Wednesday 26 October 2016

O'Brien on the chase

Rhododendron winning a Group One at Newmarket this week
Rhododendron winning a Group One at Newmarket this week

Some big names of the jumping fraternity are gearing themselves up for the opening meeting of the season at Punchestown next week, but despite the Flat season drawing to a close, a historic few weeks could lie ahead for Aidan O'Brien.

In truth, just a fortnight ago, I personally didn't believe that the Ballydoyle maestro could overtake Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Group/Grade Ones, but as is so often the case, the O'Brien juggernaut is showing no signs of slowing and yesterday he was back in Group One winning form as he brought the tally for 2016 to 20 when Rhododendron claimed the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.

For what I make to be the 46th time in his career on the Flat, O'Brien not only had the winner of the Group One but also the runner-up, as stable companion Hydrangea chased home the Ryan Moore-partnered juvenile. And with Churchill the odds-on favourite for the Dewhurst this afternoon, O'Brien could be yet another one closer to the 13-year-old record of Frankel by the time he boards the plane back to Ballydoyle tonight.

With British Champions Day at Ascot and the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on O'Brien's radar, there are certainly enough opportunities for the champion trainer, as he will then concentrate his efforts on the global scene with a raid being prepared for Australia, America and probably one or two earmarked for Hong Kong as well.

Bookmakers Coral make O'Brien just a 6/4 shot to find the six Group One winners required and Rhododendron may have another say in the matter as she could form part of the team heading Stateside at the end of the month.


The trainer said: "Both fillies are in a good place at the moment, so it (Breeders' Cup) is an option if the lads want to do that.

"That might be it for the year, but the lads will talk about that and see what they want to do."

Of Churchill, who will bid to extend his own winning sequence when lining up in an intriguing renewal of the Dewhurst Stakes, O'Brien said: "He seems to be in good form since the last day at the Curragh.

"He seems to handle all types of ground and we're happy with him."

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