Ballydoyle eye Futurity stakes success with Luxembourg

Prolific Irish stable yet to secure Group One victory with a juvenile colt this season

Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle team have yet to secure a vital Group One victory for a juvenile colt this season but Luxembourg is a general 5-4 favourite to fill that gap in Saturday's Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes in Doncaster.

Success in the final top-flight prize of the British season would mean O’Brien equals Henry Cecil’s record haul of 10 wins in the traditional pin-pointer to future Classic success.

Last year's Futurity hero Mac Swiney went on to land this year's Irish 2,000 Guineas while the previous three Futurity winners – Kameko, Magna Grecia and Saxon Warrior – all secured Guineas success at Newmarket the following year.

It is a decade since O’Brien won the Futurity with Camelot who proceeded to land both the Guineas and the Derby as a three year old.


Now his son, Luxembourg, is the big hope among a handful of Ballydoyle entries for Saturday’s cross-channel feature.

They are joined in the 15-strong overall entry by Donnacha O'Brien's Curragh maiden winner Sissoko and Buckaroo from Joseph O'Brien's yard. Jim Bolger's Mctigue, a winner at Leopardstown in August, has also been left in.

Expectation though will be highest around Luxembourg who was described as “very special” by his trainer after a hugely impressive success in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on his last start.

That promoted him to favouritism for next year’s Derby but the important kudos arising from winning at the top level at two will underline the colt’s value.

It has been an unusually frustrating season at juvenile level for Ballydoyle as Tenebrism in the Cheveley Park Stakes has been their sole Group One winner to date.

Point Lonsdale came up short in the National Stakes at the Curragh last month when runner up to Native Trail but as well as the Futurity, Saturday may also provide two other chances in Paris to put that statistic right.

Both the Criterium International and the Criterium de Saint-Cloud are Group One races which O'Brien has respectively won five and four times in the past.

Nevertheless there’s likely to be a lot riding on Luxembourg extending his unbeaten record to three against high class opposition.

Angel Bleu landed the Prix Jean Luc Lagadere at Longchamp on Arc day where he had Ballydoyle's hope, Stone Age, well behind him in sixth.

Royal Patronage is also set to line up having had the form of his Royal Lodge victory last month significantly boosted since by the runner up Coroebus.

O'Brien's representative Howth was fifth in that race. He is also among the Futurity entries as are Stone Age and Aikhal.

All of it is in the context of some uncertainty about the form of the Ballydoyle string overall.

Another of their Futurity entries, Glounthaune, narrowly won the Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday, a performance subsequently talked up by jockey Seamus Hefferenan.

“I’ve been a little disappointed with a few of ours lately and I think if this lad was himself he’d have gone around there on the bridle. But, in fairness, he showed a great will to win,” added Heffernan.

Under its various guises the Doncaster highlight has proved a notably happy hunting ground for O'Brien who first won it with Saratoga Springs in 1997.

Stars such as High Chaparral (2001) and St Nicholas Abbey (2009) also feature on the roll of honour with the Irish man within sight of a notable landmark.

The first of Henry Cecil’s 10 victories came with Approval in 1969 while the legendary English trainer hit double figures 24 years later with King’s Theatre (1993.)

Unlucky Mac Swiney

In other news, Noble Truth, who chased home Angel Bleu in the Lagadere, could also be in action on Saturday in the Group Three Virgin Bet Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury.

The Godolphin runner is one of 16 entries in the race which also includes the potential Jim Bolger raider, Boundless Ocean.

The son of Teofilo ran twice in 48 hours last week, finishing runner up on his Curragh debut to Dark Vega, before making a quick reappearance in the Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown.

Boundless Ocean met with some interference in that Group Three before ultimately finishing in fourth place behind Glounthaune.

Bolger's Mac Swiney also didn't get a clear run in Saturday's Champion Stakes at Ascot when third to Sealiway and Dubai Honour.

The latter only just missed out in a gruelling contest and could now be put away with an international campaign in mind.

"He's in the Bahrain race [Bahrain International Trophy] and I had hoped to go there to support it, but he had quite a hard race. He may not run anywhere and may be trained for Dubai. He's a gelding now so has no residual value apart from what he can win on the track. He's won some decent money already but Hong Kong is very valuable, so is Bahrain and so is Dubai – so they are the options for him," said his trainer William Haggas.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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