Aidan O’Brien and the Bobby Frankel World Record (G1)

Aidan O’Brien in the ring at Leopardstown

The bookmakers are offering 5/2 about Aidan O’Brien breaking Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group 1/Grade 1 victories in one year which was set in 2003.

Across the world there’s been 183 G1’s run so far this year.

Aidan has won 14 of them giving him an overall strike rate of 8%.

There’s 125 G1’s left to be run this year, 40% of the overall total, so to do it he’ll have to up his strike rate to 10% to break the record.

In that context you’d say 5/2 is probably a skinny price but maybe it’s not too far off the mark either when you consider the brilliance of the man himself and the team behind him. When you consider the power of the Ballydoyle operation, the depth in quantity and more importantly the quality of the horses at his disposal, just the sheer size of the operation means it’s possible.

It’s not probable.

Let’s examine the chances in the context of the G1 contests left that he can challenge for.

Ireland will sign off it’s Group 1 season running the last 5 of it’s 12 G1’s over this Champions Weekend. England have 12 G1’s left, France another 12 with Germany providing a further 2 opportunities and Italy 1 more. That’s 32 G1’s left in Europe.

So if he were to do it running in Europe then the required strike rate would be 38%. Now that’s looking a lot tougher especially when you consider he’ll unlikely have runners in all the remaining races.

Ballydoyle had a team of 14 engaged at Chantilly this Sunday but have decided not to declare anything for either the Prix Vermeille or Prix Du Moulin, the two G1’s which are the centrepiece of a terrific card in France so maybe a third of these European opportunities can be ruled out. This pushes the required strike rate to 54%.

There are other opportunities across the globe.

In America there’s 43 G1’s to be run, 28 on dirt and 15 on turf including 6 at the Breeders Cup at Del Mar in November. In Australia there’s 29 and in Japan there’s 12. Canada has 5 and Hong Kong offer’s another 4 opportunities.

Realistically in the States it is only the Breeders Cup that will provide chances and conceivably Aidan could contest all 6 turf races plus the Breeders Cup Classic on Dirt. In Australia there’s a possibility of 3 if you include the The Cox Plate, The Melbourne Cup and Mackinnon Stakes. In Canada he could contest 4 and in Hong Kong in December chances are they would be no more than 2 opportunities.

When you add up the opportunities, you’re talking about 44/46 range that Aidan could possibly contest. 12 wins then will require a strike rate of 26%. 5/2 doesn’t look so attractive now.

It’s more likely now Bobby Frankel’s record will never now be broken.

To do so requires a level of dominance in a sport which at the top-level is ultra competitive. Aidan O’Brien is best placed to do it but even with the depth of Ballydoyle resources it’s still more impossible than possible.

It’s conceivable he could capture all 5 of the domestic G1’s on offer this weekend as he’ll likely have a favourites chance in all of them. If he did win them all it would bring his tally to 19 sending the bookmakers into overdrive to slash him to odds on to achieve the feat but he’s never done that before, won the last 5 G1’s in Ireland, that in itself is an outlandish feat.

So it can’t be done. Unless.

Unless they targeted Japan. Highland Reel, Seventh Heaven or both could take in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), The Queen Elizabeth Commemorative Cup, The Mile Championship and The Japan Cup, all on turf spaced over 4 weeks beginning the end of October. That’s makes the required strike rate 24%, still highly unlikely but wouldn’t it be something if Aidan was to release his genius out east.

He mightn’t break the record but it would be some achievement to win a Breeders Cup race and a Japan Cup this autumn.

Recommendation: Lay Aidan O’Brien to break Bobby Frankel’s Record.

PS. Paddy Power have just quoted 2/7 for AOB not to break the record.

 

 

 

 

 

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Juddmonte International Stakes (G1)

Embed from Getty Images

Churchill beating Barney Roy in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. Picture courtesy of Alan Crowhurst and Getty Images.

It’s always a mouth-watering prospect.

This year even with only seven runners the Juddmonte International which always asks questions, asks the primary one, will Churchill get the trip of 10f? If he does will he be good enough to see off the opposition?

Let’s deal with the opposition first.

