Aidan O’Brien 4-1 to seal Group One Curragh clean sweep

Godolphin could be set to take on Churchill with Thunder Snow in Irish 2,000 Guineas

Aidan O’Brien is 4-1 to complete a prestigious Group One hat-trick at the Curragh this weekend where Churchill will lead a star-studded Ballydoyle team into action.

Churchill is a long odds-on favourite to land Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas and become the ninth colt to complete the Newmarket-Curragh classic double.

Managing the 1,000 Guineas double is an even more rare achievement but O’Brien’s Newmarket heroine Winter is favourite to become just the third filly to also score at the Curragh while Sunday also sees 2016’s Horse of the Year Minding as the undisputed star attraction in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

O’Brien has pulled off the top-flight weekend clean sweep twice before in 2008 and 2011 and the RaceBets firm already rate his chances of doing the same again at 4-1.


Twenty years after Desert King provided the champion trainer with the first classic of his record-breaking career – quickly followed a day later by Classic Park landing the 1,000 Guineas – O’Brien again appears to hold most of the aces for the first top-flight action of Ireland’s 2017 flat campaign.

Ballydoyle’s options won’t be confined to the three likely Group One favourites either and the trainer added: “Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valor, both of whom ran behind Churchill at Newmarket, will probably join him in the line-up again. Hydrangea, who was behind Winter in the 1,000 Guineas, will probably take her chance in Sunday’s classic.”

O’Brien’s ten 2,000 Guineas victories is a race-record and a 1,000 success on Sunday would see him equal the record of Hubert Hartigan who won the classic seven times between 1928 and 1954.

The matter of who is prepared to take on Europe’s most powerful operation at the Curragh will become more clear after Tuesday’s vital five-day stage although reports indicate the Godolphin team could send Thunder Snow for the 2,000 Guineas.

The colt disgraced himself in the Kentucky Derby earlier this month, having to be pulled up soon after the start after a near-bronco display which quickly left him hopelessly behind the rest of the field.

Fantastic form

Prior to that however he had won the UAE Derby at Meydan and boasts Group One winning form on turf as a juvenile, winning the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud by five lengths from South Seas. Godolphin have won the Irish Guineas with both Dubawi (2005) and Bachir (2000.)

The unexposed Irishcorrespondent definitely remains on course for the colts classic and his trainer Michael Halford reported: "Irishcorrespondent has come out of his last race at the Curragh really well and is in fantastic form."

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently “good” and good to yielding in places on the straight classic mile. It is uniformly “good” on the round track and the weather outlook for the week ahead is mostly dry.

That’s good news for Halford’s 1,000 Guineas hope Rehana although another smart Aga Khan-owned filly, Eziyra, is unlikely to make the line up.

"I'm very happy with Eziyra but I see her more as a mile and a quarter filly for this year," explained her trainer Dermot Weld who however hasn't ruled out Making Light from Sunday's classic.

“She won the Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown in October and is still a possible. But she will only run if there’s some rain as she likes a good dig,” Weld added.

Another local trainer with his eyes on the 1,000 Guineas is Kevin Prendergast who could try and secure more Curragh classic glory with Aneen.

The Shadwell Stud-owned filly was an impressive maiden winner at HQ last autumn and the owner’s spokesman, Angus Gold, said: “As far as I know she is going to start in the Irish 1,000. That was the plan and I’ve no heard anything different. Everyone hopes she will be good but I haven’t seen her work myself so I can’t say much more. They seem happy with her.”

The Ballydoyle team are also set to make their presence felt at Haydock on Saturday with Acapulco and Washington DC among 13 entries left in the Group Two Temple Stakes.

Prior to that however the reigning Ascot Gold Cup champion Order Of St George will try to win Friday evening’s McGrath Memorial Savel Beg Stakes at Leopardstown for a second year running.

A dozen entries remain in the Listed event including the 2015 winner, and Order Of St George’s stable companion, Kingfisher. Another Gold Cup hope, Jessica Harrington’s Torcedor is another possible starter.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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