It was officially the year of the rooster but Joseph O’Brien crowed louder than anyone in 2017, winning the world’s richest Flat handicap only a few months after landing Ireland’s most valuable handicap hurdle. That extraordinary double was achieved as a 24-year-old too. He does not turn 25 until May.
O’Brien became the youngest winning trainer in Melbourne Cup history last November when Rekindling bravely denied his father’s Johannes Vermeer just three months after Tigris River won the Galway Hurdle in August under Barry Geraghty. That is what you call versatility.
Now, after winning the Irish Gold Cup with Edwulf and sending out 65 jumps winners in Ireland so far this season, O’Brien has his eyes firmly fixed on another productive Flat campaign.
“We have a lovely team of Flat horses for the season ahead. We have taken our time with the two-year-olds so it could be a while before you see the best of them,” O’Brien said.
He added: “We have acquired some nice horses and one who I am really looking forward to seeing is Speak In Colours, who we have got from Marco Botti. He looks like he could be a nice sprinter. I like Latrobe too. He could be one to keep an eye on.”
O’Brien notched up 31 victories in 2017 – expect more in 2018, especially when his 40 juveniles get motoring.
Flat Season Stable Tours: Joseph O’Brien's list of Runners
Info: Four-year-old gelding Dream Ahead (sire) - Bluebell Park (dam)
A consistent and seasoned handicapper who will be campaigned in all of those nice middle-distance handicaps. I'll be hoping he can pick one up along the way.
Info: 4f Art Connoisseur - Van De Cappelle
A consistent spring handicapper who will hopefully pick up a nice pot in the first half of the season.
Info: 4f Motivator – Seraya
She did extremely well for us last year and never stopped progressing. She went from running in low-grade handicaps to being a close-up fourth in a Group 2 at Doncaster. She is a Listed winner too now and she will be campaigned in Group races this season, as long as there is an ease in the ground. She really tries for you. I love that about her.
Info: 4f Lawman – Benedicte
She is a nice filly who won her maiden at Killarney and wasn't disgraced in a Listed race at Naas afterwards. She will be campaign in staying fillies contests throughout the campaign.
Info: 4c Galileo – Burning Sunset
A Galileo stayer who did well for Andre Fabre in France. His form looks useful and hopefully he’ll compete in stakes races over middle-distance or staying trips over here this season. He is likely to start off in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan next month.
Info: 4g Teofilo - Sentimental Value
An unraced gelding that was formerly trained by Criquette Head-Maarek and we have been entered him for the Vintage Crop Stakes in April. I could see him starting off in a 1m2f maiden somewhere but will want further than that down the line.
Info: 5h Pivotal – Golden Shadow
This fella is a nice horse. He ran really well in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last year when not beaten all that far. He had a bit of a setback at the backend of the season. We will campaign him in Listed and Group races throughout the season. We think he is up to winning a stakes race over a mile on nice, safe ground.
Info: 4c High Chaparral – Sitara
What a star he was for us last year. He was a brilliant three-year-old and gave us an unbelievable day in the Melbourne Cup. He is still down in Australia with his owner Lloyd Williams in Macedon Lodge and will remain there for a while I think. Hopefully he will return to us later in the year but he owes us absolutely nothing.
Info: c Camelot – Wishing
This is a colt with potential. We like him. He is from the family of Miesque and was working well last autumn before picking up a little setback which was why he didn’t run. I’m looking forward to starting him off in a three-year-old maiden in the next few weeks. Middle distances will suit and I hope he continues to progress in the way he is.
We were pleased with what he showed in the Madrid Handicap at Naas on Sunday when fourth. He will improve on that. He showed he handles soft ground at Naas, but he has won on good ground too, so I think he will be versatile in that regard. I would say 7f is his trip but he’s likely to try a mile at some stage.
Info: f Declaration Of War – Charroux
She finished off the season really well last year and the intention is to start her off in a Guineas or Oaks trial in the coming weeks. I’d be hopeful she’ll stay at least 1m2f. She handles an ease in the ground, but I think she’ll be just as good or a firmer surface. Her pedigree suggests she should improve with age, so we are hoping she can step up and get really competitive in stakes company this season.
Info: f Footstepsinthesand – Boragh Jamal
She has proved to be quite a consistent filly on the all-weather. We will give her a shot at getting black type. She is a fast-ground 6f filly.
Info: f Power - Flavia Tatiana
We are aiming to start her off in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown and we would love her to get her some black type this season. It looks like 7f is her trip based on last year’s form, but I wouldn’t be against trying a mile with her again. She's ground versatile.
Info: c Camelot – Cinnamon Rose
I liked the way he won his maiden at Dundalk and the plan now is handicaps. We think he’ll stay further than a mile but he won’t want the ground too soft. He looks a nice middle-distance colt for the future and hopefully he can progress as he steps up in trip.
Info: f Iffraaj - Dream Club
She's yet to win but she's ran well in a few maidens. She stays well and will run in three-year-old handicaps through the season.
Info: c Bated Breath - Smart Step
A colt we like. We might run him in a Guineas trial. He was disappointing first time out at Leopardstown and we gave him plenty of time after that. That seemed to work as he came back to win a maiden at Navan in really good style in October. He handles an ease in the ground, but I think he’ll be fine on a sounder surface.
Info: c Camelot - Question Times
A really nice colt who we think is quite exciting. He has wintered very well and looks a stakes horse in the making but, before then, he can hopefully win a maiden in the spring. He ran a lovely race in a Leopardstown maiden when second to one of Dad's [James Cook]. I see him as a middle-distance horse and we’ll probably start him off in a maiden over a 1m2f
Info: c Lope De Vega - Rich Gift
He was consistent at two and ended up winning a 7f maiden at Dundalk in December. We will campaign him in some nice handicaps and hope that he might be good enough to make the breakthrough into stakes company.
Info: f Zoffany – Granadilla
She showed a high level of form in Group company last season and is a lovely prospect. We were very happy with the way she won at Dundalk on Wednesday night – she did it nicely and enjoyed herself. She’ll now go to Naas for a Listed race so long as she comes out of Wednesday's race okay. We think 6f is her optimum trip.
Info: g Lope De Vega – Dear Dream
Finished fifth in the Madrid Handicap at Naas on Sunday, just behind Band Of Outlaws. We were happy with that. He likes soft ground and three-year-old handicaps will be his thing for the year.
Info: f Lope De Vega – Oh Sedulous
She won a maiden at Dundalk and I think she ran better than her finishing position suggested in the Patton Stakes at Dundalk last time. The hope is to try and get black type for her and the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown is likely to be her next race. I think she’ll be a bit better on turf than on the all-weather and I don’t think she needs to go any further than a mile for the time being.
Info: c Excelebration - Maglietta Fina
A really nice acquisition from Marco Botti. He joined us in February and has settled in to his new routine quickly. He looks the ideal type for three-year-old sprints. He has done everything we’ve asked him to do in good style so far. He has plenty of speed. He is an exciting horse for the year ahead.
Info: c Galileo - Sean Picture
I thought he shaped with promise when seventh to another of ours, Medal Of Honour, in a 7f maiden at Dundalk in December. He will start off in a maiden soon and he should do well at three.
Info: c Holy Roman Emperor - Fancy Intense
He's back in work and has done well very over the winter. He will start off in three-year-old sprints and we will see what happens in those. He is a sprinter and we probably won't even try him over 7f I'd say. We'll campaign him over 5f and 6f. He won a Listed race as a 2yo and ran well at Royal Ascot but his form tailed off a bit after that. He has had a nice break, though, and he is a very fast horse.