IF you are reading this on Saturday morning, Joseph O’Brien is in Sydney. He was due to have runners in two Group 1 races at Randwick today and he was hopeful of a good performance from all three – Cleveland and Baron Samedi in the Sydney Cup, and Statement in a mile race.
O’Brien has, of course, already won the Melbourne Cup twice in his short career and his international ambition is unstinting. His modus operandi was best illustrated by the now-retired State Of Rest, who won Group/Grade 1 races in four countries on three continents. Have horse, will travel.
At Piltown in Co Kilkenny, he has built up a stable of 220 horses in training at any one time. He has the support of a wide range of owners, from local syndicates to international stud farms and business people, as well as sporting and media personalities.
In between packing his bags for Australia and making entries for Fairyhouse this weekend, the 29-year-old found time to host a handful of journalists this week and talk about plans for some of his beset-known horses for the year ahead.
Al Riffa is clearly the star of the show and big things are expected from him this season. No doubt other three-year-olds will come out of the pack to enter the classics picture but the stable’s real strength seems to be in the older fillies’ division.
Group 1 winner Above The Curve leads this pack but O’Brien has acquired several fillies and mares from other yards with the aim of winning stakes races. The trainer seemed particularly keen on Ottilien, so that might be one to follow.
AL RIFFA (FR) 3yo b c
(211- ) Wootton Bassett – Love On My Mind
Jassim Bin Ali Al Attiyah
He’s our flagship horse. He’s done really well over the winter and is one we are excited about. He’s a fine big horse and we minded him last year. He was always the type to do better at three. What he did last year was incredible, considering his dam is a sister to a horse who was placed in an Ascot Gold Cup. The fact he won a Group 1 over seven furlongs is an anomaly.
The plan is to go straight to the Irish 2000 Guineas. Depending on how that goes, he will either go for another mile race or step up to 10 furlongs. I don’t think he will go for a Derby or even be tried at a mile and a half. I don’t see him as a stayer. He showed speed last year and he shows speed in training.
We didn’t enter him originally for the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes as it was always on our minds to handle him tenderly last season. Then he ran well to be second on his debut, recording a fast figure. He did the last couple of furlongs in a fast time. Then he won his maiden easily, so he put himself in the picture for a Group 1, so we supplemented him for the Curragh. The form of that race is really working out well too.
LARK IN THE MORNIN (GER) 3yo b c
(1-) Soldier Hollow – Loyalty
Sean & Bernardine Mulryan
A barrier trial winner, he won on his only run last year in Listowel. That was a really smart performance and he is training well. I’m thinking of starting him off in a 10-furlong winners race at Cork for three-year-olds. It’s a race for horses who don’t have blacktype. We’ll see where he goes from there. He will probably step into stakes company if that went well. I see him as more of a middle-distance type.
UP AND UNDER (FR) 3yo c
(3-2) Lope De Vega – Hibiscus
Go Racing Limited
He ran a great race to be second in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last Sunday. He might have won but for getting a bump over a furlong out. We’ll probably plot a course towards the Irish Derby with him. He could go back to Leopardstown for the Derby Trial or we could go for a maiden, like we did with Latrobe. He is owned by a syndicate headed by Tim Allnutt, Head of Operations with Connacht Rugby. A number of the Connacht players are also involved. Some of them had hoped to be at Leopardstown last weekend but they got caught up in a protest at Dublin Airport.
SHADOWED (IRE) 3yo gr g
(323-1) Caravaggio – Heights Of
A smart horse, he was gelded over the winter and won his maiden well at the Curragh on the opening day of the season. He’ll go for either a winners of one at Gowran or a nice three-year-old handicap at Naas.
MISTER MISTER (GER) 3yo ch c
(315-) Sea The Moon – Miss Germany
Rectory RH Ltd, Dings Ltd & Mr & Mrs O’Brien
After he won his maiden over a mile at Gowran Park last year, he finished fifth in a nine-furlong Group 3 at Leopardstown. He could go for the Tetrarch Stakes at the Curragh on the May bank holiday. That race used to be over seven furlongs but is a mile now.
