Monday 18 December 2017

Eggs all in one basket

Aidan O’Brien will be hoping that Rhododendron can make it third time lucky in France tomorrow. Photo: PA
Aidan O’Brien will be hoping that Rhododendron can make it third time lucky in France tomorrow. Photo: PA

Trainer Aidan O'Brien is odds-on favourite to be the leading trainer at Royal Ascot next week and barring a dramatic turn of events he will add to his Group One haul so far this season, which currently lies at six for the year already.

Prior to Royal Ascot kicking off on Tuesday, O'Brien will go in search of a seventh Group One at Chantilly tomorrow with the twice Classic placed, Rhododendron lining up in the Prix de Diane.

Placed second to Winter in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, Rhododendron then finished second in difficult conditions in the Epsom Oaks when the John Gosden-trained Enable pulled clear to become the only British or Irish Classic winner so far this season to not be a Ballydoyle inmate.

Gosden will pose the biggest threat to O'Brien tomorrow as the unbeaten filly Shutter Speed will take on Rhododendron in what promises to be a fascinating race.

Rhododendron appeared an unlucky loser to some when finishing second to Winter at Newmarket and not getting the clearest of passages, and after stepping up to a mile and a half for the Oaks, she drops back in trip to what would look an ideal 10 furlongs for this clash with Shutter Speed, who claimed York's Musidora Stakes last month.

Interestingly, unlike what would be the norm in Group One races, O'Brien is solely represented by Rhododendron, the mount of Ryan Moore, and the raiding party will face an fascinating locally-trained filly, with Freddie Head stepping Terrakova up to the top level. Head's charge is a daughter of his star race mare, Goldikova, by the leading stallion, Galileo, so, on breeding, she is indeed bred to be a star and after two outings so far Terrakova remains unbeaten but will need to step forward again on her latest Group Three triumph if she is to maintain her winning sequence.

The Prix de Diane is off at 3.05pm which is shortly before the race time of Cork's feature event tomorrow, the Munster Oaks.


In 2011, trainer Jim Bolger won the Munster Oaks with Banimpire, who just four days later went on to win at Royal Ascot. Glamourous Approach doesn't hold an entry for Royal Ascot next week but is looking to win for the third time in the space of a month when facing nine rivals.

In the Listed Midsummer Sprint, trainer Fozzy Stack will give an Irish debut to Misty Birnam. Placed in a Group One as a two-year-old for Mike de Kock last season in South Africa, Misty Birnam hasn't raced in just short of a year but takes this drop in class to get his season underway for Stack and Chris Hayes.

Ger Lyons has spoken about his hopes to add to his Royal Ascot winners next week and the Meath-based trainer would look to have some solid claims, but tomorrow he can continue his good form if he lands the Cork Derby with Mawaany.

The four-year-old runs in the colours of David Spratt, who is renowned for picking up bargain horses at training sales. This horse would appear to be another one as he has won both his starts for Lyons after being purchased for €22,0000 last summer and he is a likely favourite to claim the lion's share of this €50,000 contest.

Over jumps this weekend, Downpatrick stage a two-day meeting with champion jockey Ruby Walsh just going north of the border for one ride over the two days. Walsh will make the trip this afternoon to ride Ben Button in the 2m6f handicap hurdle.

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