O’Brien’s record to be bolstered by Caravaggio

Caravaggio is unbeaten in his three starts and his Coventry form has been boosted since

Whether Aidan O'Brien's remarkable top-flight record already constitutes a world record is unclear, but the champion trainer's star two-year-old Caravaggio is almost certain to start as hot favourite should he line up in this Sunday's Group One feature at the Curragh.

O'Brien's career Group/Grade One tally has been estimated at 282 after Minding's Nassau Stakes victory at Goodwood on Saturday.

That eclipses the 279 haul widely credited to the legendary Australian trainer Tommy Smith, although the Irishman's record counts National Hunt races, including Ivanovich Gorbatov's Triumph Hurdle success in March, officially O'Brien's even though he himself credits his son Joseph with training the horse.

The situation is further complicated in that many of Smith’s victories in the 1950s and 1960s are retrospectively credited as Group 1 since the pattern system was only introduced in Europe in 1971 and a little later in Australia.


Whatever the tot, however, there’s no denying that the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes is the single most prolific race towards O’Brien’s outstanding Group 1 tally.

Air Force Blue’s brilliant success a year ago was the trainer’s 14th win in Europe’s first juvenile Group 1 of the season and the €250,000 highlight looks wide open to become No 15 if Caravaggio gets the green light to run.

Already a 7-2 favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas, the Scat Daddy colt earned raves from Ryan Moore after his scintillating Coventry Stakes victory at Royal Ascot in June.

Likely target

Caravaggio is unbeaten in his three starts and his Coventry form has been boosted since by a pair of Group 2 wins for the Ascot runner up, Mehmas.

O’Brien immediately afterwards nominated the Curragh race as a likely target for his latest potential superstar as Europe’s Group 1 juvenile programme kicks off. The Prix Morny at Deauville will take place a fortnight after the Phoenix.

"Aidan has indicated the Phoenix Stakes is his target so we're very hopeful Caravaggio will come," Curragh spokesman Paul Hensey said.

"Some good two year olds have been winning in the last few weeks and one horse we'd love to see come is Clive Cox's horse, Tis Marvellous, who won the Prix Robert Papin in France last week. He would have to be supplemented on Tuesday but I know he's having a look at it," he added.

Another possible cross-channel challenger could Van Der Decken, bought by Godolphin after winning his maiden at the Curragh for Paddy Twomey earlier this season.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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