Fields of Athenry bids for Ebor glory for Aidan O’Brien

Colt can confirm his potential as a prime St Leger candidate with lucrative York victory

Seamie Heffernan guides  Fields of Athenry to victory in  the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown. Donnacha O’Brien will be on board today at York.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Seamie Heffernan guides Fields of Athenry to victory in the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown. Donnacha O’Brien will be on board today at York. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 
Ebor

A total of 15 O’Brien declarations over two days at the Curragh include the evocatively named Ballydoyle – already one of the favourites for next year’s 1,000 Guineas – in this afternoon’s Group Two feature.

So with all hands to the jockey pumps, and a valuable 5lb claim on his side, it is the trainer’s teenage son, Donnacha, who has the job of steering Fields Of Athenry in Europe’s richest flat handicap.

Irish domination at the top of the Ebor betting has only been emphasised with Clondaw Warrior’s promotion from first-reserve and he joins his stable companion Wicklow Brave as well as Tony Martin’s Quick in a powerful raid from this country.

Young O’Brien, who did his Leaving Cert this summer, faces a major task in navigating Fields Of Athenry from an outside draw but the sole three year old in the race is a general 10-1 shot for classic glory in just three weeks and represents something of an unknown factor in his first start for Danish owner, Flemming Velin.

A campaign

“He is a hardy, tough horse and gets a mile and six well,” said O’Brien who landed the Ebor with Mediterranean in 2001. “He went a good gallop at Leopardstown when he won the Ballyroan and he’s progressing well.”

Frankie Dettori has wound up on Clondaw Warrior and Jack Kennedy is on Wicklow Brave as O’Brien’s jumping counterpart, Willie Mullins, tries to emulate Sesenta’s 2009 Ebor success.

“I’m hoping Clondaw Warrior is well-in on his current rating,” Mullins said, referring to the horse’s fine Galway festival win. “What I don’t know is did he win because he liked Galway more than the rest? Will he be able to reproduce it on a track like York, a much more conventional track?”

Quick Jack landed the most valuable Ballybrit prize of all in the Galway Hurdle and has a first crack at the Ebor after previous placed efforts in the Cesarewitch and the Chester Cup. Toe The Line is the other Irish Ebor hope under Jamie Spencer.

The prizemoney stakes at the Curragh might not be quite in the same league but it will be very expensive elite considerations concentrating Coolmore minds at HQ today.

Ballydoyle leads a trio of regally bred O’Brien fillies in the Breast Cancer Research Debutante Stakes but in terms of evocative names, the newcomer Coolmore carries her share of expectation too as she’s due to begin her career in the opening mile maiden.

The sister to the classic winners Gleneagles and Marvellous could hardly boast a more fashionable pedigree although she faces a good test against the John Oxx-trained Star Of Kings who is on her third career start.

Both Ballydoyle and Alice Springs are around 14-1 for next year’s Guineas but Joseph O’Brien has opted for the Newmarket maiden winner who can book her ticket to future Group One targets in what is always an informative contest.

The Group Three Renaissance Stakes is all about the proven article and there are few more proven than Gordon Lord Byron who returns to the course and distance of his impressive Derby day success a couple of months ago.

Tom Hogan’s stalwart lost nothing in defeat when a fine third to Muharrar in the Maurice Du Gheest at Deauville last time and looks to have something to spare over this opposition at his best.

Bear Cheek was described as a “little bullet” by trainer Ger Lyons after a successful Naas debut and can emulate last year’s Curragh Stakes win by Ainippe for connections.

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