The regally bred Battleground

Classic plans still fluid as Aidan O’Brien prepares to unleash mighty squad


Aidan O’Brien is trying to juggle his army of three-year-old colts as the Classics get under way at Newmarket this weekend.

With fast ground looking assured at Headquarters, O’Brien has an embarrassment of riches in the Qipco 2000 Guineas with four colts who all boast strong form.

St Mark’s Basilica beat stablemate Wembley in the Dewhurst, but O’Brien feels the latter may be suited by conditions on Saturday.

There is also Breeders’ Cup runner-up Battleground to add to the Ballydoyle mix and another Group One-winning juvenile in Van Gogh.

“It looks like the ground is going to be very fast in Newmarket, and we are trying to work out where to go with Battleground, Van Gogh, Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica,” said O’Brien on Monday.

“We have two weeks from Newmarket to France and another week to the Curragh, so the same type of horse could do Newmarket and the Curragh.

“They will do a little bit tomorrow and Wednesday, and we’ll have a discussion with the boys (owners Coolmore) to see what we do.

“Battleground has form on easy ground and he’s a War Front, so he should go on fast ground no problem.

“Van Gogh has form on nice ground but good form on soft ground as well, so I think it’s not an issue.

“Wembley has form on both but would love fast ground, and it was on the easy side most of last year when St Mark’s Basilica ran."

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It is not just the milers in which O’Brien looks to have a strong hand but also in the Cazoo Derby too, with Beresford winner High Definition heading the market and Ballysax scorer Bolshoi Ballet not far behind.

The latter seems likely to take O’Brien’s tried-and-tested route by heading for the Derrinstown Derby Trial, with High Definition likely to travel to England – but for which race the trainer is still unsure.

“We are thinking of sending Bolshoi Ballet back to Leopardstown for the Derrinstown, and that would leave High Definition with the option of Chester, Lingfield or York,” said the Ballydoyle handler.

“He’s a big galloping horse, and York would suit him well, but our only worry is that it is closer to the Derby than the other trials. We often need a bit more time than that.

“It could be the Dante, but it’s not decided yet.

“He needs one run, and he’s ready for it now. We could have left him in the Guineas, but we have four others.”

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