O’Brien bids to extend remarkable Beresford Stakes dominance

John Hammond, trainer Of Montjeu, announces his retirement

Shane Stokes guides Albigna to victory in the Arlie Stud Stakes at the Curragh during June’s Irish Derby festival. Jessica Harrington’s filly is set to contest Sunday’s CL Weld Park Stakes at HQ. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The Curragh’s turbulent 2019 season starts to wind down this weekend although Sunday’s feature is potentially set to proceed down a very settled route.

Aidan O’Brien has dominated the Group Two Beresford Stakes like no other significant contest during his record-breaking career.

Thirteen Irish Derby victories is the champion trainer’s biggest classic haul while the Group One Phoenix Stakes has gone his way 16 times.

However O’Brien can boast a remarkable 18 victories in the Beresford including the last eight in a row. They include Japan a year ago and Saxon Warrior in 2017 who both won at Naas due to the Curragh’s reconstruction.


However Sunday sees the historic contest – with a classic roll of honour that includes Sea The Stars in 2008 and Nijinsky 50 years ago – return to its Curragh home.

Irish racing’s revamped HQ races on both Saturday and Sunday, after which it will host two more fixtures in October before finishing for the winter. It will resume at the end of March.

O’Brien has 10 of the 21 entries left in Sunday’s €110,000 highlight which he first won in 1996 with Johann Cruyff. Since then only three other trainers have managed to disrupt Ballydoyle’s Beresford bandwagon.

Jessica Harrington won with Curtain Call a dozen years ago while Michael Halford struck with Casamento in 2010. The only other one to succeed is John Oxx who was a victorious with an elite trio in Alamshar (2002,) Azamour a couple of years later, and then Sea The Stars.

O’Brien’s list of potential hopefuls include the recent five-length Galway winner Persia while Iberia was one of those with the thankless task of chasing Pinatubo in the National Stakes earlier this month.

Sunday’s other Group race, the CL Weld Park Stakes, won last year by the subsequent dual-Guineas heroine Hermosa, includes Albigna among its 18 acceptors after Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

Jessica Harrington’s filly was a major fancy for the Moyglare over ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ but could eventually finish only sixth behind Love.

Saturday’s Group Three AES Renaissance Stakes is set to see the remarkable Gordon Lord Byron contest the 105th race of his career.

Potential opposition

The veteran triple-Group One winner has won 16 races in all, including four up the Curragh. His potential opposition at the weekend includes another ‘Byron’ with English trainer Roger Varian considering the race for Cape Byron.

The Wokingham winner was third on his last start at York behind Shine So Bright and Laurens over seven furlongs.

It's 20 years since the brilliant Montjeu landed the Irish Derby at Irish racing's HQ and on Tuesday his trainer John Hammond announced he will retire at the end of the year.

The 59-year-old Englishman has been based in France throughout his career but boasts strong Irish links having lived near Fairyhouse as a teenager where he used to ride out for Jim Dreaper. He was also a student for two years at Trinity College.

Montjeu , who went on to become a leading sire, was one of two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners Hammond trained. Suave Dancer was also an Arc winner in 1991.

Earlier that year Suave Dancer had also won the French Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes but had to settle for second to Generous in the Irish Derby.

Wednesday's action is at Sligo where Moskovite makes her debut over fences. Denis Hogan's runner was the best of these over hurdles and has point to point experience.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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