Aidan O’Brien targets first flat win in Britain with Coolmore
Ballydoyle handler is second favourite to win flat trainers championship in Britain
Trainer Aidan O’Brien: his team have hit the ground running so far this season with eight winners in Ireland already. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Ireland’s leading trainer is gearing up the odds-on favourite Air Force Blue for the 2,000 Guineas in less than three weeks time and that colt’s Dewhurst Stakes success last autumn was one of five Group 1 victories for O’Brien in Britain in 2015.
That tally also included Gleneagles’ Guineas success, as well as landing the Oaks, and although the immediate focus in terms of trainer titles is Willie Mullins’s attempt to land the British jumps championship, O’Brien is already a 5-2 second favourite to win the flat equivalent this year.
The Ballydoyle handler has dominated the Irish trainers championship since 1999, winning it 18 times in all, but he has also been champion in Britain on four occasions in 2001 and 2002 as well as 2007 and 2008.
Bookmakers rate John Gosden a 5-6 favourite to retain his title this year.
That colt tops some betting lists for the QEII Cup in Hong Kong on Sunday week but the immediate focus will be on Coolmore, fourth to her stable companion Minding, in last year’s Fillies Mile and who steps back a furlong for the Group 3 Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes.
“We think she’ll stay further and the purpose of going is to see whether we’ll go back for the English Guineas. We always thought maybe the Irish Guineas and then step up to a mile and a quarter. Seven furlongs will be tight enough for her, but it will give us a feel,” O’Brien said.
Ryan Moore teams up with Coolmore, a Group winner last year in the Park Stakes, while Pat Smullen travels to Newmarket to again team up with the Joe Murphy-trained Only Mine. She won the Listed Bosra Sham Stakes at the track last October.
“We’ll find out whether she’ll stay seven furlongs or whether we need to be going back to six,” Murphy said. “We’re on a fact-finding mission. I’d say it’s as good a 1000 Guineas trial as you’ll find.”
The likely favourites include the Gosden hope, Nathra, runner-up to Minding last year, and Richard Hannon’s Illuminate, second to Lumiere in the Cheveley Park last season.
With less than a fortnight to the end of the British jumps season, Mullins is a 1-10 favourite to emulate Vincent O’Brien (from 1952-54) by landing the cross-channel trainers championship.
Mullins’s six winners at the Aintree festival put him almost £250,000 clear of Paul Nicholls.