Joseph O’Brien’s Latrobe to bid for Hong Kong Vase

Irish Derby hero primed for last major international Group One feature of the year

Joseph O'Brien's Irish Derby hero Latrobe is set to try and put a perfect seal on the young trainer's 2018 flat campaign at Hong Kong's international carnival next month.

O'Brien's first classic winner as a trainer is being targeted at the Longines Hong Kong Vase over a mile and a half during the last major international Group One programme of the year on December 9th.

Latrobe finished runner-up in the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington in Australia earlier this month when running over a mile and a quarter.

“He’s still in Australia and he’s being trained there for Hong Kong. He will be shipping out in the next week to ten days,” said O’Brien on Tuesday.


“It will be for the mile and a half race [the Vase]. He ran a cracker the last day and got away with the trip but I think his best distance is a mile and a half.

“He’s a good bit better off at the weights in Hong Kong than he was in Australia. He had to race off level weights with older horses there whereas in Hong Kong he gets five or six pounds. And he was giving Australian three year olds a stone and a bit,” he added.

However the weight scale won’t allow O’Brien’s brother, Donnacha, resume the partnership on Latrobe that saw them secure a memorable Derby victory at the Curragh during the summer.

That was another significant step on the meteoric rise to training fame by the former champion jockey who only officially took out a licence in June of 2016.

Last month came another Group One success with Iridessa confirming herself a classic prospect for 2019 by landing the Fillies Mile at Newmarket. Last week O'Brien reached 100 flat winners for 2018 in Ireland.

It has been a campaign that saw the 25-year-old finish runner-up (with €2.5 million in prizemoney here) to his father Aidan in Ireland’s trainers’ championship.

It has certainly continued the momentum of 2017's stunning Melbourne Cup victory when Rekindling beat Johannes Vermeer at Flemington.

O’Brien also had good news on Tuesday about the chances of he and Rekindling teaming up again in 2019.

“Rekindling never came back after the Melbourne Cup. He stayed in Australia but got some kind of injury. It remains to be seen but I’m hopeful he can come back to me next season,” he said.

O’Brien is an odds-on favourite to win Dundalk’s winter championship series and will have three runners at the all-weather circuit on Wednesday night.

However the scale of his dual-purpose operation is unmatched at the moment so, like many National Hunt trainers, O’Brien is anxiously keeping his fingers crossed for rain to ease ground conditions for some of his top jumpers.

Great shape

He is fifth in the National Hunt table already with 39 winners and is keen to get the wraps off some of his better jumpers such as last season’s Irish Gold Cup hero Edwulf.

"The plan is to start Edwulf off in the John Durkan Chase. It's obviously short of his optimum but he's in great shape and we'd like to start him off there.

"We have some nice novice hurdlers and chasers and I've a few entered at Gowran and Navan this weekend. But, like everyone else, we're waiting on rain.

“The plan is to go to the Drinmore[Novice Chase at Fairyhouse] with Le Richebourg and Rhinestone is in the Royal Bond [Novice Hurdle]. But he’s in a Grade Three over two and a half miles [Monksfield Novice Hurdle] at Navan on Sunday and we might look at that,” O’Brien said.

A total of 15 entries remain in the Monksfield after Tuesday’s forfeit stage and they include last weekend’s 1-5 Punchestown winner Commander Of Fleet.

The unbeaten four year old is one of a handful of entries in the race owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud. They also include the O’Brien-trained Choungaya.

O'Brien's recent impressive Thurles winner Silk And Sand is one of 17 still in contention for the Listed mares bumper on the Navan card.

Proud And Elated tries to break her duck in the Dundalk maiden on Wednesday but she’s up against the 81 rated Modern Love.

The latter hasn't run in over a year though and could be vulnerable. Denis Hogan runs two in the race and the Galway Plate-winning rider Mark Enright might make his mark on the flat with Dark Honey who could relish the drop back to six furlongs.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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