Talking Points: O'Brien Provides Irish Racing With Morale-Booster At Ascot

Aidan O'Brien's latest piece of magic with Kyprios was a badly needed tonic for Irish racing |


When Aidan O'Brien resurrected City Of Troy (Justify) to win the Derby, he was rightly hailed as a genius. Sadly, it didn't take long for that piece of brilliance to be overshadowed by an expose-style documentary carried out by Ireland's national broadcaster [RTE] which concentrated on horses being sent to slaughter. 

Admittedly, the documentary featured mostly non-thoroughbreds but the build-up and reaction to the programme has dominated the mainstream coverage of this sport in recent times. Not O'Brien's moment of magic that arguably should have been celebrated more than it was. 

Then we had the regrettable situation where National Hunt trainer John 'Shark' Hanlon blew up on social media for transporting an uncovered dead horse in the back of a trailer in broad daylight for which he has since apologised for. Not a good look for the sport at all. 

They say you never really appreciate what you have until it's gone, and hopefully O'Brien will be operating at Ballydoyle for many, many more years to come. But one can't help but feel his latest piece of magic has provided Irish racing with a much-needed shot in the arm. 

Seeing O'Brien do O'Brien things with Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), City Of Troy and now the Gold Cup winner Kyprios (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) serves to remind how Ireland punches above its weight as a nation time and time again.

Thursday was a day to be proud of-not just as an Irish person but a lover of this sport-after what has been an unsavoury couple of weeks. Hopefully such exploits will get the coverage it so richly deserves. 

Moore Mows Down Dettori

A Gold Cup day double aboard Kyprios and Port Fairy (Ire) (Australia {GB}) propelled Ryan Moore to being the most successful active rider at Royal Ascot. 

Moore only trails Lester Piggott [116 winners] in the all-time standings and, at the close of play on Thursday, had 83 wins at the royal meeting under his belt. 

Dettori, who is at Royal Ascot this year only as a spectator after calling time on his career in the saddle in Britain in order to continue in America, partnered 81 winners at the meeting.

From Humble Beginnings 

When you delve into Port Fairy's pedigree, you might be surprised to learn that the daughter of Australia hails from the 35-rated Fabulae (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). Yes, you read that correctly. 35! 

Fabulae amounted to pretty much nothing in six starts for Joseph O'Brien, with the best she managed being a ninth-placed effort at Dundalk. Connections rightly decided to draw stumps after that but Annemarie and Aidan O'Brien's decision to hang onto the sister of two black-type performers proved a fruitful one. 

There can't be many horses out of mares rated lower than Fabulae that have made it through the gates at Ballydoyle. This one happens to be a Royal Ascot winner. Amazing.

McCartan On The Money Again

To be fair to Jim McCartan, he called it. It was McCartan, who operates under the banner of Gaybrook Lodge, who pinhooked Shareholder [a $62,000 yearling purchase] and, on the eve of selling Thursday's Norfolk Stakes winner Shareholder to Wathnan Racing at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale, heaped praise on the colt's sire.

Not This Time is top of the pops-he's a sire on the up,” McCartan told TDN Europe. “I actually rang a couple of pals of mine in America and they told me that Not This Time is the horse who really is on the way up. The stock from his better mares are coming through now and his stud fee has gone up to $150,000. He's getting into that bracket of Into Mischief, Curlin and those sorts of horses.” 

McCartan has had his share of good horses through his hands, with California Spangle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) being the most noteworthy. He doesn't go bandying around praise like it's confetti and his high opinion of Shareholder-who was knocked down to Wathnan Racing for €460,000 at Arqana-was vindicated in the ring and on the track. He's a horse with a big future. 

Washbourn Overcome With Emotion

Clive Washbourn is infamous for how he celebrates his victories but the effervescent owner was even overcome by emotion even before the Gold Cup took place. 

Homebred Caius Chorister (Fr) (Golden Horn {GB}) could only manage sixth for Washbourn, who endeared himself to viewers by welling up and professing how much he loves the mare  before the feature race.

King's Gambit An Unlucky Loser

Time might prove King's Gambit (Ire) (Saxon Warrior {Jpn}) to be the best horse to emerge from the Hampton Court. 

He endured a troubled passage when coming from the rear to finish a never-dangerous second to Jayarebe (Fr) (Zoffany {Ire}) but he remains a colt of considerable promise.

Bethell's Bargain Buys

Given the scores of Royal Ascot-bound horses who were sold for a premium in the build-up to this week, it's worth highlighting what trainer Ed Bethell has achieved with relatively inexpensive types.

It has been well documented that Bethell's Group 1-winning sprinter Regional (GB) (Territories {Ire}), who ran a stormer when second in Tuesday's King Charles III Stakes, was bought for a song at just 3,500gns. 

Britannia winner Mickley (Ire) (Soldier's Call {GB}) was similarly cheap at 20,000gns at Tattersalls Book 3 while Kensington Palace Stakes sixth Elim (Ire) (Make Believe {Ire}) is worth a lot more than the €22,000 she fetched at the Goffs Sportsman's Sale in 2021.

All three of those Ascot runners were bought alongside Tom Biggs of Blandford Bloodstock. Impressive stuff. 

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