Winter completes Guineas double-double for Aidan O’Brien

O’Brien heads into next week’s Epsom Derby in blistering form after classic clean sweep

Winter emulated her stable companion Churchill by completing the Newmarket-Curragh Guineas double on Sunday giving Aidan O'Brien a 70th classic victory and sending Ireland's champion trainer to the ultimate classic at Epsom next weekend in blistering form.

If Churchill’s absence robs the Derby of a little lustre on Saturday there’s still a neat fit to O’Brien’s plans for half a dozen of his Ballydoyle blue-bloods lining up in the world’s most famous flat race.

Victory will equal the six ‘Blue Riband’ victories of his legendary Ballydoyle predecessor, Vincent O’Brien. And with Rhododendron favourite for Friday’s Oaks, Europe’s most prepotent trainer will be widely expected to maintain his dominance of 2017’s classics.

If Churchill was impressive in Saturday's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas, Winter was even more so in Sunday's 1,000, the 8-13 favourite winning by almost five lengths when ridden for the first time by Ryan Moore.


The ‘Double-Double’ made it four out of four for O’Brien in Irish and British classics this season and just to emphasise the point Winter beat her stable companions Roly Poly and Hydrangea in a Ballydoyle 1-2-3.

For even further good measure, O’Brien’s sons, Joseph and Donnacha, finished fourth with Intricately and his overwhelming strength in depth means he is only 14-1 to win all ten British and Irish classics this year.

At only 46 O’Brien has already redefined the parameters of racing success and 20 years after Classic Park and Desert King opened his classic catalogue with an Irish Guineas double, it was a case of ‘as you were’ at the weekend with the promise of much more to come.

Winter is set to accompany Churchill to Royal Ascot and is already odds on for the Coronation Stakes.

“Ryan was very impressed, said she was as easy a classic winner as you could believe. If everything goes well you’d be thinking of the Coronation because she’s a good strong traveller,” O’Brien said of the ex-David Wachman trained star.

“Very straightforward,” summed up Moore who could be on the joint-favourite Cliffs Of Moher in the Derby. “Every time I asked he she kept finding and ran all the way to the line.”

It was anything but straightforward behind the winner and the positions of the fifth past the post, Rehana, and sixth, Bean Fasa, were reversed after an incident before half way.

Pat Smullen got a one day suspension for causing interference on Rehana but Bean Fasa's trainer, Jim Bolger, was critical of the champion jockey, describing his riding as "disgraceful."

“It should never have happened and it was very obviously dangerous riding,” he said on the ‘Attheraces’ Channel. “The filly is fine but it could have been otherwise and there was absolutely no need for it. Pat Smullen had the whole track under him and decides to play jockey and take out the two on his inside. There’s no excuse for that sort of carry on.”

Smullen declined to comment on Bolger’s comments.

Earlier Moore had to be at his best to get Homesman home in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes and also scored for O'Brien and the Coolmore owners on Iron Mountain. He was out of luck in the Tattersalls Gold Cup when only third on Deauville behind the English raider, Decorated Knight.

With much better weather on Sunday the Curragh’s on-site crowd of 2,800 was slightly up Saturday’s 2,500 when the track’s temporary facilities were put under pressure by very wet conditions.

That prompted some criticism on Saturday including from the former Minister for Agriculture and broadcaster Ivan Yates who was quoted as describing the set-up at the Curragh as an embarrassment to Irish racing.

The Curragh’s chief executive Derek McGrath rejected those comments on Sunday and said: “For me the biggest thing was that people came here not expecting the conditions. We had people here drenched in t-shirts.

“Some people feel we shouldn’t be racing here but we are here for many good reasons and we’re staying here to make it work. We are doing our best to be as positive as possible and we are listening to everyone.

“We now know we are in a position to cater for a 6,000 capacity, provide cover for 4,000 at one time and seating for 3,000 at one time. We are improving all the time.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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