Aidan O’Brien closing in on a world record tally of Group One wins

Ballydoyle now eyeing targets in Australia and Canada after Churchill’s Dewhurst win

Aidan O'Brien's remorseless progress toward a world record tally of Group One victories in a year is set to go global this weekend with top-flight targets from Australia to Canada and closer to home in Ascot where the Arc heroine Found is still in contention to run in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

Churchill’s Dewhurst success on Saturday was a 20th Group One victory on the flat in 2016 for Ireland’s champion trainer and bookmakers now rate his chances of beating Bobby Frankel’s long-standing haul of 25 in a year as short as 6-4.

The Paddy Power firm is counting Ivanovich Gorbatov’s Triumph Hurdle victory in March which brings O’Brien’s tally to 21 even though that race was over jumps and O’Brien himself attributed the training of that horse to his son Joseph who hadn’t yet been granted an official licence to train.

That brings into question how to regard Willie Mullins’s haul of 34 Grade One wins in the last National Hunt season, a campaign which backed onto the 2014-15 jumps season when Mullins won 33 top-flight National Hunt races.


Barnstorming form

O’Brien himself has downplayed the significance of beating Frankel’s record even though he came up agonisingly short of the American in 2001 with 24. Nevertheless the barnstorming form of the Ballydoyle string this Autumn will have been noted worldwide with the international programme hitting top-gear.

The Irish Derby runner-up Idaho, who dramatically unseated Séamus Heffernan when favourite for last month’s Doncaster S Leger, is a 7-4 favourite in early betting for this Sunday’s Canadian International at the Woodbine track in Toronto.

O'Brien has won the race twice before – Ballingarry (2001) and Joshua Tree (2012) – but will also hope Best In The World can give him a maiden success in the EP Taylor Stakes on the same card. Ryan Moore won the ten furlong fillies contest race last year on David Wachman's Curvy and the Englishman is set to team up with both Idaho and Best In The World on Sunday night.

The weekend global Group One programme will kick off on Saturday morning in Melbourne with reports indicating Colm O’Donoghue will team up with the O’Brien hope, Sir Isaac Newton, in the $3 million Caulfield Cup.

The Royal Ascot winner is a general 10-1 shot for the mile and a half handicap in which O’Donoghue has previous experience, having finished 13th on Jakkalberry in 2012 behind Dunaden.

Sir Isaac Newton is pleasing the Ballydoyle team ‘Down Under’ as he continues his build up to Saturday’s race.

“He travelled lovely. He lost only 5kgs and he’d put that back on in a day. He’s in good order and doing everything right. We’re stepping it up with him but he’s settled in well,” said Ballydoyle spokesman, TJ Comerford at the Werribee centre where the horse is stabled.

“We don’t gallop around bends as much as here. We only gallop in a straight line and when they work at home they only work around one bend but it’s more of a sweeping bend so it’s different for him.

“But it’s amazing from a few days ago to now how he handles it so well. He knows how to change his leg and lead on the right leg so its good practice for him,” he added.

With four Group One races up for grabs on Ascot’s ‘Champions Day’ programme this Saturday, the potential is there for O’Brien to smash through the world-record mark in just a single weekend.

Final decisions on the make-up of Ballydoyle's raid on the prestigious card won't be made until the eve of declaration stage on Thursday but O'Brien hasn't ruled out Found making a quick return to action less than a fortnight after her Arc heroics in Chantilly. She also holds an entry in the Filly & Mare Stakes.

Another possible

US Army Ranger is another possible for the Champion Stakes while Seventh Heaven has only Dermot Weld’s Zhukova ahead of her in ante-post betting for the Filly & Mare. Final plans could revolve around Minding who has three options on Saturday, including the QEII.

“They’ll do a little bit early in the week and the lads (owners) will decide what they want to do on Wednesday evening,” said O’Brien. “I don’t think dropping back to a mile would bother Minding. She ran a mile and a quarter last time . .”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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