Ballydoyle team aim to underline juvenile strength with Aesop’s Fables in Dewhurst

Willie Mullins triple-handed as he bids to regain winning form in Cesarewitch

Ballydoyle’s two-year-old team has been notably successful this season and Aesop’s Fables is the chosen one to underline that strength in perhaps the most prestigious juvenile prize of all.

Saturday’s Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket has a proven pedigree of identifying champion two-year-old talent including Frankel a dozen years ago.

Since then, Aidan O’Brien has been the race’s dominant figure with five wins that bring his overall Dewhurst haul to seven. One more will see him equal historic figures John Porter and Frank Butters.

The Irish trainer goes into this Dewhurst, though, in the enviable position of having next year’s Guineas favourite already safely tucked up at home.


Little Big Bear’s spectacular Phoenix Stakes victory in August earned him an official rating of 124 that sets quite a benchmark for any contemporary to try to match in the race for championship honours.

The colt nearest to him in the Guineas betting, Nostrum, puts his unbeaten record on the line when ridden by Richard Kingscote for the first time.

Ryan Moore did the steering on Michael Stoute’s colt in both previous starts so O’Brien should know exactly where he stands with him.

Two other unbeaten colts, Isaac Shelby and in particular Godolphin’s Naval Power, also figure in a deep-looking renewal that is set to take place on decent ground.

That could prove important to Aesop’s Fables, who could finish only fourth to Al Riffa on soft going in the National Stakes last time. Previously he had landed the Futurity in good style following a near four-month absence.

“I’m hoping that it was ground [in the National] The only other thing it may be was that we ran him back a bit quick after the Futurity,” O’Brien said on Friday

“It had been a long while since he’d run when he ran in that and maybe we ran him back a little quick. It’s either that or the ground we hope. Obviously, we were disappointed with the run, but we felt that he was better than that.”

The champion trainer has skipped the option of a potential Irish-English Cesarewitch double, opting instead to wait with Waterville for next weekend’s Long Distance Cup at Ascot.

Saturday’s marathon handicap at Newmarket still has a handful of Irish hopes, including a trio from Willie Mullins.

Only Buzz prevented a Cesarewitch four-in-a-row for Mullins in 2021 and Jason Watson’s mount Scaramanga has been backed to improve significantly on his effort in last year’s race.

Bookmakers calculate it is Charles Byrnes’s Run For Oscar who holds a favourite’s chance, while Bill Durkan’s Favourite Moon is also in the reckoning.

David Egan teams up with Run For Oscar and Byrnes reported: “Hopefully there will be enough ease in the ground as he wouldn’t want it too quick.

“There are 23 runners so the draw [stall nine] won’t be a problem. He’ll have enough cover. We were limited enough with what jockeys could do the weight so we booked David Egan and we’re happy enough with that.”

Saturday’s Curragh action is under the banner of IRFU charitable trust race-day with the aim of raising money for badly injured rugby players.

A number of rugby stars, both past and present, are set to have meet-and-greets with racegoers on a programme featuring the Group Three Staffordstown Stud Stakes.

The mile contest has been won by three subsequent Classic winners in the last 11 years, including Fancy Blue in 2019.

Be Happy was engaged in the Group One mile event at Newmarket up to final declarations but is lining up for this instead. The Camelot filly overcame very testing ground to win on her debut at Cork and the form of that has been working out well.

A total of 24 runners take their chance in the €60,000 Friends of the Curragh Pollardstown Handicap, a race catering to horses that didn’t make the Irish Cesarewitch field. If ground conditions get very soft it will suit the veteran Lord Erskine who is 9lbs higher for scoring at Listowel on his last start.

El Trem won the Ladies’ handicap twice in 2019 and 2020 and is back for a third try now off a 7lb lower mark than when last successful.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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