SEA GARDENS (FR) 3yo ch c
(4-) Siyouni – Bal Ded La Rose
Sean & Bernardine Mulryan
He finished fourth in a Leopardstown maiden first time out last season and we think he’s a smart horse.
THORNBROOK (IRE) 3yo b f
(138-) Saxon Warrior – Lillebonne
By The Way Partnership
She will go for a Guineas Trial. We didn’t run her at Leopardstown last Sunday as she doesn’t want it heavy.
MADLY TRULY (IRE) 3yo b f
(21-4) Cracksman – Coolminx
John C. Oxley
I thought she ran well when fourth in the Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last Sunday. She probably wants a step up in trip.
CAROLINE STREET(USA)3yo b f
(1626-) No Nay Never – Harvestfortheworld
Marc Detampel & Michael Buckley
She finished second to Augustin Rodin in a Group 2 race at Leopardstown over a mile last season and she will probably go back to Leopardstown for a one-mile Guineas Trial.
LUMIERE ROCK (IRE) 3yo ch f
(4221-) Saxon Warrior – Last Gold
She won a Group 3 at the Curragh last season and will go for an Oaks trial, either at Naas or Navan.
QUEEN MAEDBH (IRE) 3yo ch f
(21-) Gleneagles – Euthenia
H O S Syndicate
Gavin Cromwell trained her for Syndicates.Racing when she finished second to one of ours in a Leopardstown maiden last July. She was bought privately afterwards and we won a Dundalk maiden with her in November. She will go for a fillies’ handcicap at the Curragh.
ZOINNOCENT (IRE) 3yo b f
(61250-2) Zoffany – Innocent Air
I thought she was a bit unlucky when second to Sprewell at Naas on the opening weekend of the season. She might go to France for a listed race.
Star Galaxy is a nice filly who made her debut at Leopardstown this week. Perseids will run in a maiden when the ground dies out. Sibyl Charm is working like a nice maiden. Coco Crush is a nice filly who hasn’t run yet. Sandy Creek is a sister to Stone Age and is another to note.
VISUALISATION (IRE) 5yo b/br g
(9357-1) No Nay Never – Roselita
Harold John Millar
A mud-lover, he won a listed race nicely at Naas last month. He loves heavy ground and got jarred up last year when I ran him on ground that was too quick for him. He might go for the Alleged Stakes if it stays heavy. He could have a summer break although we entered him for a big race in Germany during the summer, just in case it comes up soft there.
BUCKAROO (GB) 4yo b c
(3164/216-1) Fastnet Rock – Roheryn
Qatar Racing Limited
He got very sick after we ran him in the Irish 2000 Guineas last year and didn’t run again. He won a listed race at Leopardstown this week and we still think he has the potential to be a Group 1 horse.
HANNIBAL BARCA (IRE) 4yo c
(314/179-) Zoffany – Innocent Air
Ecurie Ama Zingteam
Even though he won the Gallinule Stakes over 10 furlongs on his debut for us last year, I think we are going to drop him in trip this year. He might even come all the way back to seven furlongs.
ABOVE THE CURVE (USA) 4yo b f
(3/121137-) American Pharoah – Fabulous
A Group 1 winner last season, it’s great to have her back. That was always the plan as she is such a big mare, physically. She has the option of running in the Prix Ganay or the Prix d’Ispahan and there’s also the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh and the Group 2 in York (Middleton Stakes).
The Pretty Polly at the Curragh would be an obvious first half of the season target and you can look at international options as well. There’s a good mile-and-a-quarter fillies’ programme through the year. She should be at least as good this year.
AGARTHA (IRE) 4yo b f
(22501-7) Caravaggio – Arya Tara
Scott C. Heider
She has been a solid group race performer for us over the past two years but disappointed us a bit on her first run back this season when seventh to Insineundo at the Curragh. The Athasi Stakes is probably next for her and hopefully she can win a group race or two again this year.
