Aidan O’Brien in pursuit of valuable Group One glory for promising two-year-old team

Frankie Dettori fills in for Ryan Moore on board Emily Dickinson in Saturday’s Prix Du Cadran

Sunday’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the pinnacle of racing achievement but the cycle of identifying next year’s classic crop continues this weekend with Aidan O’Brien in hot pursuit of Group One success for his juvenile team.

City Of Troy appears to top a team of Ballydoyle two-year-olds that, even by O’Brien’s stellar standards, might be exceptional.

However, apart from Henry Longfellow, victorious in the Curragh’s National Stakes earlier this month, what none have yet is proven top-flight accomplishment under their belts.

The business of putting that right starts on Saturday with Newmarket hosting the Juddmonte Middle Park and Cheveley Park before attention switches to Longchamp’s pair of Group One juvenile prizes on Sunday.


In all, there are 10 Group One races up for grabs between Newmarket and Longchamp this weekend.

The first of them, Saturday’s marathon Prix Du Cadran (off at 1.33) couldn’t be more different from any two-year-old focus on speed and Frankie Dettori’s presence on O’Brien’s filly Emily Dickinson underlines where the commercial priorities lie.

The Italian fills in for Ryan Moore who teams up with the filly Cherry Blossom in the Cheveley Park but also River Tiber in the Middle Park for colts.

O’Brien holds a record seven wins in the historic six-furlong contest whose reputation as a stallion-making race led to last year’s winner Blackbeard being retired to stud after winning it.

As a Coventry Stakes winner, River Tiber is already a stallion prospect despite having failed in his first attempt at the top level when only third to Vandeek in the Prix Morny.

O’Brien was quick to excuse that however due to the colt’s setback in the lead up to Deauville, something that will encourage hopes River Tiber can reverse that Vandeek form in the Middle Park.

Cherry Blossom drops back to six furlongs having run into a rare one in One Look at last weekend’s Goffs Million. She’s joined by her stable companion Pearls And Rubies and two other Irish hopes, Porta Fortuna and She’s Quality, in a wide open-looking Cheveley Park.

It’s 17 years since O’Brien last won the Prix Jean Luc Lagardere with a colt, in that case Holy Roman Emperor who was another to retire to stud after only racing at two.

Ahead of teaming up with Continuous in the Arc, Moore has opted to ride Unquestionable in the Lagardere which opens Sunday’s glittering Longchamp programme at 1.15.

Unquestionable fluffed his Group One lines in the Phoenix Stakes when he banged his head off the starting stalls and lost a shoe during the race. Moore stays loyal leaving Christophe Soumillon to ride the unbeaten Tyros winner Henry Adams.

Opera Singer won a Curragh Group Three so impressively on her last start that hopes will be high she can give O’Brien a record-equalling fifth success in the Prix Marcel Boussac for fillies.

Joseph O’Brien’s Lumiere Rock beat Jackie Oh in the Blandford last time and both Irish fillies take their chance in the Prix de l’Opera while Moss Tucker, a hugely popular Flying Five winner last time, might prefer much softer ground conditions than he’s likely to get in the Prix de l’Abbaye.

The domestic National Hunt season cranks up a gear on Saturday with a first Grade Two of the campaign at Gowran.

Envoi Allen hasn’t reached the elevated levels he once promised to but his first-time-out record is faultless and that can continue in the PWC Champion Chase.

The black-type focus is also on jumping at Sunday’s mixed-Tipperary fixture with a trio of Grade Three contests where the Galway Hurdle winner Zarak The Brave returns to action.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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