O’Brien’s Group One record quest spans the globe this weekend
Idaho and Rain Goddess line up for champion trainer in Canada on Sunday
US Navy Flag appears to be O’Brien’s number one hope of a sixth Dewhurst Stakes success at Newmarket. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Aidan O’Brien’s top-flight global weekend targets extend from Melbourne to Toronto as he closes in on a world record tally of Group One victories.
After September failed by a whisker to overcome Laurens, and a less than clear passage, through Friday’s Fillies Mile, Ireland’s champion trainer is back at British racing’s HQ on Saturday where he saddles four hopefuls against the hot English favourite Expert Eye in the Darley Dewhust Stakes.
O’Brien needs just two more Group One wins to equal Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 in a calendar year and Paddy Power have already paid out on him breaking it. The Middle Park winner US Navy Flag appears to be his trainer’s number one hope of a sixth Dewhurst success.
But prior to Newmarket, early on Saturday morning, O’Brien’s progress towards a new record will see him attempt to secure just a second top-flight success in Australia.
Both Johannes Vermeer and Taj Mahal line up for the $I million Ladbrokes Stakes at the Caulfield track in a race due off at 5.50am Irish-time.
They are joined in the mile and a quarter race by the Willie Mullins-trained Riven Light, beginning a potentially lucrative Melbourne campaign by Ireland’s champion jumps trainer who has sent four horses Down Under including the Melbourne Cup hopes, Max Dynamite, Thomas Hobson and Wicklow Brave.
Mullins has engaged Makybe Diva’s jockey, Glen Boss, for Riven Light while O’Brien has also gone local with riders. Damien Oliver is on Taj Mahal while 23 -year-old ex-model Katelyn Mallyon has been engaged for the other Lloyd Williams-owned contender, Johannes Vermeer.
O’Brien’s sole top-flights success in Australia to date came with Adelaide in the 2014 Cox Plate. The trainer’s historic quest to overhaul Frankel’s 2003 haul could yet come to a resounding weekend climax with Idaho lining up in Sunday night’s $800,000 Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine.
Highland Reel’s brother finished only fifth to Erupt in last year’s race and has yet to strike at the top level.
However, despite also failing to fire in Saratoga’s Sword Dancer Stakes earlier this summer, Idaho crosses the Atlantic again and is a 5-2 local morning line favourite. The race is due off 11.10 Irish-time.
Ryan Moore goes to Canada to take the ride and will also be on board Rain Goddess who goes in the $500,000 EP Taylor Stakes on the same card at 10.28.
O’Brien has yet to win this ten furlong fillies event and Rain Goddess will clash again with the English hope Nezwaah who beat O’Brien’s hope in the Pretty Polly at the Curragh during the summer.
At home Naas hosts a pair of Listed contests and the prestigious Birdcatcher Nursery on its Sunday card although it is the €120,000 Foran Equine Auction Series Final which is the big money pot.
Not surprisingly a maximum field of 16 line up with three reserves still hoping to get in and ultimately it could represent a lucrative opportunity for Dermot Weld’s Yulong Gold Fairy. The filly beat two of her opponents, Quizical and Captain Vancouver, in a qualifier at the Galway festival when the Weld team were badly out of form.
She hasn’t been seen since and may be open to significant progress. Weld supplies Pat Smullen with four other rides on the Naas card as the champion chases a tenth jockeys’ title. Making Light won the Killavullan Stakes as a juvenile at this time last year and with soft ground on her side she can bounce back to winning form in the Clodovil Gamet Stakes.
Espoir d’Soleil ran into a tough opponent in her last start when chasing home Pincheck who lines up with a chance in Stakes company in Cork on Saturday. She can score in the ten furlong handicap while has a light weight and no Threeandfourpence to beat in the Birdcatcher.