Barney Roy already has the scalp of Churchill. He overturned his Guineas run when second to Churchill by comprehensively beating him when they met over a mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was then stepped up in trip to this distance in the Coral Eclipse last month when Ulysses sprang somewhat of a surprise to beat him a nose. Another stride would have seen Barney Roy come out on top. You can see why Richard Hannon says he’s the best he’s trained.

Sir Michael Stoute is a master with older horses and in Ulysses he has an animal who accentuates his ability perfectly. He mightn’t be noted for great patience with the media but with horses he has that in abundance. As a three-year old Ulysses offered promise but he couldn’t hit the notes required to sing at top-level. The win in the Eclipse saw him capture his first Group 1 and now his trainer who has won this five times in the past, asks him to win another. If he does he’ll follow in the footsteps of Shardari in 1986, Ezzoud in 1993 and Notnocato in 2006 who were all four-year old’s when they won it for Sir Michael. Ezzoud returned to defend it in 1994 as five year old and Singspiel also won it as a five year old in 1997.

Decorated Knight has benefited from the move from Roger to Roger. Formerly with Roger Varian he moved to Roger Charlton at the beginning of last year. He’s already contested five Group 1’s this year winning two of them. At Meydan in March he took the Jebel Hatta, the prep for the Dubai Turf. He fell short on bad ground in the main event in the Middle East but bounced back in May to take the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland. A second to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s was followed by a sixth in the Eclipse.

Shutter Speed is the only filly in the field after her trainer decided to keep Enable, the best three old around, for the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday. John Gosden’s three-year old benefits from the weight for age allowance as well as the sex allowance and being the least experienced she’ll certainly need both if she is to prevail. This will only be her fifth start. She won her first three but was 1 1/2L off Senga in the Prix de Diane in June. Senga didn’t frank the form when getting beaten at Deauville last week.

My Dream Boat will be the outsider in the field but let’s not forget he beat Found, last years Arc winner, in 2016’s Prince of Wales’s. He has not hit those heights since.

Cliffs Of Moher is nearly the forgotten horse in the line up. This year’s Derby runner-up went off favourite in the Eclipse on the back of his Epsom exploits but could only manage fourth at Sandown. You could say that was a disappointment or alternatively view it as a super performance considering he nearly came down after three furlongs.

The Eclipse form is strong, Eminent fifth at Sandown has come out and won the Prix Guliiaume d’Ornano at Deauville last week. That’s a boost for the Derby form also and on balance gives Cliffs Of Moher the edge at this distance where he deserves another chance.

Is he good enough to beat Churchill?

Churchill was champion two-year old year and is a dual Guineas winner this year yet he has something to prove. He must turn around the lacklustre run at Royal Ascot and handle the step up in trip.

That’s the question. There’s no doubt Aidan O’Brien holds both his colts in high esteem but it’s evident listening to him it’s Churchill who is the apple of his eye. His may well be matched for speed by Barney Roy but what about his stamina. There’s no question on that score for Cliffs Of Moher but is he good enough to beat both Ulysses and Barney Roy over this trip?

So many questions but back to the primary one. Will Churchill get the trip? He finished strongly at Newmarket and the Curragh suggesting he will.

If he does he wins.

Recommendations: Churchill 10/3 win

                                          Churchill, Cliffs Of Moher RFC

 

 

 

 

The Desmond Stakes (G3)

Custom Cut leaves the ring for last year’s Desmond Stakes

The evenings are drawing in and the last of the summer cider will be drunk tonight at Leopardstown.

The feature is an interesting renewal of the Desmond Stakes.

David O’Meara sends Custom Cut back for another crack at a track where he has been very successful. This will be his ninth visit to the course where he’s won three times, twice at G3 level including on his last visit when he took the Amesthyst Stakes over this distance here in May and once at G2 level when he won the Boomerang Stakes again over a mile in 2015.

He’s accompanied on the trip from England by Morando who’s looking for a fifth win from his seventh start. Roger Varian’s four old didn’t get a run as a juvenile but as a three-year old he managed three successive wins. He returned to the racecourse to win a listed race over a mile at Windsor on the 1st July.

