Broome and Ryan Moore are in control of the Hardwicke
Broome and Ryan Moore are in control of the Hardwicke

Donn McClean analysis | Aidan O'Brien's Royal Ascot winners


Donn McClean assesses Aidan O'Brien's Royal Ascot winners and identifies where they might go next.

When Changingoftheguard just held off the late challenge of Grand Alliance on Friday to land the King Edward VII Stakes, he brought up Aidan O’Brien’s 80th Royal Ascot winner. Broome’s Hardwicke Stakes win on Saturday made it 81, just one short of Sir Michael Stoute’s record 82.

That tally has been achieved in 25 years, 26 Royal Ascots. That’s an average of 3.11 per renewal, including just two blank years since Harbour Master’s Coventry Stakes win in 1997.

If you had told O’Brien at the start of Royal Ascot week that he could have just one winner for the week, but that he could choose which one it was, he might have chosen Kyprios. The Gold Cup is obviously not the ‘stallion-making’ race that some of the two-year-old races are, but there is a history to the Gold Cup, there is a tradition to it and, as was in evidence during the halcyon Yeats years, tradition and history have resonance at Ballydoyle.

The early pace wasn’t strong in the Gold Cup, and Ryan Moore had to go wider than ideal on Kyprios as they raced to the home turn, but that was out of necessity as the field bunched. Kyprios had never been beyond a mile and six furlongs before and, a full-brother to dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song, his stamina for the gruelling Gold Cup trip was not assured. Mojo Star actually headed him at the furlong marker, but he dug deep on the far side and proved his stamina, staying on gamely to get back up and win by a half a length.

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It was a record eighth Gold Cup for O’Brien, a fourth individual winner since Yeats’ unprecedented four. Interestingly, O'Brien's last three winners, Fame And Glory, Leading Light and Order Of St George, all followed the same path after winning the Gold Cup – Irish St Leger Trial, Irish St Leger – and that is a likely path now for Kyprios.

The Goodwood Cup is an option, too, and Yeats went to Goodwood after he won the first of his Gold Cups as a five-year-old and after he won his third as a seven-year-old, but you have to think that the Irish St Leger is the next big target for Kyprios, and that his trainer will start there and work back.

Whichever path he takes now, though, the Moyglare Stud’s colt is obviously a really exciting stayer. He is only four, he was only five weeks old when Stradivarius won his first Gold Cup, and he could remain at the top of the stayers’ tree for a while now. Stradivarius was the first horse to win more than one Gold Cup since Yeats, and there is a real chance that, all things being equal, Kyprios will join the elite group of multiple winners.

Little Big Bear did well to win the Windsor Castle Stakes on Wednesday. Drawn on the far side, he had to do a lot of running on his own over there as the runner-up Rocket Rodney got a nice tow into the race from Rocking Ends, and then had Eddie’s Boy for company through the final furlong. O’Brien’s colt did well to keep on as well as he did and get home by a neck.

The No Nay Never colt has options now. His dam won a listed race over 10 and a half furlongs, and Little Big Bear himself raced over six furlongs on his racecourse debut, so he has the option of stepping back up to that trip now. He saw out Ascot’s stiff five furlongs well.

He is in the Railway Stakes over six furlongs on Irish Derby day this Saturday, so he has that option, as long as that race doesn’t come up too quickly. He also has the option of the July Stakes at Newmarket’s July meeting next month, another Group 2 race over six furlongs, but it would be a surprise if his trainer did not have at least one eye on the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on August 6 now.

Meditate retained her unbeaten record on Friday, impressing in landing the Albany Stakes. Ryan Moore kept it simple, got her out early and quickly got her into her racing rhythm, prominent and travelling well. She looked the most likely winner from a long way out, and she showed a smart turn of foot when her rider asked her to pick up, quickly setting up a race-winning advantage and leaving the impression that she had more in hand at the line than the winning margin of a length and three quarters.

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That’s three from three for the No Nay Never filly, an Albany Stakes to go with her maiden and her Fillies’ Sprint Stakes, and there is no knowing how high she could go now. Interestingly, O’Brien’s last Albany winner was Brave Anna, who was subsequently beaten in the Debutante Stakes and in the Moyglare Stakes before going to Newmarket in September and winning the Cheveley Park Stakes.

The trainer mentioned the Moyglare in post-race despatches, and that makes sense. Meditate’s pedigree and her racing style suggest that she should have no difficulty going out a furlong in distance. She holds an entry in the Railway Stakes and in the Airlie Stud Stakes for fillies at the Curragh at the weekend, both Group 2 races, but, if the Moyglare is her primary objective now, you have to think that the Debutante Stakes will be next up. That race is usually the ideal springboard to the Moyglare.

It wasn’t all smooth for Changingoftheguard in the King Edward VII Stakes later on Friday. Cheekpieceless, he had to be ridden along by Ryan Moore out of the gate, and he had to be ridden along again when Dark Moon Rising moved up on his outside as they passed the four-furlong marker. But he kept finding for his rider and, after trading at 23/1 in-running, he stayed on strongly against the inside rail to get home by a short head from Grand Alliance, who didn’t help himself by hanging to his left.

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Charlie Fellowes’ horse probably didn’t help Changingoftheguard either though, given how much the Galileo colt appears to love a battle. Ryan Moore said afterwards that he didn’t feel that his horse was at his best on the day, and that he could have done with a bit more company, so there could be more to come from him now. He races too as if he will appreciate a step up in trip. In the Chester Vase, run over an extended 12 furlongs on soft ground, he got stronger and stronger as the race developed and nowhere was he stronger than at the line. He is no better than 8/1 for the St Leger, and that makes sense.

And speaking of horses who love to battle, Broome was very good in landing the Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday. Drawn seven of seven, Ryan Moore gave him a clever ride, didn’t give up the advantage of his outside draw, went straight for the first couple of furlongs before gradually moving across as they raced into Swinley Bottom.

From there, his rider just kept busy, kept Broome up to his work, kept the pressure on his rivals until, by the time they reached the top of the home straight, they needed reserves of energy to bridge the gap to the leader which they just didn’t have. By contrast, Broome was strong all the way to the line, where he still had over three lengths in hand of his nearest rival. Relentless, said commentator Simon Holt.

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O’Brien said afterwards that he thought Broome, at the age of six, seemed to be peaking, and that view is backed up by the numerical assessments of this performance. The trainer mentioned the King George as a possible now, and why not? Ascot’s stiff 12 furlongs obviously suits him well and Sky Bet’s odds of 12/1 look fair.

As well as taking O’Brien’s career Royal Ascot tally to 81, Broome’s win also brought up the trainer’s fifth win of the week, which was enough to pip Charlie Appleby by one for the Leading Trainer award at Royal Ascot 2022. It was the 11th time that O’Brien received the award, the sixth time in eight years, the eighth time in 12 years. There’s more history right there.

www.donnmcclean.com


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