Paddington delivered Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team an important classic success at the Curragh on Saturday when landing the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.
The well-supported 3-1 shot led home an O’Brien one-two as Ryan Moore’s mount had a couple of lengths in hand of his stable companion Cairo with the Newmarket Guineas runner-up Hi Royal in third.
It was O’Brien’s 12th success in the opening Curragh classic of the season as he continues to close in on a once scarcely imaginable ‘century’ landmark.
Counting both the Irish and French St Legers, which are open to older horses, Paddington was the Irishman’s 98th career classic success in Europe.
It is a mind-boggling accumulation of success since he first struck with a Curragh Guineas double in 1997.
Given the commercial stallion-making considerations underpinning Coolmore Stud, though, the relative drought endured in last year’s major colt’s classics meant this latest victory for Paddington was particularly welcome.
Not since St Mark’s Basilica struck in both the French Guineas and Derby in 2021 had the Ballydoyle operation secured one of Europe’s vital stallion-making classics.
O’Brien added to his own tally in 2022 with the filly Tuesday in the Oaks and the stayer Kyprios’ Irish Leger. Both were admirable and top-class although hardly lucrative ‘blue-chip’ stud prospects.
However, a widely anticipated return to normal service in Newmarket’s Guineas earlier this month ultimately proved disastrous as both Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear flopped.
The latter returned to winning form in a Haydock Group Two on Saturday and ahead of Auguste Rodin’s Epsom Derby attempt next weekend, Paddington brought the Ballydoyle bandwagon back on track with a vengeance.
A colt who began the season winning a handicap off 97 at Naas, taking in the Listed Tetrarch Stakes on-route, stepped up to the classic plate in style.
Despite a slow start, he was quickly got in a position to cover Hi Royal who forced the pace.
As the 6-4 favourite Royal Scotsman never got into a position to land a blow, the first two briefly bumped outside the furlong pole before Moore regathered Paddington to go clear.
A clash with the English Guineas winner Chaldean now beckons for the colt in Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes while stable morale going into Epsom got a timely boost.
“[Ascot] looks like the natural progression for him because he doesn’t look short of speed even though he will get further in time,” O’Brien said.
“Ryan was very impressed with him. He hadn’t ridden him since Ascot [last year] when he was a real baby.
“He missed the break and where he was, if he had stayed there it could have been a very dangerous position because he would have been at the mercy of the race.
“He went out with the mindset that he’d ride his own horse and it didn’t matter where anyone else was going to be, he was going to be happy to make the running or do whatever.
“He had great confidence in him but that split second decision when he made that move very quickly to have that position, without lighting up the horse, made all the difference.
“He travelled like a dream and when he asked him, he did quicken but he’s still a little bit of a baby and he probably would have learned a lot today quickening on that ground,” O’Brien added.
It was a first win in the race for the champion trainer since Churchill in 2017 and proof of how the depth of talent available at Ballydoyle can sometimes sprout an unlikely star.
Paddington’s profile coming into this season hardly compared to Auguste Rodin & Co but he has emerged as a very important runner.
“He wintered very well and we were very happy with him in the spring. He ended up in the Madrid (handicap) on a lovely mark. It was a lovely place to start him as it was over seven furlongs, even though the ground was soft.
“Then he came back here and won the Tetrarch in soft ground again, so we weren’t really sure about the ground with him. Obviously, he’s a Siyouni out of a Montjeu mare. He was always a beautiful mover, but you are never sure until they do it,” O’Brien commented.
Meditate lead a trio of O’Brien fillies into Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas although the odds-on favourite Tahiyra is likely to prove tough obstacle to classic No. 99.
Oisin Murphy was out of luck on Hi Royal but did secure a first ever success at the Curragh by guiding Art Power to a smooth victory in the Group Two Weatherbys Greenlands Stakes.
The English-trained grey dominated throughout to confirm his liking for the sprint course at HQ.
“I hadn’t ridden any winners here before today so I can’t say I was very confident!” said Murphy. “He loves Ireland and has never been beaten here. That’s his fourth victory from four starts – what a fantastic horse.”
Johnny Murtagh saddled his own one-two in the Listed Orby Stakes as Mashhoor made his first start at the mile and a half trip a winning one over stable companion Annerville.
The winner’s Brunabonne Syndicate ownership includes the former Meath All-Ireland-winning footballer, Tommy Dowd.
Another one-two on the card was secured by Co Tyrone trainer Andy Oliver in a handicap as Gary Carroll got Betterdayscoming narrowly ahead of the stable companion Semblance Of Order.
Separately, Little Big Bear is clear favourite for Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup after giving O’Brien a first ever Haydock winner in the Sandy Lane Stakes.
Frankie Dettori did the honours and was impressed with last year’s champion two year old on his return to sprinting.
“He quickened up well for hands and heels and it’s a big boost for the Commonwealth,” the Italian rider said.
“I’ll be honest, I eased up in the last few yards as the job was done, that was a good performance ahead of next month. He’s got big figures in the book and he’s come back to his best today – he’ll be a big favourite.
“He looked magnificent beforehand. We tried the Guineas and it didn’t work out, so we’re back to sprinting now. He showed today he is a sprinter – he is built like one and goes like one.”