Bobby Zen

Aidan O’Brien is busy preparing for what could turn out to be one of his boldest ever campaigns at Ballydoyle with plans in place for City Of Troy (Justify) to tackle the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby followed by an audacious tilt at the Travers S. on the dirt at Saratoga later this summer.

Meanwhile, dual Derby and Breeders’ Cup hero Auguste Rodin (Deep Impact {Jpn}), arguably the most important older horse to have been kept in training at Ballydoyle for many years, is set to get his campaign underway in next week’s Dubai Sheema Classic. 

Described by joint-owner Michael Tabor as “our Frankel” after he slammed his Dewhurst rivals last term, City Of Troy heads the Guineas and Derby betting at odds of 4-6 and 2-1 respectively.

With so much on the line for a horse who has commanded such praise, O’Brien could be forgiven for feeling the pressure. The truth couldn’t be further from the case. 

Speaking at a media morning at Ballydoyle on Wednesday, O’Brien said, “I don’t feel pressure at all. All we can do is our best and whatever will be will be. But he [City Of Troy] looks a bit different at the moment anyway.”

O’Brien added, “He has always been very special. He always looked a bit different-even from the time we worked him to when he ran in his maiden.  All you can do is just keep turning up and running and see what is going to happen, but he does work very differently [to anything else].

“Horses are working in very bad ground at the moment-it’s deep. He shouldn’t like that at all but he is just powering through it. We hope to get him to Naas on Sunday after racing. They’ll all work together-him, Henry Longfellow (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), River Tiber (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), they’ll all go together over seven or seven-and-a-half furlongs. The plan is to go straight to the Guineas with City Of Troy.

“If that went well, then he could go for the Derby, and if that went well, there’s a chance he could go to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes. That’s very possible if things go well and it will be interesting.”

O’Brien is no stranger to running top-class horses on the dirt. Johannesburg famously won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2001 while Galileo (Ire), George Washington (Ire), Henrythenavigator and Duke Of Marmalade (Ire) are some of the more established names to have tackled the Breeders’ Cup Classic, albeit the latter pair’s efforts came on the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita in 2008. 

Mendelssohn came closest to delivering O’Brien and the Coolmore team a breakthrough success in the Travers when second to Catholic Boy in the 2018 edition of the race. However, City Of Troy would rank as by far the most high-profile colt that connections have pointed towards the Travers, with O’Brien putting his confidence behind last year’s European Champion Two-Year-Old’s ability to handle the surface on breeding.

Speaking about the reasoning behind such ambitious campaigning, he explained, “It’s just to expose him, really. Obviously he’s by Justify, which makes Justify very exciting for us because he should be able to do dirt as easily as he does grass. That’s what makes him unique, really. “Every one of those Justifys are the same. They are long-striding and big horses. They are scopey and very genuine. They are all happy to go forward and you can’t go hard enough in their races. It’s going to be very exciting.”

O’Brien added, “He’s done very well over the winter. He’s a medium-sized horse to look at, but when you stand into him he’s much bigger than you think he is, which is the sign of a very well-proportioned horse. It will be exciting.

“When John [Magnier] and the lads are thinking like that, they are not afraid to push him out there and see what he is able to do. If it went well in the Guineas, we’re happy to step up to a mile and a half in the Derby and then you could come back to a mile and a quarter on the dirt at Saratoga.”

City Of Troy is likely to be O’Brien’s sole runner in the Guineas while targets for Henry Longfellow, Diego Velazquez (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), River Tiber and Unquestionable (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) will be decided after they work at Naas this weekend. 

O’Brien said, “I’d imagine if City Of Troy goes to the Guineas, he’ll go himself. River Tiber always worked very well. He wasn’t right in Deauville or in the Middle Park-he wasn’t one hundred per cent, so there’s a good chance there’s more to come from him. I think he’s a miler-he’s fast. I couldn’t see him getting much further.

“Unquestionable could go for the French Guineas. He’s done very well. He’ll go to Naas on Sunday to work and he could go for a trial in France before going back for the Guineas. He could be a French Derby horse. He’s not as quick as the others, so he could get a bit further.

“When we went to America with them last year, River Tiber was five lengths better than the winner. He’s not rated that way, but if you put the two of them together, that is what will happen.”

O’Brien added, “Henry Longfellow could stretch out but he looks like a miler the way he’s going, so how much further he’d get, I’m not sure. He could be a French Derby horse, as could Diego Velazquez-he might be more that than a Guineas horse, but he’ll go with them [to Naas] as well, so it will be interesting.”

Asked for an under-the-radar three-year-old colt to follow for the campaign, O’Brien put forward Grosvenor Square (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), winner of the G3 Eyrefield S. at Leopardstown last term and no bigger than 20-1 for the Derby.

“Grosvenor Square could be a very interesting horse,” he said. “I think he’d have no problem with better ground. He’s not a heavy-framed horse, he’s a good mover. He’ll go for a Derby trial.”

City Of Troy is not the only horse that O’Brien is exploring the idea of running on dirt this season as Dubai-bound Auguste Rodin could tackle the surface at some point this year. More immediately, races like the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and the Prince Of Wales’s S. at Royal Ascot will come under consideration for the four-year-old after Meydan.

O’Brien concluded, “Auguste Rodin has another bit of work to do before he goes on Saturday, but everything looks good at the moment. It’s his first run of the year but we’re very happy with him.

“The plan was he goes there, then he could go to the Curragh for the Tattersalls Gold Cup and then Ascot for the Prince of Wales’s.

“After that, we could have a look at a dirt race with him. We’ll see how that goes. He could go to Saratoga as well. His season will be split in two really, with a busy first half and then a break. As a rule, Deep Impacts are mainly turf horses, but we were surprised how well he worked on the dirt at the Breeders’ Cup-he floated over it. He has an unusual action, so it will be interesting to see.”

The post O’Brien Has Saratoga Aim For Guineas And Derby Favourite City Of Troy appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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