Just a few days after losing a Group 1 prize at the British Horseracing Authority’s
headquarters, Aidan O'Brien aims for an 11th top-flight prize of the season in Newmarket's Cheveley Park Stakes and has Ryan Moore on his side as the jockey teams up with Alice Springs.
After the disappointment of Bondi Beach losing the St Leger on appeal, this could still be something of a milestone weekend for Ireland’s champion trainer.
The Cheveley Park is a rare blank on O'Brien's illustrious CV but in contrast at the Curragh on Sunday he will have three shots at securing what would be a record-breaking 15th success in the Group 2 Juddmonte Beresford Stakes.
Moore, who returned to action from injury on Thursday, travels to ride in Ireland for the first time in three months and will team up with Beacon Rock in the Beresford, as well as another pair of Ballydoyle juveniles on the Curragh card.
Before that however, Moore has seven rides at Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire fixture, a book that also includes the O’Brien-trained Deauville in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes.
O’Brien has won the mile contest on five previous occasions and Deauville, who beat Thursday’s Somerville winner Sanus Per Aquam in the Tyros Stakes, is already as low as 16-1 for next year’s Derby.
Alice Springs is a 16-1 shot for the 2016 Oaks on the back of her third to stable companions Minding and Ballydoyle in the Moyglare Stud Stakes a couple of weeks ago and drops back to six furlongs for the prestigious Cheveley Park.
She is joined by the supplemented Bear Cheek whose trainer Ger Lyons saddled the last Irish-trained winner of the race, Lightening Pearl, in 2011. Bear Cheek steps up to six furlongs after a Flying Childers fourth at Doncaster.
“She will wise up and be better for that experience – she wasn’t beaten far and gave the impression that a step-up to six furlongs may not be beyond her,” Lyons said. “But I cannot be sure that she will get the longer trip as she is a very fast filly.”
A trio of Irish hopes will aim to become just the sixth winner of the historic Cambridgeshire and they appear to be headed by Mick Halford’s Portage, runner-up in the Irish Cambridgeshire a month ago.
“The better the ground, the more he’ll like it, and the step up to nine furlongs should suit him,” the Co Kildare-based trainer said.
On Sunday Portage's jockey William Buick travels to the Curragh to team up with Halford's Anamba in the Group 3 CL & MF Weld Park Stakes, a race which was won by the subsequent Oaks heroine Qualify a year ago.
However, few two-year-old prizes anywhere have a pedigree to compare with the Beresford in terms of throwing up future elite performers.
Nijinsky and Sadler's Wells were among Vincent O'Brien's 14 winners and St Nicholas Abbey one of the 14 his Ballydoyle successor has already saddled in a race which perhaps most notably of all wound up Sea The Stars' juvenile career.
That Moore is on Beacon Rock, officially the lowest-rated of O’Brien’s trio, and Emmet McNamara on the highest, Port Douglas, indicates a notably trappy contest but the Ballydoyle team do have form lines to their main rivals and jockey arrangements could prove the biggest clue.
Conversely, Moore might be on the wrong one in the Park Stakes as better ground, and cheekpieces, can prove crucial to the imperiously bred Coolmore reversing Leopardstown form with Anamba and breaking her maiden in a Group 3.
Sunday’s other black type event, the Listed Loughbrown Stakes over two miles, sees last year’s winner Toe The Line faced with a major task against Silwana.