Continuous returns to action as O’Brien’s ‘senior citizens’ out to continue successful run

French champion jockey Maxime Guyon teams up with Charles Byrnes as Run For Oscar has another tilt at Queen Alexandra

Ryan Moore aboard Continuous (purple and white) wins The Betfred St Leger Stakes at Doncaster last September. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Continuous will try to seal a hugely successful Royal Ascot for Aidan O’Brien’s “senior citizens” when he returns to action on Saturday.

Last year’s St Leger hero takes a first step towards a possible return date with October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by lining up in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes.

The Japanese-bred star is the highest-rated performer on the final day of Royal Ascot, with an official mark of 120.

Despite his Group One credentials, Continuous races off level weights against eight opponents in a mile-and-a-half event his trainer has won four times already.


Typically top-heavy with juveniles and three-year-olds this week, O’Brien has struck with two of his three older runners, Auguste Rodin in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and Kyprios in the Gold Cup. The third, Hans Andersen, was a huge outsider on pacemaker duty for Auguste Rodin.

Continuous may not have their profile but he shapes as having the potential to play a significant role in the rest of this season’s middle-distance highlights.

Runner-up in last year’s King Edward, he proceeded to land the Voltigeur at York before winning the Leger in style. Subsequently, he was fifth in the Arc but was forced to miss out on a trip to the Japan Cup in November.

O’Brien has been patient so far this season and believes there is more to come from the likable son of Heart’s Cry.

“We didn’t have the clearest run with him in the winter and the spring, but we’re very happy with him. He’ll improve from the run, but he is ready to win and he’s a lovely, straightforward, honest horse. We think this is a lovely race to start him back in, but we do think he will really come forward from the run,” said O’Brien.

Continuous’s opposition includes a rare US middle-distance performer on this side of the Atlantic with Missed The Cut running for top American trainer John Sadler.

Middle Earth was behind Continuous in the Leger but has a run under his belt this season and won during a period when the Gosden team weren’t firing on all cylinders.

Having smashed through 400 career Group One successes earlier this week, O’Brien is an unusual absentee from the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes which highlights Saturday.

There is no Irish runner at all in the hugely lucrative sprint but those at the Curragh for last month’s Greenlands Stakes will be closely watching Mitbaahy.

Jamie Spencer produced a typically audacious late spurt on the Charlie Hills-trained horse to run down Regional, who only just missed out in Tuesday’s Group One sprint.

Jamie Spencer on Mitbaahy comes home to win the Group Two Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh in May. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

A year ago, the Mitbaahy team won this with the 80-1 veteran Khaadem, who again takes his chance, this time under Oisín Murphy.

Ballydoyle run three in the Jersey Stakes, although there seems to be little doubt who the number one hope is.

Last year’s Coventry winner River Tiber made his return to action in the Irish Guineas last month when third to the stable companions Rosallion and Haatem.

The latter had more than a length in hand of River Tiber at the line but must concede 3lbs and a return to seven furlongs might also favour the Ballydoyle hope.

Some familiar names will wind up Ascot for another year in the finale, the longest race on the flat calendar, the Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Last year’s winner Dawn Rising is back for another crack at the marathon test, but this time without Ryan Moore, who is committed to Queenstown. The top-rated Trueshan once again looks likely to need rain to ease the going enough for him to line up.

France’s champion jockey Maxime Guyon waits for the last to team up with Charles Byrnes’s stayer Run For Oscar for the first time. The 2022 Cesarewitch winner got baulked at a vital time in last year’s renewal and warmed up for this with a run at the Curragh last month.

Saturday’s domestic highlight is Down Royal’s €100,000 Boylesports Ulster Derby where O’Brien has a couple of chances to land the race for a third time in four years.

Whether either Psalm or Ocean Of Dreams come up to the level of last year’s winner Tower Of London is debatable and perhaps this could result in a popular success for Co Tyrone trainer Andy Oliver.

He also has two chances but as a brother to the Ebor third Live Your Dream, the step up to a mile-and-a-half could be just what Gibbs Island requires.

Limerick hosts the Listed Martin Molony Stakes where the giant London City can strike a blow against his elders.

Still an Irish Derby entry, the grey son of Justify and Winter comes here on the back of a York success and there are plenty of reasons to believe he’s going to progress.

London City gets a stone from Dermot Weld’s stayer Harbour Wind who begins his campaign having run a fine second at Longchamp over Arc weekend last autumn.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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