O’Brien filly delivers gutsy display to take Oaks, leaving connections wondering about Derby
"Maybe we should have run her in the Derby," quipped co-owner Michael Tabor after Minding produced an extraordinary performance to win the Epsom Oaks yesterday afternoon.
It was a significant little post-race remark, because she was never thrown into the Derby mix by her connections. It was a race that bookmakers chalked her up for and which many media outlets suggested after her emphatic 1,000 Guineas win at Newmarket.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien always denied that it was on the agenda and when she was declared for the Irish 1,000 Guineas after Ballydoyle was forced to skip that race, the Derby and Minding were rarely mentioned in the same sentence again.
But in a year when the Derby looks wide open, it's questionable if the Ballydoyle/Coolmore team have a star amongst their quintet of runners. The manner in which Minding was able to win the Oaks yesterday probably does have them pondering what might have been.
Dropped in by Ryan Moore, Minding was the latest victim of traffic chaos at Epsom, as the Jim Bolger-trained Turret Rocks found the undulations a bit much. In the process Minding nearly found herself sideways at a critical stage but her sheer class was obvious as she regained momentum with ease and picked up and went away from Architecture and Frankie Dettori who had the ideal passage throughout.
The Irish Oaks later next month may be on the agenda for the runner-up but for Minding the options are as long as Aidan O'Brien's arm and the trainer was suitably impressed with the latest star offspring of the great Galileo.
"To win the Guineas the way she did, then run at the Curragh on short notice. That didn't work, but she came out of it and she was incredible," he said.
"She has speed, class, stamina, a great mind - everything. Ryan did brilliant to win on her after what she went through. Real heart, courage and guts had to come into it, but she had it in abundance, like all the Galileos.
"I'd say we'll probably give her an easy time but I'd imagine the lads will talk about it and see what they want to do."
O'Brien tackles the Derby today with US Army Ranger, the colt that made his debut back at the beginning of April and went to Chester last month as the warm Derby favourite.
On another day at Chester he may have suffered defeat to his stable companion Port Douglas, who is also in today's Derby line-up, but the pair pulled well clear of the remainder.
If there is to be a star on show in this year's Derby, the signs would point towards the only unbeaten colt in the race, US Army Ranger, but he will have to improve dramatically and in a wide open year the best option maybe to look for some value elsewhere.
O'Brien's Idaho will appreciate the ease in the ground that clearly remains at Epsom after rain earlier in the week and it is significant that yesterday's Oaks was the slowest in the last decade so Idaho could have a lot going for him.
"Idaho is another horse who ran a big race at Leopardstown - Seamus (Heffernan) rode him to be third and was very happy," said O'Brien but the 20/1 is appealing and could be the best option this year.
Dermot Weld won't be sorry to have seen the rain either for Harzand, while the French raider, Cloth Of Stars, is an interesting runner also.
Only time will tell how good a Derby the 2016 renewal is but it's certainly fascinating.