Europe’s final busy Group One schedule of 2021 is set to have a major influence on 2022’s Classic complexion.
Aidan O’Brien has yet to hit the top-flight bullseye with any of his two-year-old colts this season but has three chances to put that right on Saturday afternoon.
The unbeaten and hugely exciting Luxembourg is hot favourite to give O'Brien a record-equaling 10th success in Doncaster's Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes.
Ryan Moore teams up with Luxembourg for the first time in a race that has thrown up subsequent Guineas winners in each of the last four years.
O'Brien's Ballydoyle team will have a couple of Group One shots in Paris before that though.
The busy Glounthaune will have a third start in a fortnight in the €250,000 Criterium International.
Christophe Soumillon takes the ride on last weekend's Killavullan Stakes winner Ioritz Mendizabal, O'Brien's go-to jockey in France this year partners Aikhal in the same mile contest due off 12.58 Irish time. The Lagadere winner Angel Bleu looks their most accomplished opponent.
Half an hour later it will be a real family affair in the Criterium De Saint-Cloud.
O'Brien snr's Stone Age (Soumillon) is joined by Buckaroo (Oisín Murphy) and the supplemented Unconquerable (Frankie Dettori) trained by his sons Joseph and Donnacha respectively.
Unconquerable renews rivalry with Godolphin hope Goldspur who edged him by a head in the Zetland Stakes on Future Champions Day at Newmarket a fortnight ago.
That fixture enabled Godolphin exert a grip on next year’s Guineas betting through the Dewhurst winner Native Trail and the impressive Coroebus.
On the back of this year’s Derby domination by Sheikh Mohammed’s operation those results helped the case for those arguing that Ballydoyle/Coolmore’s hegemony in Europe’s top races is under serious threat.
O'Brien's sole Group One juvenile victory this season has come with the filly Tenebrism in the Cheveley Park, so the focus is firmly on Luxembourg to boost Classic hopes for next year.
If commercial considerations at the world’s premier stallion business encourage O’Brien to be positive about his horses there appears to be genuine belief that the “very special” Luxembourg can live up to his billing.
The son of 2011 Futurity hero Camelot oozed class when sauntering home in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last month.
Legendary Henry Cecil
That race was used en route to Doncaster by previous Ballydoyle winners such as Saxon Warrior and St Nicholas Abbey in a run of Futurity success kicked off by Saratoga Springs in 1997. One more and O'Brien will equal the legendary Henry Cecil's haul.
Donnacha O’Brien rode Magna Grecia when he won in 2018 and now saddles Sissoko on the back of a six-length Curragh maiden victory.
Successful last year with Mac Swiney, Jim Bolger is back with Leopardstown winner McTigue.
It's noticeable though that Rory Cleary, who guided Mac Swiney to Irish Guineas glory in May, is on duty for Bolger at Doncaster with stable jockey Kevin Manning staying at home for Leopardstown's Eyrefield Stakes.
The veteran rider teams up with Boundless Ocean in the Group Three while Gavin Ryan, who was aboard Sissoko last time, is also on Eyrefield duty.
Ryan teams up with the Killarney winner Piz Badile in a hot looking contest marked by the presence of a cross-channel raider in William Haggas's Grenoble.
A lot went wrong for French Claim on his Listowel debut including a slow start from a bad draw.
His trainer Paddy Twomey could have availed of a Group One entry at Saint-Cloud but has opted to remain at home instead, a decision that may pay off with a victory that tees up French Claim for 2022.