True Valour at Naas earlier in the season

The home team is headed by three in the shape of True Valour, Sea Wolf and Alexios Komnenos who fought out the Celebration Stakes at the Curragh also on the 1st July. A 1/2 L and a neck separated them. Of the three the one with the most capacity to improve is the latter as Fossy Stacks runner was only having his third run of his life. Last year he won a maiden beating Inca Gold first time out and then only went down a battling neck to Churchill in the Tyros Stakes.

Diamond Fields at Naas in May

The other Stack runner Diamond Fields also processes some nice form having taken the scalp of Alice Springs in the Gladness Stakes at Naas at the start of the season. She then found the going too quick on her return to the same track over the May bank holiday weekend when running last to Rehana in the Athashi Stakes. We haven’t seen her since.

Flight Risk, Music Box and Intricately make up the field. The former is trained by Jim Bolger who after a cold spell had a double at Gowran Park yesterday. Flight Risk is hard to win with but like Custom Cut her last visit to the track was a winning one when she took the Ballycourus Stakes over 7 f here in June.

You might say Music Box is well exposed at this stage as this will be her 12th start of the current campaign however like many of Aidan’s she keeps improving from race to race. Her last three run’s are testament to her toughness. She found Drumfad Bay too good at Killarney and Only Mine too good at Naas but last time out she turned over the form with Drumfad Bay when taking a listed race at Galway.

Intricately won the Moyglare Stakes last year, the premier two-year old fillies race in Ireland. She hasn’t won since but she has been to all the best dances. She’s the only one in the field to have operated almost exclusively at G1 level. She might have been well beaten at the Breeders Cup last year at Santa Anita and again in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket but her run in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial at the start of the season was very good as was her run in the Irish 1000 Guineas where she was only 5 L off Winter. She’s since disputed the Pretty Polly and Irish Oaks where her stamina might have been stretched too far and the step back to a mile here will most likely suit.

This is an open and intriguing event.

There are proven older performers, the likes of Custom Cut, Sea Wolf and Flight Risk, the lightly raced four year old Morando. Then are are the three-year olds in receipt of a weight for age allowance with the fillies benefitting 3 lbs more than the males.

If the younger generation are to come out on top then you could argue both Music Box and Intricately have already had their opportunities. That leaves the three-year old males, True Valour and Alexios Komnenos. Of the two a chance is taken with the latter. He might be the least experienced but on the back of a 1/2 L defeat by Churchill and a very encouraging seasonal debut he offers the most potential.

Recommendation: Alexios Komnenos 13/2 win

 

 

 

 

 

The Sussex Stakes (G1)

Aidan and Donnacha in conversation with Lancaster Bomber being led away after his maiden win at Leopardstown last August.

 

Nine go to post with Ribchester and Churchill providing the duel in the downs. Ribchester heads the market as an even money shot with Churchill priced up at 2/1.

It’s a fair reflection that the rest of the field trade at 9/1 or better.

Ribchester has gone from strength to strength since running third in this last year. He went to Deauville after that and won the Jacques Le Marois. This year he’s won with authoritative performances the Lockinge and The Queen Anne. His trainer say’s he’s matured and now settle’s in his races. In the Lockinge he led from the front and in The Queen Anne he came from off the pace. He’s a very good four-year old and a win here will see stamp him as the best miler around today.

Churchill looked to be heading to take that mantel before blotting his copybook in the St James’s Palace Stakes last time out at Royal Ascot. Up to that point he’d built on a quality juvenile career where he’d won the National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes before adding both the Guineas and Irish Guineas to his CV in this his classic year. He hasn’t been flashy, he had been reliable always doing enough to see off his rivals. Then at Ascot he ran flat as a pancake never picking up to challenge the leaders trailing in a well beaten forth.

Aidan O’Brien has never been able to identify what happened, nothing came back to suggest there was anything wrong with him. All that can be said was it was just an off day, nothing more. He now meets his elders for the first time and does so with a valuable 7 lbs weight for age allowance, the same as his stable companion Lancaster Bomber who finished in front of him for the first time at Ascot.

He can’t afford to have an off day, today he must produce his best day if he is to beat Ribchester. The depth of his form say’s he can do it.

With three to be placed Lancaster Bomber can again outrun his odds and run into a place.

Recommendation : Churchill 2/1 win

                                         Lancaster Bomber 28/1 ew