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Dublin: 21 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019

O'Brien continues fine form in British Classics after Guineas double success

Donn McClean reflects on all the action from Newmarket.

Irish trainer, Aidan O'Brien.
Irish trainer, Aidan O'Brien.
Image: Mike Egerton

AIDAN O’BRIEN’S EXTRAORDINARY relationship with the British Classics continued last weekend.

When Magna Grecia won the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday, the son of Invincible Spirit notched up the trainer’s 10th victory in the colts’ Classic.

When Hermosa won the 1000 Guineas on Sunday, she brought up his fifth win in the fillies’ Classic.

Together, they took O’Brien’s total number of British Classic wins to 34.

10 in the 2000 Guineas, five 1000 Guineas, six Derbys, seven Oaks, six St Legers. It’s an incredible haul.

Magna Grecia was very good on Saturday. He settled well early on for Donnacha O’Brien, second of the three horses who raced down the near side.

He moved up nicely to join early leader Shine So Bright on the near side just inside the two-furlong marker, he picked up to hit the front on the run to the furlong pole and went clear.

A masterful performance gave him a two-and-a-half-length victory, easing down at the line from King Of Change and with Skardu doing best of those who raced down the centre to finish third.

QIPCO Guineas Festival - Day One - Newmarket Racecourse Magna Grecia ridden by jockey Donnacha O'Brien wins the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes. Source: Mike Egerton

It is never ideal when a Classic field splits into two groups. It makes for inconclusive analysis. What if the winner had raced in the other group?

What if the losers had raced in the other group? That said, Magna Grecia was a strong Guineas contender going into the race – last year’s Vertem Futurity Trophy winner – and he won with so much in hand on Saturday that, while it is impossible to be certain, it is difficult to argue with the hypothesis that he was the best horse in the race at the distance on the day, and that he would have won regardless of where he had raced on the track.

Horses to take out of the race with an eye on the future? The winner, of course. He is favourite for the Irish 2000 Guineas, and so he should be.

Skardu did well to keep on as well as he did for third place, best of the main group. This was just the Craven Stakes winner’s third race, and there is every chance that he can continue his forward march.

The Irish 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot over this trip of a mile are legitimate targets.

Ten Sovereigns also ran a big race, he led the main body of the field until deep into the final furlong of the race. The No Nay Never colt has buckets of pace, and the option to drop down in trip, probably for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot over six furlongs, is a good option to have.

bet365 Craven Meeting - Day Two - Newmarket Racecourse Skardu (right) ridden by James Doyle wins the bet365 Craven Stakes at Newmarket. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

By contrast, Madhmoon shaped as if he might appreciate a slight step up in trip. Kevin Prendergast’s colt won his two races over a mile last season as a juvenile, and he is bred to be a miler, but he stayed on well on Saturday for fourth place, and it may be that he will improve for a step up to 10 furlongs.

Hermosa did well to win the 1000 Guineas on Sunday. She was sent to the front from flagfall by Wayne Lordan, and she led from there all the way to the winning line.

The Galileo filly was making her three-year-old debut, but had juvenile form.

An impressive winner of the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes at Naas last September, she finished second to Iridessa in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket next time, and she rounded off last season by finishing second again to Royal Meeting in the Group 1 Criterium International at Chantilly in October.

There was never any doubt about her stamina – she is by Galileo, and she is a full sister to Hydrangea, who won the Group 1 Fillies & Mares Stakes over a mile and a half – so it made sense to ride her forward, and Lordan got the fractions spot on.

He rode her with controlled aggression, leading from early but keeping enough in reserve for the final climb to the line to land the second 1000 Guineas of his career, just two years after he had ridden Winter to victory in the race, also for Aidan O’Brien.

QIPCO Guineas Festival - Day Two - Newmarket Racecourse Trainer Aidan O'Brien (right) after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas with Hermosa. Source: Mike Egerton

Qabala didn’t really have the run of the race. Roger Varian’s filly shipped a slight bump from her stable companion Mot Juste on the run to the two-furlong marker, and she had to switch to the far side of Fairyland, so she did well to run on as well as she did to take third place.

Just Wonderful ran on well from the rear to take sixth place, and Iridessa ran better than her finishing position in eighth place suggests, racing as if she might appreciate a step up in trip now.

By contrast, Lady Kaya could appreciate a step down now in trip. Sheila Lavery’s filly ran a monster race to finish second under Robbie Colgan.

She was in front on the near side from a long way out, and she had to do a lot of racing on her own, away from the five fillies on the far side who shared the front rank with her.

For a filly whose stamina over a mile was unproven, she kept on remarkably strongly.

The Dandy Man filly should do even better now dropped back down again in trip. As such, the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs would be a legitimate Royal Ascot target, but it may be that she will be fast enough for the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup over six.

She could meet Ten Sovereigns and last week’s impressive Pavilion Stakes winner Calyx there, and that would be a fascinating encounter.

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Donn McClean

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