Colm O’Donoghue raring to add to Royal Ascot tally
Jessica Harrington’s Alpha Centauri among favourites for Group One Coronation Stakes
Colm O’Donoghue and Alpha Centauri win the Irish 1,000 Guineas in May. Photograph: Peter Mooney/Inpho
Colm O’Donoghue broke his Royal Ascot duck two years ago with a shock 33-1 success but the multiple-classic winning jockey can anticipate going into next week’s meeting with a handful of prime big race fancies.
Chief among them will be the Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Alpha Centauri who’s on the verge of a potential ‘Race of the Week’ clash in the Coronation Stakes.
However she is backed up by a number of other Jessica Harrington-trained stars including the Gold Cup hope Torcedor and Brother Bear in the Jersey Stakes.
With promising two-year-olds such as Indigo Balance (Coventry Stakes) and Chicas Amigas (Albany Stakes) also in contention to make the trip O’Donoghue is understandably hopeful of adding to his Royal Ascot tally.
The multiple Group One winning rider has won at the world famous meeting just once before when Sword Fighter belied long odds to beat the subsequent St Leger winner Harbour Law in the 2016 Queens Vase.
Sword Fighter was the outsider of Aidan O’Brien’s team in that race and O’Donoghue enjoyed a lot of success through almost two decades working for the champion trainer when called upon.
Qualify’s 50-1 Oaks success in 2015 was one of an impressive number of top-flight successes around the world for Ballydoyle but last year O’Donoghue left the sport’s most powerful operation to concentrate on riding as Harrington’s No.1.
“The way it’s gone in the last 12 months is amazing. The quality is there and the horses have trained on.
“From an older horse point of view with Torcedor, and Alpha Centauri coming through in the Guineas, it’s been fantastic. Everybody was held up a bit in the Spring with their two year olds but they’re taking everything really well too.
“It’s these big days at Royal Ascot that are the ones you want to be competing in with a live chance,” the rider said on Tuesday.
Alpha Centauri came agonisingly close to adding to O’Donoghue’s Royal Ascot tally a year ago when just beaten in the Albany Stakes.
However she struck classic gold in last month’s Irish 1,000 Guineas and could feature in a mouth-watering clash against the winners of the English and French Guineas, Billesdon Brook and Teppal.
“She has always worked exceptionally well but she’s so quiet natured you’d worry sometimes if you’re doing too little or too much with her. So in my head there were some questions when she was beaten in her trial. It was great then that she proved us all right in the Guineas.
“She wouldn’t like it too firm but there are a few showers expected and Ascot do a great job so for me the ground won’t be an issue for Alpha,” he said.
Alpha Centauri is towards the top of the Coronation Stakes betting while Brother Bear is as low as 8-1 for the Jersey after a smooth Listed success at Naas last month.
Prior to that he had finished third in the Tetrarch Stakes where no less than the subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Romanised was behind him in sixth.
“Seven furlongs in the Jersey will be ideal for him and going on a line from the Naas form with Romanised he’ll go there with a strong chance. He has plenty of pace and goes on most grounds,” the jockey said.
“I’m So Fancy, who won the Silver Flash on Saturday at the Curragh, is another possible to go to Ascot for the Wolferton Stakes which is a Listed race,” he added.
Prior to Ascot the O’Donoghue-Harrington team could be represented in Sunday’s Group Three Munster Oaks at Cork by the 92-rated maiden Written Word.
A total of 17 remain in the €70,000 contest after Tuesday’s contest including Bloomfield who on the track in April on heavy ground.