Dual King George tilt for Aidan O’Brien
Highland Reel and Idaho in action at Ascot while Roly Poly goes to Deauville on Sunday
Ryan Moore on Highland Reel wins the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Aidan O’Brien famously trained a 50-1 Oaks winner a couple of years ago but the fact he’s the same odds for the Galway festival’s Leading Trainer Award points to his Group One priorities over the coming week.
Most local eyes are resolutely fixed on Ballybrit but Ireland’s champion trainer has his gaze cast further afield.
Highland Reel will bid to become just the third horse to win the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes in back-to-back years at Ascot on Saturday. His brother Idaho also gives O’Brien a solid chance of securing a record-equalling fifth success in the prestigious all-aged contest.
On Sunday, the Falmouth winner Roly Poly will try to give the Irishman a first success in the one mile Prix Rothschild at Deauville. She is one of nine opponents for the defending champion Qemah who won Royal Ascot’s Duke Of Cambridge Stakes last month.
And while Galway kicks into gear on Monday, Ballydoyle’s focus will be on Goodwood where Winter is a clear favourite to successfully step up to a mile and a quarter in Thursday’s Qatar Nassau Stakes and Churchill is widely regarded as the main threat to Ribchester in Wednesday’s Sussex Stakes.
With Caravaggio already favourite to try and redeem his tarnished reputation in next week’s Prix Maurice de Gheest, it’s a notably busy time for O’Brien who also has eight runners at the Curragh on Saturday.
Prior to Galway racing here has its traditional Sunday blank but it is O’Brien’s son Joseph who is as low as 9-4 for the festival’s Leading Trainer Award behind only the odds-on Willie Mullins.
The ground at Ballybrit is currently yielding on the jumps track and yielding to soft on the flat with more rain forecast overnight into Sunday.
It is ground on the soft side of good which is less than ideal for the Ballydoyle pair ahead of a King George which is set to be dominated in the market by the dual-Oaks winner, Enable.
“Both are well but the ground is the thing,” O’Brien said. “Idaho has form with ease in the ground and Highland Reel has a little bit too. We would be happy with good to soft and hopefully it won’t get any worse than that.”