Aidan O'Brien on high despite defeat
Champion trainer Aidan O'Brien faces a big week as he prepares for the next round of British Classics at Epsom on Friday and Saturday with both his Oaks and Derby plans less than fluid but yesterday it was Highland Reel who fared best of his trio in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly when finishing second behind New Bay.
Ridden by Joseph O'Brien, Highland Reel stayed on strongly in the wind up but was no match for New Bay as he became Andre Fabre's fourth winner of the race and a first for France's leading jump jockey Vincent Cheminaud who was onboard the Khalid Abdullah-owned three-year-old.
Cheminaud, who watched most of the race pan out from the rear of proceedings before making his move on the outside that proved a decisive one, described the winner as an "extraordinary horse" who may be Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe bound later in the season.
O'Brien was naturally pleased with Highland Reel who stepped forward nicely from his encouraging sixth place finish in the French 2,000 Guineas earlier in the season and in what was just his second start in quite a long time, Highland Reel may not be targeted at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh later this month.
O'Brien said: "We were delighted with Highland Reel. When Ryan (Moore) rode him in the French Guineas he just thought he was very rusty. He could be an Irish Derby or an Eclipse horse."
Speaking of this week's Epsom features from Chantilly yesterday, O'Brien revealed that he was yet to hear that dual 2,000 Guineas winner Gleneagles was going to be taken out of the Derby at today's forfeit stage and with the supplementary cut off for the Derby also happening today, the trainer has yet to be informed that Irish 1,000 Guineas runner-up Found would be supplemented.
"I didn't hear that he was going to be taken out, so I presume he is going to be left in - I presume," O'Brien said of Gleneagles.
"I didn't hear anything about the filly being supplemented in it yet, anyway. All the colts that are in it, are in it.
"There is a supplementary stage tomorrow and I didn't hear that the filly would be supplemented."
If Gleneagles was to be left in the Derby at today's five-day stage, it would certainly look a statement of intent by connections for the horse that O'Brien described as "the best miler" he has trained to run and he would offer real intrigue in a race that Ballydoyle have struggled to nominate a clear representative for this season but will be looking to win for a third year in a row.
Meanwhile, champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins is also eyeing up a raid on France next week and he confirmed yesterday that Hurricane Fly is on course to spearhead his team.
The 11-year-old reeled in the years to produce some of his finest performances this season and will looking to cap it all off with a victory in Sunday's French Champion Hurdle.
Mullins commented: "He is in good form and at the moment he is heading for Auteuil next Sunday."