Bang, bang, bang, bang - Aidan O’Brien’s slump is well and truly over

Ten Sovereigns (Donnacha O’Brien, nearside) winning the G1 Middle Park Stakes from Jash (Jim Crowley) on a great day for Team Ballydoyle at Newmarket on Saturday. Photo: Mark Cranham/

Well, it didn’t quite happen at the York Ebor Festival like some of us expected, but it sure as hell happened pretty soon after. Aidan O’Brien’s extensive army of fans had been combing the results charts hungrily for signs that a comeback was on the way after a disturbing mid-season slump in the yard’s fortunes. Then last week happened.

There were four particularly important juvenile races in Europe, all at Newmarket - two G1s and two G2 Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win and You’re In’ races - and, guess what, bang, bang, bang, bang ... the master of Ballydoyle won them all.

It almost took the British betting public off guard. They had, after all, become used over the previous two or three months to more or less writing off the chances of all O’Brien’s runners.

Just Wonderful was allowed to start at 7/2 before comfortably accounting for a smart field in the G2 Rockfel Stakes, a BC qualifier, last Friday. Then the following day, O’Brien went on the rampage. The Galileo colt Mohawk (8/1) led home a Ballydoyle 1-2-3 in the G2 Royal Lodge to seal a guaranteed berth in the BC Juvenile Turf; 6/1 shot Fairyland took the G1 Cheveley Park; and the much hyped No Nay Never colt Ten Sovereigns was super impressive in the G1 Middle Park. He started an 8/13 favourite largely on the evidence of two recent ultra-quick wins at the Curragh that had confirmed he was free from any ill effects of the virus that had played havoc with so many of his stablemates.

As far as the TRC Global Rankings are concerned, the chief beneficiary was Donnacha O’Brien, who rode all three of those big Saturday 2-year-old winners (stable first choice Ryan Moore was on duty at Belmont, where he rode Mendelssohn to finish third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup). O’Brien was therefore one of the biggest points gainers in the world last week. The 20-year-old, youngest rider in the top 100 in the jockeys’ standings, gained ten points. He is now world #25.

Of course, it was also a pretty good week for his father, and indeed for Coolmore Partners and their stallion-in-chief, Galileo, as detailed here by James Willoughby. And, for good measure, Moore gained three points himself over the week.

So normal service appears to have been resumed for Coolmore/Ballydoyle - and right on time, with Arc Weekend just two days away, British Champions Day coming up at Ascot two weeks later and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs another two weeks after that.

They will have a typically strong hand at ParisLongchamp on Arc Day, which features six G1s on Sunday, including the final three Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ races to take place outside North America this year. O’Brien won two of those races - the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Happily) and the Prix de l’Opera (Rhododendron) last year, and has saddled the winner of the third, the Prix Marcel Boussac, four times previously. He is also looking for his eighth winner of the Lagardere.

Thirty-three ‘Win and You’re In’ races will have taken place outside North America this year once the ParisLongchamp card is complete on Sunday. Here is a list of all the qualifiers so far for the World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 2-3:

Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf

All seven of the Challenge Series races outside North America have now been run, with five horses guaranteed automatic berths at Churchill Downs (Poet’s Word and Roaring Lion are double-qualified, having won two apiece). The qualifiers are:

  • Haras de la Pomme’s 4-year-old filly La Extrana Dama (a daughter of world #153 sire Catcher In The Rye), easy winner of the G1 Gran Premio 25 de Mayo, at San Isidro, Argentina, in May.
  • Haras de Moro’s 3-year-old Quarteto De Cordas, a son of Rock Of Gibraltar, who won the Gran Premio Brasil over a mile and a half at Gavea in June.
  • Mikki Rocket, owned by Mizuki Noda and trained by Hidetaka Otonashi (#87 in the TRC Global Rankings), was the winner of the $3 million G1 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in Japan in June. Mikki Rocket is by King Kamehameha (world-ranked 43).
  • Poet’s Word, owned by Saeed Suhail (#45) and trained by Sir Michael Stoute (#7), won the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, upsetting hot favourite Cracksman. Poet’s Word is a son of Poet’s Voice (#21).
  • Poet’s Word produced another scintillating performance to win his second BC Challenge race, the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July.
  • Roaring Lion - the son of world #8 Kitten’s Joy won the G1 Juddmonte International at York in August. He is owned by Qatar Racing (#24), trained by John Gosden (#5), and ridden by Qatar Racing’s retained jockey, Oisin Murphy (#12).
  • Roaring Lion again. The 3-year-old followed up his York win by taking the G1 Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, at Leopardstown in September.

Breeders’ Cup Mile

The set of seven non-North American races is complete. The qualifiers are:

  • Two-time South African Horse of the Year Legal Eagle (by 47th-ranked Greys Inn), winner (for the third time) of the G1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate at Kenilworth in January. Ridden by Anton Marcus (#32), he is trained by Sean Tarry (#41).
  • Happy Clapper (by world #19 Teofilo), who took the G1 Star Doncaster Mile at Randwick in April for trainer Patrick Webster (#121) and jockey Blake Shinn (#45).
  • Stud Don Alberto’s 4-year-old homebred Nuevo Maestro, who won the 1¼-mile G1 Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella at Club Hipico in Chile in May (he past the post second but was upgraded on the disqualification of stablemate Penn Rose for interference). Connections indicated at the time that Nuevo Maestro, a son of Ivan Denisovich, was a likely runner at Churchill Downs.
  • Mozu Ascot, a son of Frankel (#4), who won the G1 Yasuda Kinen over a mile at Tokyo in June under Christophe Lemaire (#8).
  • Accidental Agent, trained by Eve Johnson Houghton (#412) and owned and bred by her mother. The son of Delegator (#172) won the one-mile G1 Queen Anne under Charlie Bishop (#293) on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
  • Lightning Spear, another Qatar Racing star, who took the G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood at the beginning of August. The 7-year-old, a son of Pivotal (#43), was ridden by Oisin Murphy (#12). He is trained by David Simcock (#64).
  • The prolific Irish-trained filly Alpha Centauri was winning her fourth G1 of the season when she cruised home in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August. The daughter of Mastercraftsman (#23) is owned by the Niarchos Family (#16), trained by Jessica Harrington (#55) and ridden by Colm O’Donoghue (#53).

Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf

Five qualifiers so far, with one more race to come.

  • Drakenstein Stud’s Australian-bred 3-year-old filly Oh Susanna, a daughter of Street Cry (#22), who took the nine-furlong G1 Carter Paddock Stakes at Kenilworth in January for trainer Justin Snaith (#55) and jockey Grant Van Niekirk (#84).
  • The Godolphin 3-year-old filly Alizee, a daughter of Sepoy (#89), who won the G1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes over a mile at Randwick in April for trainer James Cummings (#21) and jockey Glyn Schofield (#42).
  • Stud Starbucks’ Smart Choice, winner of the 1¼-mile G1 Gran Premio Pamplona at Hipodromo de Monterrico in Peru in June. Smart Choice, who was said to be a probably BC runner at the time, is by world #185 sire Grand Reward. She represents the top Peruvian combination of trainer J Suarez Villaroel (#62) and jockey M Chuan (#61).
  • Sea Of Class, winner of the G1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks at the York Ebor Festival in August. The daughter of Sea The Stars (#7) is second favourite for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. She is trained by William Haggas (#27), ridden by James Doyle (#13) and owned by Sunderland Holding (#236), the breeding operation of the Tsui Family. Christopher Tsui owned Sea The Stars.
  • The Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in September was the fourth G1 win for owner John Dance’s Laurens, who created a major surprise when holding off Alpha Centauri under Daniel Tudhope (#66). The daughter of Siyouni (#27) is trained by Karl Burke (#19).


  • The ten-furlong Longines Prix de l’Opera is one of six G1s on Arc Day at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Four races in these series, the last of which was run in Japan last Sunday.

  • Merchant Navy, winner of the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (six furlongs) at Royal Ascot. The Australian-bred son of Fastnet Rock (world #17) is owned by Coolmore Partners and the Merchant Navy Syndicate. He was the first horse trained by Aidan O’Brien to win a BC qualifying race in 2018, but he has since been retired to Coolmore Stud in New South Wales.

  • The 7-year-old Alpha Delphini, trained by Bryan Smart (#370), owned by the Alpha Delphini Partnership and ridden by former jump jockey Graham Lee (#241), produced the performance of his life to land the G1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York last month. He is a son of Captain Gerrard, who is ranked #404 in the TRC Global Sires’ Rankings - mainly because of a few solid Group-race efforts by Alpha Delphini over the past four seasons.

  • The 3-year-old Havana Grey, another to benefit from skills of trainer Karl Burke (#19), took the G1 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five under Richard Kingscote at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend last month. He is a son of Havana Gold (#120).

  • Fine Needle, who won the G1 Sprinters Stakes under world #26 Yuga Kawada at Nakayama on Sunday, is a son of Admire Moon (#60). The 5-year-old is trained by Yoshitada Takahashi (#91) and owned by Godolphin.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

The one non-North American contest in this series was run at Royal Ascot in June:

  • Although she qualifies for Churchill Downs as an international winner, Shang Shang Shang, who took the G2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot under Joel Rosario (#10), is all-American. The daughter of Shanghai Bobby (#112) is owned by Breeze Easy LLC and trained by Wesley Ward (#102).

Breeders’ Cup Classic

The only non-North American qualifier was run in Japan in February:

  • Nonkono Yume took the one-mile G1 February Stakes on the dirt at Tokyo. The 6-year-old gelding is a son of Twining (#229).

Longines Distaff

As is the case with the BC Classic, just one Challenge series race was run this year:

  • Sinfonia Fantastica, a 4-year-old daughter of Cima De Triomphe (#432), won the G1 Gran Premio Criadores at Palermo in Argentina in May.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

Outside North America, there are just three races in the Challenge series, with one still to be run.

  • Madhmoon, trained by Kevin Prendergast (#245), ridden by Chris Hayes (#73) and owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum (#3), was an easy winner of the G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend last month. He is a son of second-season sire Dawn Approach (#195).

  • Mohawk’s victory in the G2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket under Donnacha O’Brien (#25) last Saturday was a first win for Galileo in a BC Challenge Series race this season. The colt is trained by Aidan O’Brien and owned by Coolmore Partners.


  • The G1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere will be run on the Arc Day card at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

Again, two of the three qualifiers outside North America have taken place, with one more to follow this weekend.

  • The Scat Daddy filly Skitter Scatter won the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend in September for trainer Patrick Prendergast (#298) and owners Sonia and Anthony Rogers (#268). She was ridden by Ronan Whelan (#182).

  • Just Wonderful, a daughter of Dansili (#38), took the G2 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket last Friday. Ridden by world #1 Ryan Moore, she is owned by Coolmore Partners and trained by Aidan O’Brien.


  • The G1 Total Prix Marcel Boussac is one of three BC ‘Win and You’re In’ races at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

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