O’Brien secures second Group One double in 24 hours at Chantilly

Happily and Rhododendron strike to increase trainer’s Group One wins to 22 this year

Out of luck in the Arc, Aidan O’Brien still managed to secure a Group One double for the second time in 24 hours as the fillies Happily and Rhododendron both won at Chantilly on Sunday.

With Clemmie and US Navy Flag landing the Cheveley Park and Middle Parks Stakes respectively at Newmarket the day before, Ireland’s champion trainer is on 22 Group One victories in 2017, the same as his total haul for 2016.

O’Brien is now odds-on with some layers to break Bobby Frankel’s world record of 25 top-flight winners in a calendar year.

Rhododendron reportedly burst a blood vessel on her previous visit to Chantilly when pulled up in July’s French Oaks but the filly who’d previously chased home Enable in the English Oaks bounced back in style in the Prix de l’Opera.


The O’Brien second-string got the better of her stable companion Hydrangea in a close finish and is likely to head next for the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare in Del Mar next month.


“She had a bad day the last time she came here which stopped her for six weeks and the lads did a great job to her back,” O’Brien said. “She’s all class and we thought she’d win the Oaks, only for her to run into Enable at Epsom.”

Happily added to her Moyglare victory when beating colts and giving O’Brien an eighth success in the Prix Jean Luc Lagardere.

The filly took revenge for her full brother Gleneagles who was disqualified from first in the 2014 race when proving too strong for Olmedo and Masar.

Happily now dominates betting for next year’s 1,000 Guineas with Clemmie but may not be finished for the season yet with the Juvenile Fillies race in Del Mar a possibility.

“It was the lads [Coolmore owners] who decided to run her against the colts so it was a brave call,” O’Brien said. “She’s a tough hardy filly. The fillies allowance wasn’t a disadvantage and she won well on the line.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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