towards both of them heading for Newmarket for the time being and then we can sit down with the Abdullah family and see what they’d like to do.”

The handicappers’ three-year-olds to follow

Graeme Smith

Coppice (Kingman – Helleborine)

John & Thady Gosden

Of all the two-year-olds that raced only once in Britain in 2022, Coppice achieved the highest figure. What’s more, she looked anything but all out in beating next-time winner Whispering Dream by a length and three quarters over seven furlongs at Kempton in October, with the 81-rated Hey Lyla a further four and a half lengths back in third. The time is strong considering how inefficiently the race was run. Coppice is a sister to the brilliant 2018 Coventry Stakes winner Calyx, from a blue-blooded family. She’s already proven at seven furlongs and looks an exciting prospect for 2023, with a 1000 Guineas trial surely on the agenda.

Imperial Emperor (Dubawi – Zhukova) Charlie Appleby

Imperial Emperor beat only five rivals when making a successful debut at Newmarket in early October but he created a big impression. The time was reasonable considering how inefficiently they ran, and he was only really getting going towards the end of the eighth and final furlong and was eventually eased down to beat the 81-rated Attaj by three and a half lengths. That performance alone looks to be worth a figure in the 90s and longer trips look sure to bring significantly more still. Both his sire and dam won at Group 1 level, his dam also being a sister to Ghaiyyath (also by Dubawi), and he looks a very exciting prospect with the Derby trials in mind.

Mark Bird

Beginnings (Lord Kanaloa - Winter) Aidan O’Brien

Beginnings comfortably landed a modest seven-furlong Dundalk maiden in November, in the process emulating her dam, who ended her two-year-old season rated just 89 but who then went on to success in four Group 1 races at three. Already ahead of her dam at this point in her career, she rates an exciting prospect for next season if she can show improvement along similar lines at three.

Beautifully-bred, she appears to have significant scope to improve physically and her uncomplicated style of racing and push-button acceleration means she has all the tools at her disposal to take high order among the fillies in 2023.

Sandy Creek (Frankel – Bonanza Creek)

Joseph O’Brien

Sandy Creek showed sufficient promise on her racecourse debut at the Curragh in June to suggest that she has a bright future over staying trips as a three-year-old. A daughter of Frankel, she was doing her best work late when beating all but one of her 18 rivals over seven furlongs on Irish Derby weekend. Out of a half-sister to Prix De Diane winner Bright Sky, who was bought out of the Wildenstein dispersal in 2016, she is herself a half-sister to Group 3 winner Stone Age.