High Definition has chance to boost O’Brien’s Group One ‘mojo’

Ballydoyle colt tackles Hurricane Lane in Sunday’s Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud

High Definition’s career isn’t synonymous with reliability but he is the one trusted to reboot Aidan O’Brien’s Group One ‘mojo’ in France on Sunday.

The colt once heralded as a potential Derby winner flies Ballydoyle’s flag in the €400,000 Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud due off at 3.00 Irish time.

Among his eight rivals are last year’s Irish Derby principals Hurricane Lane and Lone Eagle as well as the triple Group-One winning mare Alpinista and last year’s Ganay scorer, Mare Australis.

O’Brien saddled Broome to become the first Irish winner of the historic race a year ago.

By that stage of 2021, Ireland’s champion trainer had enjoyed eight top-flight victories including a resounding Eclipse victory for star colt St Mark’s Basilica.

Now O’Brien has reached July with just a pair of Group Ones under his belt and neither Kyprios in the Gold Cup nor Tuesday’s Oaks represent the prime commercial prospects that define Ballydoyle’s operation.

High Definition for Paris

Luxembourg, O’Brien’s apparent best three-year-old colt, is still on the comeback trail so on a busy European Group One weekend O’Brien skips a hot-looking Eclipse on Saturday and focuses instead on Paris a day later.

Ryan Moore travels for the ride on High Definition who looked to have the world at his feet after an unbeaten two-year-old career but hasn’t won since. High Definition’s classic campaign fizzled out, beating only one home in both the Irish Derby and the English Leger.

Following two early defeats this term plenty were prepared to write him off as a serious top-level performer only for the colt to belie 20-1 odds in May’s Tattersalls Gold Cup where only Alenquer managed to overhaul him and no less than State Of Rest was third.

A subsequent Coronation Cup third looked a step backwards however and High Definition goes into his latest Group One task with plenty still to prove.

His old rival Hurricane Lane is an admirable colt who should improve appreciably for his comeback effort in the Hardwicke at Ascot and Moore has pointed to him and Mare Australis as the ones to beat.

A relatively unknown factor is Alpinista whose three Group One wins in Germany last year included a defeat of subsequent Arc hero Torquator Tasso. The latter is in action himself in a Hamburg Group Two this weekend although on Sunday at the same track all eyes will be on Frankie Dettori when he tries to bounce back from recent reverses with a classic victory.

Dettori on So Moonstruck

The Italian won the German Derby all of 31 years ago on Temporal and gets another Deutsches Derby shot on one of the favourites, So Moonstruck, in a race off 15 minutes before Saint-Cloud.

Hollie Doyle is also in action in the race, riding another of the seven runners in the 20-strong field for local trainer Markus Klug.

Despite all that few would dispute the weekend’s quality high point is at Sandown and a fascinating six-runner contest in which French Derby victor Vadeni takes on Irish Guineas winner Native Trail as well as four top-notch older horses.

It is more than 60 years since a French horse won the Eclipse but Vadeni’s supplementary entry underlines the impression made when turning the Prix du Jockey Club into a rout last month.

St Mark’s Basilica brought up the double in spectacular fashion a year ago and Vadeni clearly carries confidence he can finally break the Aga Khan’s duck in the race.

He will have to live up to that billing though as Native Trail could relish the step up to 10 furlongs while Alenquer’s form looks solid.

If Mishriff is something of the forgotten horse in the race it’s worth remembering that he is still officially top-rated and 10 furlongs on quick ground are his ideal circumstances.

The Gosden stalwart failed to follow up his 2021 Saudi Cup success in February and has been given plenty of time to recover from that run on dirt.

The weekend’s domestic action starts in Naas where the strength of Ballydoyle’s classic crop for 2023 could be boosted by Auguste Rodin in a juvenile maiden.

The regally bred colt met all sorts of trouble on his Curragh debut behind Crypto Force.

The latter subsequently did nothing for the form at Ascot but Auguste Rodin looks a horse of some promise.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column