Aidan O’Brien declares 21 runners for Leopardstown

Champion trainer’s focus on Melbourne but is not neglecting home fires

Trainer Aidan O’Brien main focus is on next week’s Breeders Cup. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien main focus is on next week’s Breeders Cup. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times.

 

Aidan O’Brien’s global Group One reach extends from Highland Reel’s attempt at Saturday morning’s Cox Plate in Melbourne to a three-pronged assault on Doncaster’s Racing Post Trophy but he can’t be accused of neglecting the home fires either.

The champion trainer has declared 21 runners for Leopardstown’s two fixtures which form the backbone of a bumper bank holiday weekend’s action and bring the curtain down on the 2015 turf flat season in Ireland.

With next weekend’s Breeders Cup always a Ballydoyle priority, and the following week’s Melbourne Cup still to come too, O’Brien can focus on the international knowing he has secured a 17th consecutive trainers title, and an 18th in all judged on prizemoney, back in Ireland.

His 2015 prizemoney tally at home is sure to pass €4 million, almost twice the total of his nearest rival, Dermot Weld, but it is Ger Lyons’s third position based on 60 winners to date, slightly behind Jim Bolger based on prizemoney, which is perhaps the most notable feature to the championship table.

Pat Smullen has secured an eighth jockeys’ title while the 2013 champion Connor King, 19, has regained the apprentice crown.

With O’Brien closing in on 250 career Group One winners, there will be extra interest in a Racing Post Trophy that sees his son Joseph team up with Deauville who will attempt to reverse Royal Lodge form with the hot favourite Foundation from earlier this month.

Johannes Vermeer and the surprise Beresford winner Port Douglas join Deauville for a race that could wind up run on soft ground if forecast rain arrives at the Yorkshire track.

Going conditions will be very different in Melbourne at 7.40 this morning when Highland Reel attempt to provide O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore with back-to-back wins in Australia’s most prestigious all-aged middle distance race.

Poor draw

The Irish star is joined in a European raiding party by Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Sussex Stakes runner up Arod and France’s Gailo Chop and David Hayes, trainer of the top local hope Criterion, summed up many expectations when reporting: “In a normal Cox Plate of 10 years ago I would be very confident but I know how good these internationals are.”

Leopardstown’s Killavullan Stakes has a pedigree of throwing up future Group One stars but it’s been over a decade since Footstepsinthesand and Grey Swallow won back-to-back renewals of the Group Three contest.

The impressive Naas scorer Blue de Vega has a first start for Qatar Racing and his form has been boosted by Tribal Beat who renews rivalry again. However Black Sea won impressively at the Curragh and appears to have ample potential to step up significantly.

His jockey Colm O’Donoghue has had a mixed 2015, winning the Oaks on Qualify but losing the Leger on appeal. He can make the most of these Saturday opportunities as Simple Verse’s half-sister, Even Song, should be hard to beat in the Leopardstown opener.

Smullen can celebrate another title by winning aboard Zannda in the Trigo Stakes while another Listed prize could be secured by Ireland’s top jockey if Tested steps up in Sunday’s Knockaire Stakes.

Heartbreak City didn’t help his chance by running too keen in the English Cesarewitch and a drop in trip can help one of Tony Martin’s hopes for the €100,000 November Handicap.

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