Aidan O’Brien was mystified at Caravaggio’s fourth-placed finish in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday.
The Commonwealth Cup winner was sent off the 10-11 favourite on the back of his verdict over Harry Angel at Ascot, but after a slow start under Ryan Moore last month’s zip was missing and the Irish raider finished two lengths adrift of winner Harry Angel.
When asked for his reaction to the previously unbeaten colt’s performance, O’Brien searched in vain for a response before saying: “Our horse ran a good race,” he said. “He was a little bit lethargic out of the gates and that left him a little on the back foot. I’m not making any excuses."
Following Caravaggio’s Royal Ascot success O’Brien suggested that The Everest, the new $AUS10million sprint in Australia, was a target. In the immediate wake of the colt's first defeat the trainer maintained a trip Down Under is still a “definite possible.”
Where Caravaggio goes next will be discussed with earnest between the trainer and the Coolmore syndicate of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith but O’Brien did not rule out a tilt at the Nunthorpe Stakes, sponsored by Coolmore, next month at York.
Harry Bentley believes that Limato is back to his best after the five-year-old valiantly failed to match Right Boy in becoming a back-to-back winner.
No horse had won consecutive July Cups since 1959 but Limato went out on his shield by going down by a length and a quarter to the brilliant Harry Angel.
The winner is a best-priced 7-4 with William Hill to win the 32Red Haydock Sprint Cup and Limato is no bigger than 8-1.
“He has run a great race, a fantastic race,” Bentley said.
“I am very happy with how everything went during the race. He picked up fantastic for me and has given me a wonderful feel. We have beaten some fantastic horses today and those who were on top at Royal Ascot (in the Diamond Jubilee) and we’ve managed to turn that around.
“I don’t think we could have done anything differently. If I had been told beforehand that was where I would be off that pace, I would have taken it every day of the week, so I am delighted.
“It was a slightly different race to last year. But he has given me that feel again that I got off him last year and at Chantilly. He feels back to his best. We can look forward to the future with him now – he is such a solid performer. There are options for him, but that will be up to the owner and trainer.”
Trainer Henry Candy confirmed that should Limato get his beloved fast ground then Haydock would indeed be the next target, and a repeat bid in the Prix de la Foret at Chantilly on Arc day would also be considered.
“I was very happy, mainly because Harry said he felt as good as he ever felt,” Candy said.
“There is a very simple answer to the whole thing, Harry Angel went quicker. Honestly, the other one is better. “
“He won’t be doing a lot of racing, only on select occasions.”
Brando completely outran his price of 28-1 by finishing a short head in front of Caravaggio in third and trainer Kevin Ryan, whose yard has only just got over a bout of equine herpes, rued the quick going.
“Unfortunately, we had to take Flaming Spear out because of the quicker ground and this horse would have liked a bit easier ground,” he said.
“Tom [Eaves] has given him a great ride and he got him to relax and he finished is race great. Coming back from the disappointment at York (when he bled), it is like having his first run again – having a first run in a Group One!
“I was looking at the comments in the papers this morning and they had written the horse off already. It is ridiculous.
“He had a bleed at Haydock as a three-year-old and he bled last year in the Nunthorpe, and then won the Ayr Gold Cup. He has had a bleed once a year and we don’t know why. We have done different things with him, but he was the forgotten horse in the race.
“I said to Tom, get him to relax, come home and to finish off, and forget about everything else around you. Ride your own race – and he gave him a fantastic ride. He came home great and a bit more cut in the ground would help.
“Probably the Prix Maurice de Gheest (at Deauville) is the next most obvious race – the extra half-furlong would be ideal. You would have gone another furlong no problem today.
“The Sprint Cup, then Champions Sprint – the programme almost picks itself. I would like to go back to Ascot for Champions Day. He ran there on the back of the Ayr Gold Cup last year, and he will probably have a little bit more time in between this year.
“It was quite quick at Ascot last year. When I wanted to take The Grey Gatsby there, it was soft (he needed faster ground), so someone up there doesn’t like me – a lot!
“I’m delighted for Tracy Pursglove who looks after him. She gets nervous about the whole thing. Obviously, it has been a trying time and she was almost crying coming in.”
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