Aidan O’Brien aiming for record-equalling eighth Dewhurst Stakes with Aesop’s Fables

Waterville early favourite to record Cesarewitch double in Newmarket

Aesop’s Fables is set to try and deliver Aidan O’Brien a record-equalling eighth success in Saturday’s Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.

It is 21 years since O’Brien first won Britain’s most prestigious two-year-old contest with Rock Of Gibraltar.

He has subsequently landed the Dewhurst with other Classic stars such as Churchill and St Mark’s Basilica, who scored two years ago.

One more will see the Irishman join Frank Butters and the legendary 19th century trainer John Porter on eight Dewhurst victories apiece.


O’Brien has three of the dozen entries left in the race after Monday’s acceptance stage.

Although next year’s Derby favourite Auguste Rodin is among them, as is the French Group Three winner Victoria Road, O’Brien pointed to Aesop’s Fables as a “probable” to make the line-up.

If 2022′s Classic campaign has been disappointing for O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team, his two-year-old crop has proved notably strong.

Little Big Bear’s Phoenix Stakes rout in August propelled him to the top of the betting for next year’s 2,000 Guineas.

Blackbeard’s pair of Group One victories in the Morny and Middle Park has provided major back-up and Aesop’s Fables is likely to get another chance to prove his top-flight credentials in the Dewhurst.

The Futurity winner lost his unbeaten record in last month’s National Stakes at the Curragh when third to Al Riffa.

Ranged against him at the weekend is likely to be some of the top cross-channel based juveniles including Roger Varian’s Mill Reef winner Sakheer who was supplemented on Monday.

Also in the mix is Godolphin’s unbeaten Naval Power as well as the Juddmonte pair Nostrum and Chaldean. The latter won the Champagne at Doncaster on his last start.

There may be other Irish interest in the Dewhurst with Michael O’Callaghan leaving in his consistent colt, Indestructible, twice runner-up to Chalden including in the Champagne.

Saturday’s dramatic Prix Du Cadran success for Kyprios brought O’Brien’s Group One haul for the season to 10.

Both Kyprios and the Irish Champion Stakes winner Luxembourg, who pulled muscles when unplaced in Sunday’s Arc, are almost certainly finished for the year.

“Both are probably finished for the season,” O’Brien said on Monday. “Luxembourg is a bit sore but hopefully in a couple of weeks he’ll be okay. Kyprios is very good.”

O’Brien’s dramatic Irish Cesarewitch winner Waterville is catalogued to be sold in Newmarket later this month but has an opportunity to pull off a rare double on Saturday.

The three-year-old tops betting lists for Newmarket’s Cesarewitch on the back of his recent spectacular last-to-first success in the Curragh version.

A total of 33 entries remain in the Cesarewitch with Waterville initially made a 4-1 favourite for a rare Newmarket feature not won by O’Brien before.

In contrast, Willie Mullins enjoyed a hat-trick of wins in the marathon handicap between 2018 and 2020 with the trio of Low Sun, Stratum and Great White Shark.

Only Buzz prevented Mullins securing a four-timer in 2021 when proving too strong for Burning Victory.

This time the dominant National Hunt trainer has left in three hopefuls including Scaramanga who was unplaced in the Cesarewitch last year.

Other Irish interest is likely to come from the Charles Byrnes-trained Run For Oscar. The seven-year-old dual-purpose runner is a triple winner over flights but on his last start won on the flat at Haydock.

Mullins has a pair of runners in Tuesday’s conditions chase at Galway including the course winner Jon Snow who scored over fences at Killarney last time.

He scores on the basis of race fitness but on figures faces a serious task against last season’s Irish Grand National runner-up Frontal Assault.

The latter hasn’t been seen in action since chasing home Lord Lariat at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.

Nevertheless, any easing of ground conditions will be in Frontal Assault’s favour and a 142 rating is hard to argue with in the circumstances.

Gordon Elliott’s team also looks to have an answer to the opening maiden hurdle in Music Drive.

Talented enough to finish eighth to Facile Vega in last season’s Champion Bumper, Music Drive is point to point winner and proven on testing ground.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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