Bolger could spoil O’Brien’s chance of Group One record at Doncaster

Verbal Dexterity on course for final Group one of British season

It is Aidan O’Brien’s old mentor Jim Bolger who could present the biggest obstacle to Ireland’s champion trainer setting a new Group One world record at Doncaster on Saturday.

O'Brien is readying the might of more of his superb juvenile team for the Racing Post Trophy where victory will see him trump the late Bobby Frankel by saddling a 26th top-flight success this year.

He has indicated the joint-favourites for next year’s Derby – Saxon Warrior and The Pentagon – are likely to be his main hopes for the final top-flight prize of the British season which has 22 entries left in it.

Some of the 10 other Ballydoyle names among them are likely to be routed instead to Sunday’s two Group One events in Paris, while others may be diverted even further to the following weekend’s Breeders’ Cup action in Del Mar, California.


Such strength in depth means many feel it is a case of “when” and not “if” O’Brien has the Group One record to himself, and one firm reports cutting him to 4-9 about reaching 30 top-class winners before the end of 2017.

The home team has found it hard to repel O’Brien in the top two-year-old prizes in recent weeks, including when the Irishman saddled an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 in the Dewhurst stakes earlier this month.

This time they could have the John Gosden-trained Royal Lodge winner Roaring Lion, as well as Godolphin’s supplementary entry Loxley on their side.

Loxley's stable companion Masar, winner of the Solario Stakes and third last time out in the Prix Jean Luc Lagadere, is another potential runner.


However rather than the leading cross-channel players, it is Bolger who could ultimately be best placed to be a world-record spoilsport on Saturday.

Verbal Dexterity has already proven Group One credentials with a National Stakes success at the Curragh to his credit. His veteran trainer reports him to be over the dirty scope that caused him to miss the Dewhurst.

After working the colt at the weekend, Bolger has reported: “He worked well, scoped clean and the plan is to run. He’s the best looking horse in Ireland at the moment.”

He also said: “He’ll work again on Tuesday, and that should leave him ready for the Racing Post Trophy. That’s the objective at the moment. I wouldn’t be looking back [at the Dewhurst]. Hopefully we get the business done in Doncaster.”

O’Brien was 18 when he started working for Bolger, and spent 3½ years working at the renowned Coolcullen stables before leaving to help his future wife Anne Marie at their Piltown yard.

It was a move that famously prompted Bolger to say: “I would have done anything to keep Aidan – bar marry him!”

Possible starters

O’Brien’s other Racing Post entries include the trio of Nelson, Kew Garden and Delano Roosevelt, who he has already mentioned as possible starters for the 10 furlong Criterium de Saint-Cloud on Sunday.

The Dewhurst fourth Threeandfourpence is a possible for Saint-Cloud’s other Group One, the Criterium International, over seven furlongs.

Breeders’ Cup plans for the O’Brien team are starting to emerge, and although War Decree is a 33-1 outsider for his possible shot at Classic glory against Arrogate and Gun Runner, bookmakers reckon the Irishman has potent ammunition for a number of other events at Del Mar.

The Dewhurst and Middle Park hero US Navy Flag has been installed a 3-1 favourite in places for the Juvenile Turf, while Rhododendron shades the US star Lady Eli in many lists for the Filly & Mare. Happily and September are towards the top of betting for the Juvenile Turf for fillies.

Turf crown

Roly Poly is currently an 8-1 shot for the Mile, while Highland Reel is a 3-1 second favourite behind Ulysses to successfully defend his mile and a half Turf crown. Last year’s success was the sixth time O’Brien has saddled the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner. Found won it for him the year before in 2015.

Pre-entered fields for what will be the 34th Breeders’ Cup – but the first run at the Del Mar track near San Diego – will be announced this Wednesday. Vital post positions for the 13 Grade One races will be revealed the following Wednesday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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