May 3, 2019 News
IF you were not aware of Donnacha O’Brien before last year then you certainly were by the end of it after the young rider landed a string of big-race successes.
He won the likes of the 2,000 Guineas, Oaks and Irish Derby and became an integral part of the team at Ballydoyle, as well as offering excellent and amusing insight into the operation.
We spoke to O’Brien about his 2,000 Guineas win last year, his chances of Classic glory this weekend and got an update on a couple of other Aidan O’Brien-trained stars.
Last year you landed the 2,000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior. What was that like?
It was a great day. These are the races all the jockeys are trying to win and going into the race I knew I had an excellent chance of winning on Saxon Warrior. The way he went through the race and settled it was in the style of a very special horse and we were all thrilled to get that big win.
Saxon Warrior has now retired to stud after getting injured. Do you think we ever saw the ‘proper’ Saxon Warrior after his win at Newmarket?
Looking back perhaps he was never quite right after the Guineas. He was dead straight with me in the Guineas but every run after that he hung to his left. Maybe he was just feeling that little injury that eventually came onto him in the Irish Champion Stakes. It was a shame he never got to show quite how good he was again because the day I got to sit on him he was very impressive.
What is it about the Classics that makes them that extra bit special?
They’re stallion-making races. At the end of the day that’s what Coolmore’s business is about. To win a Classic you have to be precocious enough to be successful at three but at the same time you have to have trained on beyond two. The Classic generation are the ones that make the difference.
You ride primarily for your dad Aidan and brother Joseph. What is it like riding for family?
It makes my job a lot easier as I know them so well and we obviously get on so well. I know what they expect from me and they know how I ride, so that just makes it so much easier.
On to the 2,000 Guineas, and your dad runs Ten Sovereigns and Magna Grecia. Starting with Ten Sovereigns, how is he and do you think he will be able to stay the mile?
They’ve both done very well, they look well and they’ve been working well coming into this race. With Ten Sovereigns you have a horse with a lot of speed and brilliance, and he’s always shown that in his work. Fast ground will suit him, but at the end of the day we’re not going to know about that final furlong until the day. That’s the big question mark with him. I would be greatly surprised if there was anything on the bridle longer than he was, it’s just how he goes at the end.
Bet on Ten Sovereigns here!
By contrast, Magna Grecia won the Vertem Futurity (formerly the Racing Post Trophy) over a mile at Doncaster. You must be excited to be riding him in the 2,000 Guineas?
He’s the complete opposite to Ten Sovereigns. I know he’ll stay and he’s going to be hitting the line strong and galloping hard at the end. For him it’s a question of whether he has the pace to travel and get into a challenging position in time. The key part of the race for him will be between the three and the two [furlong markers]. It’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait.
Bet on Magna Grecia here!
Your dad runs several fillies in the 1,000 Guineas. Does that mean they are much of a muchness rather than one looking particularly good?
They’re talented fillies and as such they all deserve to take their chances in the race. Just because we don’t have something that’s one main hope doesn’t mean we don’t have any hope! And of course even if we did have one main hope that wouldn’t mean we would be running other horses in the race anyway.
You ride Iridessa for your brother in the 1,000 Guineas. How do you rate her and your dad’s runners?
Dad’s fillies been working very nicely this spring which I suppose makes it easier for Dad to send them to the race. Fairyland was good last year and has been in particularly good form, but so have Hermosa, Fleeting and Just Wonderful. They’ve certainly got good chances. Iridessa is a course-and-distance winner and has come forward from her comeback run at Leopardstown last month.
Bet on Iridessa here!
Kew Gardens bypasses the Jockey Club Stakes on Saturday, but how is he?
It’s a shame he’s not running but it’s exciting to have him back this season. I rode him work on Wednesday and he’s a bigger, stronger horse this year. I think he’s going to be a proper horse for top-class mile-and-a-half Group 1 races this year.
Sergei Prokofiev lines up in the Palace House Stakes. How do you rate his chances?
He’s a very rapid, fast horse. Five furlongs on fast ground is his thing and the faster the pace in front of them the better for him as he can relax. He’s got a seriously good turn of foot when you ask him at the furlong marker. He’s in great form and he’s exciting for the season ahead. It’ll be interesting to see if he even stays six furlongs at all.
Bet on Sergei Prokofiev here!
And, finally, it is Kentucky Derby day on Saturday. The first two-year-olds of US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah are running this year. What do you make of them?
They’re lovely horses. Monarch Of Egypt was a very good winner for Dad at Naas and he’s a smaller, stockier type which is why he’s out early. We have others that are bigger and stronger and will need a bit more time than him. In general they seem to have lovely attitudes, they move very well and they’re exciting horses to be part of.