Aidan O’Brien odds-on to take sixth top trainer award at Royal Ascot
Leading Light in Gold Cup heads a typically-strong Ballydoyle contingent
Leading Light and Joseph O’Brien winning the English St Leger at Doncaster last September. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images.
Aidan O’Brien has been installed an odds-on favourite to pick up a sixth top trainer award at next week’s Royal Ascot extravaganza with a typically strong raiding-party likely to be led by Leading Light who could secure a piece of Gold Cup history for the Irishman.
Victory for last year’s St Leger hero will put O’Brien out on his own as the most successful trainer in the long history of the marathon contest with six wins. He currently shares the distinction with seven others including Godolphin’s Saeed Bin Suroor and the late Henry Cecil.
Leading Light is a clear favourite to follow in the illustrious hoof-prints of Yeats (2006-09) and Fame And Glory (2011) but not nearly as short as his trainer is to be the most successful over the five-days at British racing’s showpiece meeting.
O’Brien won last year’s award with four winners, half of a record-equalling Irish tally overall, and memorably saddled half a dozen winners in 2008.
Strength in depthWith strength in depth from the likes of Verrazanno (Queen Anne Stakes) and Magician (Prince Of Wales’s Stakes) as well as a strong two-year-old team, he has been installed a 4/7 favourite by Paddy Power to again come out on top next week.
“Aidan’s won it two of the last three years, but home-based trainers have kept the title in England every other season since 2009 so it’s no formality,” Power warned yesterday.
The only other Irish-based trainers being quoted are Dermot Weld (66/1) and Eddie Lynam (100/1) but Jim Bolger still has the option of running last year’s Irish Derby winner Trading Leather in either the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes or the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes.
Before that, however, the Co Carlow-based trainer could attempt to secure a first ever French Classic victory having left the Leopardstown maiden winner Ceisteach among 14 left in yesterday for Sunday’s €1 million French Oaks.
Ceisteach is rated a 50/1 shot in ante-post betting as it looks like shaping into a vintage Prix de Diane at Chantilly, with the Newmarket 1,000 Guineas winner Miss France set to face the French Guineas heroine Avenir Certain as well as the Aga Khan’s exciting filly Shamkala.
Bolger has a fine record in France with four top-flight wins from Polonia’s Abbaye success in 1987 to Loch Garman winning the Criterium International two years ago. None have come in a Classic though, unlike in Britain where the Leger is the only Classic missing from Bolger’s CV, and in Ireland where he has only missed out on the Leger and the 2,000 Guineas.
Star nameOne star name likely to miss Royal Ascot is last year’s Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Just The Judge who could instead return to the scene of her greatest triumph at the Curragh later this month in the Pretty Polly Stakes.
Just The Judge looked unlucky when a beaten favourite at Epsom last Friday but trainer Charlie Hills is taking encouragement from that display in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes.
“We had excuses after her first run and it was great to see her coming back to something like her best on Friday. I think she’ll come on again and the track at Epsom didn’t suit her ideally,” he said yesterday. “Ascot next week is coming too soon so we’re probably going to aim towards the Pretty Polly. I think she might be better at a mile and a quarter.”
Another star cross-channel filly that could skip next week’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes in favour of the Pretty Polly is last year’s Irish Champion Stakes winner The Fugue. “No decisions have been made yet,” said a spokesman for the owners.