The Classic quest: Full steam ahead for Aidan O'Brien in his pursuit of cleansweep

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Tue 14 May 2019

Will the master of Ballydoyle make history by training the winners of all five British Classics this year? Andy Stephens considers the evidence.

 O'Brien has already completed 40 per cent of his mission (Racingfotos)
O'Brien has already completed 40 per cent of his mission (Racingfotos)

Two down, three to go. Aidan O’Brien has twice come close to training all five British Classic winners in the same season and has laid firm foundations in his attempt to achieve the feat for the first time.

It could be argued that the Ballydoyle maestro has already completed the most difficult parts of the equation in landing the 2000 Guineas, with Magna Grecia, and 1000 Guineas, courtesy of Hermosa.

He fielded only two of the 19 runners in the former contest, while on paper he lacked an outstanding candidate in the fillies feature. His four runners ranged in price between 13-2 and 20-1, with Hermosa returned at 14-1.

Betfair make him 8-1 to go one better than in 2012 and 2017, when he won four of the five Classics, and make Ryan Moore 33-1 to be on board the last three Classic winners. Paddy Power are more cautious and quote O’Brien at 6-1 and Moore 25-1.

The clear inference, from the bookmakers, is that Moore will find it difficult to be on board the right one. He was on beaten O’Brien challengers in both of the Guineas, with Donnacha O’Brien and Wayne Lordan instead guiding home the victors.

O’Brien will not be short of candidates in the Investec Derby, which he will be seeking to win for a record-equalling seventh time on June 1. His horses have dominated the trials and he may not be finished yet, with Japan lining up in the Dante on Thursday.

Do not expect him to do too much pruning, either, because he enjoys safety in numbers in the race coveted above all others at Ballydoyle. He has run as many as eight in the premier Classic.

If his A-Team of Sir Dragonet, Broome, Japan and Anthony Van Dyck fail to deliver, then he will have still such as Circus Maximus, Mohawk, Norway and Cape Of Good Hope up his sleeve.

Aidan O'Brien discussed his Derby team with Gary O'Brien last Sunday

The strength among his three-year-old colts also augurs well for his prospects of landing the St Leger at Doncaster in September.

Ante-post markets on the race are in their infancy but it is no surprise he has eight of the first 11 in the market. Capri and Kew Gardens have justified favouritism for him in the past two runnings.

He has won the final Classic on six occasions and it is probably no coincidence that on four occasions (2001, 2002, 2013 and 2017) he has saddled the Derby winner earlier in the year.

Betfair would no doubt make O’Brien a shorter price to achieve a clean sweep if had a tighter grip on the Investec Oaks.

He has the general 7-2 favourite in Pink Dogwood, who won on her return at Navan, but has yet to commit Hermosa to the race. Her odds range between 5-1 and 15-2 but she may instead contest the Irish 1000 Guineas.

Just Wonderful, a staying-on sixth in the 1000 Guineas, and Happen, a Group Three winner on her latest start, are other O’Brien challengers to keep in mind.

Is 1000 Guineas winner Hermosa made for the Investec Oaks?

Ladbrokes make him 13-8 to scoop the Oaks but reckon John Gosden, quoted at 11-10, has better prospects.

O’Brien has won 34 British Classics, not to mention 41 more in his native Ireland.

He scooped all five Classics in Ireland in 2008 when Halfway To Heaven, Henrythenavigator, Frozen Fire, Moonstone and Septimus all clicked.


2005: Footstepsinthesand and Virginia Waters gave the trainer his first Guineas double and he would also land the St Leger with Scorpion. However, Virginia waters could only finish forth in the Oaks (he also had two other also-rans) and the best any of his Derby runners could manage was fourth.

2012: Camelot (2000 Guineas), Homecoming Queen (1000 Guineas) Was (Oaks) and Camelot (Derby) had him on the brink of winning the lot. Camelot went off at 2-5 in the St leger, in his attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970, but he could not claw back the Mahmood Al Zarooni-trained Encke and had to settle for second, being beaten three quarters of a length.

2017: Churchill (2000 Guineas), Winter (1000 Guineas), Wings Of Eagles (Derby) and Capri (St Leger) all came up with the goods but Rhododendron, the 8-11 favourite, had to play second fiddle to Enable in the Oaks. O’Brien also saddled the third home, Alluringly, and seventh, Pocketfullofdreams.

2019: Magna Grecia and Hermosa have got him off to a flyer. He has the ante-post favourites for the Oaks, Derby and St Leger.

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