Aidan O’Brien to focus on Ascot after frustrating classic weekend at the Curragh
Racing: Ryan Moore pulls a rabbit out of the hat on Magical in Kilboy Estate Stakes
Sea of Class ridden by James Doyle wins the Darley Irish Oaks at Curragh Racecourse, Co Kildare. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Ryan Moore endured a relatively frustrating classic weekend for Aidan O’Brien at the Curragh but is sticking with the champion trainer in this Saturday’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Crystal Ocean is a general 2-1 favourite for the Ascot highlight after winning all three of his starts this season under Moore. They included last month’s Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot when the English jockey rode the Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt to victory despite O’Brien running both Cliffs Of Moher and Idaho in the race.
Moore’s long-time ally Stoute has also indicated he will run the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes winner Poet’s Word in British racing’s midsummer all-aged feature. He is second-favourite in most ante-post lists.
In 2009 Stoute famously saddled a 1-2-3 in the King George, with Moore on board the winner, Conduit. But he won’t be able to call on the jockey’s coveted services this time.
O’Brien’s Grand Prix de Paris winner Kew Gardens has been backed into 5-1 for the King George and heads a list of four possible Ballydoyle contenders.
“He [Kew Gardens] only ran last week so we’ll have to see what happens. But I will be riding for Aidan,” Moore said on Sunday.
O’Brien also nominated Cliffs Of Moher, the Irish Derby runner-up Rostropovich, and Nelson as others in the running to line up at Ascot.
“Kew Gardens is progressing lovely. We were delighted with him in France and we’ve been happy with him since,” said O’Brien.
He outlined those plans after Magical returned to action with an all-the-way victory under Moore in the group two Kilboy Estate Stakes on Sunday.
“It’s nice to get one for the weekend,” O’Brien joked afterwards.
The Ballydoyle trainer’s hopes of a 40th Irish classic in the previous day’s Oaks were trumped by the English raider Sea of Class.
She proved a neck too good for Forever Together after coming from last to first under a superb ride from James Doyle. Moore had to settle for fifth on the odds-on favourite Magic Wand.
“She [Magic Wand] had a dirty nose when she came back so maybe she was a little below par. Her scopes and her bloods were perfect all the way up to the race,” O’Brien said.
She was leaning left a little all the way up the straight. Hopefully she’ll be okay
Given better luck Magical could have been the one to give her trainer an elusive first Irish classic of 2018. The daughter of Galileo had been favourite for the Epsom Oaks in June but knocked a joint and had to miss that race. O’Brien considered bringing her back in Saturday’s big race but the decision to wait for Sunday’s Group Two paid off in style.
Magical drifted left in the closing stages but it was a notably smooth performance that earned her 5-1 quotes for Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes.
“She was leaning left a little all the way up the straight. Hopefully she’ll be okay. How far she’ll stay I’m not sure. Talking to Ryan he thought maybe she wasn’t ready to step up to a mile and a half yet. But the rest of the season is in front of her if she’s okay,” O’Brien said.
He and Moore later doubled up with the handicap winner Cliffs of Dooneen. Whether O’Brien can prevent a rare blank in the 2018 Irish classics, however, depends on whether or not you believe September’s Curragh Leger actually qualifies for such status.
Purists might believe classics, by definition, are for three-year-olds only. Including the Leger, though, means O’Brien still has an opportunity to fend off a first domestic blank since 2005.
After Saturday’s British rout of the home team in the three Group races – all won by the Oaks hero James Doyle – as well as a cross-channel success in the Scurry Handicap, the raiders were also dominant in Sunday’s Group Two Sapphire Stakes.
Havana Grey led home a 1-2-3 for the visitors, striking a blow for the three-year-olds against the 2017 winner Caspian Prince and the 2-1 favourite Mabs Cross.
Last season’s Molecomb winner was cut to 10-1 for York’s Nunthorpe Stakes, and his Co Wexford born jockey PJ McDonald was impressed with this return to form.
“For some reason or another he just wasn’t firing early on in the year. We knew it was a tough task taking on older sprinters and his first couple of runs were going to be difficult,” he said.
“Fair play to Karl [Burke], he didn’t panic and let him come good. They’ve got him back and fingers crossed now we can have a good end to the season,” McDonald added.
Colm O’Donoghue landed a double, initiated by Chocolate Music’s winning debut in the juvenile maiden for Jessica Harrington, who nominated York’s Lowther Stakes as a possible next target.
Terzetto completed O’Donoghue’s brace by getting up close home to beat her stable companion Surrounding in a fillies handicap.