Aidan O’Brien has been installed as a long-odds-on (4/7) favourite to be top trainer next week at Royal Ascot. He travels with a typically strong party headed by Magician (Prince of Wales’ Stakes), American import Verrazano (Queen Anne) and last year’s St Leger hero Leading Light bidding to give the trainer a record seventh success in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Break out American super-stallion War Front, whom Coolmore are now up to their neck in is represented by War Command who revisits the scene of his finest moment in last season’s Coventry Stakes when taking on some tough rivals in a well-up-to-scratch renewal of the St James’ Palace Stakes held on the round course.
Nearly guaranteed a stayer in the Gold Cup having won the Queens Vase over 2 miles at the meeting last year, Leading Light at 7/4 looks O’Brien’s best chance of the week.
The best value may however lay with The Great War, a son of the aforementioned War Front who looks sure to relish the quick ground and has the size and tactical pace to hold his own in the hustle and bustle of a typical Coventry Stakes renewal.
The 4/1 on offer looks appealing as this years’ has not looked a vintage crop of early two-year-olds and the domineeringly precocious American bred looks to have a sizeable physical advantage to go with the undoubted ability he has shown on two starts at the Curragh and Tipperary.
Royal Ascot comes hot on the heels of O’Brien’s record third successive Derby win with Australia. The regally bred son of Derby winner Galileo out of Oaks heroine Ouija Board had long been heralded as Coolmore’s silver bullet and turned out to be just that.
Much has been written since in the Racing Media about his handler’s position in the pantheon of the great trainers; suffice to say O’Brien makes excellent use of the admittedly vast resources at his disposal. Has he had the breadth of impact on the industry that his predecessor at Ballydoyle Vincent O’Brien had? No, but the forerunner was a visionary and Aidan operates under a different framework in any case.
The best compliment one could give him is that it is difficult to imagine how in the same circumstances, any of his training contemporaries could do a better job than him.
It would also be remiss not to mention the vast pressure O’Brien operates under. Messrs Smith, Tabor and Magnier are hard taskmasters and needed a standout son of Galileo at stud with arch rivals Darley currently housing his two most prominent stallion sons in New Approach and Teofilo. Aidan just delivered that horse who will potentially keep the show on the road for years to come.
Despite all the riches at his disposal, there is something to be said for that.
Neill Dennehy, Pundit Arena.