"Hugely exciting" Al Riffa pointing to Irish Guineas

Fri 24 Mar 2023
Al Riffa ahead of last autumn's Longines Irish Champions Weekend (Credit: ©INPHO/Morgan

Joseph O’Brien is excited about what Al Riffa may go on to achieve this year given his Group One-winning exploits as a juvenile.

The Wootton Bassett colt stepped up from winning a maiden in July before before being supplemented for the National Stakes where he beat Proud And Regal, trained by O’Brien’s brother Donnacha, and who went on to win his own Group One in France at the end of the season.

O’Brien is aiming Al Riffa at the Irish 2,000 Guineas in the first half of the season, but whether he takes in a trial first has still to be decided.

“For a horse that looks and is very much bred to be a better three-year-old, you’d have to be really excited by him,” said O’Brien in a stable tour for

“Everything has gone smoothly with him so far this year and he’s in really good shape. We aren’t in a rush with him and the Irish 2,000 Guineas is his first main target.

Al Riffa lands the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes last autumn

“He will most likely to go straight there, but we won’t rule out the possibility of running in a trial just yet. He has always shown a lot of pace at home and in his races, but he should have a good chance of staying a mile and a quarter later in the season if we ask him to.

“He’s a hugely exciting horse for this year. He really could be anything.”

Others mentioned by O’Brien among his Classic crop are Thornbrook and Caroline Street, who should reappear in Guineas trials, while Lumiere Rock is likely to start off in an Oaks Trial.

O’Brien is well stocked among his older horses who need middle distances, with several currently in Australia with targets in the coming weeks.

They include Chester Cup winner Cleveland, Baron Samedi, Raise You, Statement and Temple Of Artemis.

Above The Curve (centre) remains in training as a four-year-old
Above The Curve (centre) remains in training as a four-year-old

Prix Saint-Alary winner Above The Curve has remained in training and is one O’Brien expects to improve from three to four.

He said: “I’d say she’ll start off in something like the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh on April 16 and we have a bunch of international options as possibles for her after that, both in Europe and potentially further afield.”

A dark horse for the year may be Buckaroo. He has not run since disappointing in the Irish Guineas when he came back sick but O’Brien retains faith.

“He’s a big, rangy colt that was always going to improve with time and it’s great to have him back on the team. We aren’t decided on his starting point just yet, but we’re in a great place with him. He could be one for the Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp in May,” he said.

Mooneista (right) is now with Joseph O'Brien
Mooneista (right) is now with Joseph O'Brien

O’Brien has also taken care of a couple of new recruits - Mooneista, bought out of Jack Davison’s yard for 850,000 guineas, and Jumbly, a Group Three winner on her final outing for Harry and Roger Charlton.

Of Mooneista, O’Brien said: “This is a mare that Jack Davison did a very good job with for the last few years. She changed hands at the sales late last year and we were thrilled to be asked to train her for her new connections.

“She ran a great race to finish fourth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and that is the meeting we are aiming her towards.

“Jumbly is a filly with a really nice profile that joined us late last year. She has settled in really well and is going very nicely. We aren’t decided on a starting point yet, but the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot is where we’d like to end up with her. She is an exciting filly.”

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