GOLDANA (GER) 4yo ch f
(581321-) Galileo Gold – Humble And Proud
Sights On Gold Partnership
A sister to Love Reigns, who did well for Wesley Ward, she won a listed race last year when trained in Germany. She looks nice and I think she will handle soft ground. The Gladness or Athasi Stakes are early season options for her.
HONEY GIRL (GB) 4yo b f
(236265-1) Mayson – Fleeting Image
She had some good runs for Henry de Bromhead last season and handled heavy ground well when she won a maiden at the Curragh on her first run for us last month. She did well to win and I think she has come on a bit for that. She could potentially go for the Gladness or the Athasi next.
INDIAN WISH (FR) 4yo gr f
(1126547139-) The Grey Gatsby - Indian Cat
She won a listed race when trained in France last year. The plan is to start her off in a conditions race at Tipperary and go back to stakes company after that.
JUMBLY (GB) 4yo b f
(2861-) Gleneagles - Thistle Bird
She won a Group 3 race for the Charltons last year and was sold by the Rothschild family at the December Sales. Her main target will be the mile fillies’ race at Royal Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes).
She looks a smart filly, good and tough, and hasn’t done anything wrong all her career. She’s a little bit behind some of mine, so she won’t have her first run for another few weeks and will just have a prep run for Ascot.
MOONEISTA (IRE) 5yo b m
(2324260-) Dandy Man – Moon Unit
Kia Ora Stud
A Group 2 winner in 2021 and fourth in the King’s Stand Stakes last year, she was remarkably consistent for Jack Davison for the past few seasons. He did a fantastic job with her. She was bought from Jack’s family at the December Sales by Kia Ora Stud. They are based in Australia and the plan was to send her there straight away but they changed their minds.
The King’s Stand would be the obvious target for her again and she will probably have one run before that. I’d say she will stay at five furlongs.
OTTILIEN (FR) 4yo br f
(1413-) Holy Roman Emperor – Vezina
This is an interesting one. She won a listed race and was Group 1 placed in France last year for David Menuisier. She is working like a smart filly. She will probably start off in a listed race at Cork over 12 furlongs and if that goes very well she could come back in trip to 10 furlongs for the Pretty Polly. Her Group 1 placing was over 13 furlongs in the Prix Royallieu and that race might be a target for her again but she is showing plenty of pace this year.
NATIONAL HUNT PLANS
Fire Attack and Busselton are our two likely runners in the Irish Grand National. Fire Attack has had a couple of falls due to silly mistakes but he is a good jumper and I think he will win a good race some day. He handles very soft ground.
Busselton would prefer slightly better ground rather than soft to heavy. He’s been very solid in staying handicaps and always keeps finding for pressure, so we are hopeful he will stay the trip at Fairyhouse. He’s too young for Aintree this year.
High Definition might go for a novice hurdle at Fairyhouse but he doesn’t enjoy soft ground. He got stuck in the mud at Cheltenham where J.J. (Slevin) said he was struggling after the first hurdle.
Solness is likely to go for a winners of one rather than the Gold Cup on Easter Sunday.
Our Aintree team will probably include Fakir D’oudairies, Home By The Lee, Banbridge, Nusret and possibly Darasso.
Fakir D’oudairies has come good at Aintree in the past and has a live chance in the Melling Chase again although it looks like being a very good race this year.
We have learned Banbridge is best on a sound surface so he didn’t run at Cheltenham and will probably bypass Fairyhouse too in favour of Aintree. He could potentially keep going in the summer if that’s what his owner [Ronnie Bartlett] wants to do.
Home By The Lee finished fifth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. It was a good run considering the very bad mistake he made at the sixth flight. He was lucky not to fall or hurt himself. He was fine afterwards and will go for the long distance hurdle at Liverpool.
After Nusret won at Kempton in February Daryl Jacob suggested he might be better right-handed but we’re going to run him at Aintree anyway. Later in the year he could go back on the flat for a staying handicap, as could Comfort Zone, who missed Cheltenham due to a setback. He might make it back in time for Punchestown.