Aidan O’Brien’s “very special” two-year-old Luxembourg is on course for Saturday week’s Vertem Futurity at Doncaster and a potential timely counter-punch to Godolphin’s on-fire juvenile team.
Native Trail’s Dewhurst Stakes success at Newmarket on Saturday, backed up by the hugely impressive Coroebus in a Group Three, sees Sheikh Mohammed’s team with a stranglehold on the top of next year’s 2,000 Guineas betting.
That leaves O’Brien in an unusual role of playing catch-up somewhat in the pecking order for next year’s colt’s Classics in particular but that could turn around in the final European Group One juvenile prizes for 2021.
The Futurity is the last top-flight prize of the British season, while on the same day both the Criterium International and the Criterium De Saint-Cloud take place in Paris.
So while Saturday’s British Champions Day doesn’t have any kind of two-year-old race – and Ireland’s champion trainer has yet to finalise plans for Ascot – O’Brien is resolutely pointing Luxembourg at the Futurity.
The son of the 2011 Futurity winner Camelot made a huge impression when landing the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last month in ultra-smooth fashion.
He is already a 7-4 favourite to stretch his unbeaten record to three in the Doncaster highlight which could see O'Brien secure a record-equaling 10th victory to match Henry Cecil.
Past winners include other subsequent Ballydoyle Classic winners such as High Chaparral and Saxon Warrior and O’Brien confirmed on Tuesday: “The plan for Luxemburg is to go to Doncaster. Everything has been good with him since the Beresford.”
Likely opposition in the Futurity includes Royal Patronage, who defeated Coroebus in the Royal Lodge on his last start. He also defeated the subsequent Dewhurst runner-up Dubawi Legend in York’s Acomb Stakes at the Ebor meeting in August.
Another promising Ballydoyle two-year-old, Glounthaune, failed to land a blow behind Native Trail in the Dewhurst but could try to bounce back quickly from that reverse in Saturday’s Richmond Homes Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown.
He is one of half a dozen O’Brien entries left in at Tuesday’s acceptance stage for a race won in 2020 by the subsequent Guineas hero, Poetic Flare.
Jim Bolger’s colt landed the Killavullan just seven days after having also finished out of the money in the Dewhurst.
“He [Glounthaune] didn’t get much of a run in the Dewhurst and probably didn’t learn much. It’s not ideal to go back the week after but we might not have many options. It’s not definite by any means but it is possible,” O’Brien said.
Potential opposition includes Dermot Weld’s filly Homeless Songs who won her debut over course and distance in July. She was subsequently fifth to Discoveries in the Moyglare.
It is Classic winning fillies that may provide the mainstay of Ballydoyle’s Champions Day challenge on Saturday.
The 1,000 Guineas winner Mother Earth could tackle Palace Pier and Baaeed in the QEII while Love and Snowfall hold entries in both the Champion Stakes and the Filly & Mare Stakes.
“We’re not sure about Ascot yet. It’s a little bit up in the air because we want to see about the horses and see about the ground,” O’Brien said.
Next month’s Breeders Cup’ at Del Mar provides other options for those top-class fillies, although another Classic winner, Empress Josephine, is already campaigning in the US.
The Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine was third in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland at the weekend and is on course for a quick reappearance at the track in Saturday night’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth Cup.
Together won the race for Ballydoyle 10 years ago, while the only other European-trained winner was Ryafan in 1997.