Aidan O’Brien is triple in his bid for an 11th win in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
It’s been 23 years since the Ballydoyle maestro first landed the Rowley Mile Classic with King Of Kings, since adding to his track record with Rock of Gibraltar (2002), George Washington (2006), Camelot (2012 ) and, more recently, Magna Grecia (2019).
Each of the coach’s three candidates this year has solid credentials, with Ryan Moore preferring Wembley to his stable mates Battleground and Van Gogh.
Wembley is making his first appearance since being narrowly beaten by another O’Brien-trained colt, St. Mark’s Basilica, in the Dewhurst in Newmarket in October.
“The plan with Wembley was always to come back here after Dewhurst last year,” the coach said.
“Everything went well with him during the winter and spring. Ryan knows him well and we are really, really happy with him.
“He got caught on bad ground in a few races last season and has really improved as he goes. Our horses were a bit slow last year, the season was a bit tricky, and everything went downhill. went a little too fast. for some of them. “
As the son of his heroine Arc Found, O’Brien has always had a soft spot for Battleground, which will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Winner of the Chesham at Royal Ascot and the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last summer, the War Front colt rounded off his youth campaign by finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup.
O’Brien said: “Battleground is a big, long-stride horse that ran really well in America. He just got caught in a bit of traffic early on and was maybe a little further back than Ryan would have. wished, but it ran home.
“He’s from War Front so he should like the pitch. He looks in good shape and we think he’s ready to start.
“Found was a big mare and very authentic. Battleground is a big horse too – she’s a very tall cruiser, which she was too.
“Frankie is a great pilot and we are so glad to have him.”
Van Gogh, the mount of Seamie Heffernan, is the only one of the trio to have already won gold in Group 1, after winning the Criterium International in trying conditions at Saint-Cloud last fall.
O’Brien didn’t expect the anticipated fast terrain at Newmarket to be a problem, adding: “Van Gogh ran on fast terrain from the start and finished in Saint-Cloud on very soft to heavy terrain. I think it’s just the way the season has gone, and the way the ground was.
“He’s a horse that moves well and we always thought he would go further than a mile. We hope he will do well (on the pitch).
“You can make very strong arguments for all of them – they all have their pros and cons.
“I would say it would be very difficult to separate.”
Joseph, the son of Aidan O’Brien, who won the 2000 Guineas as a rider aboard Camelot, has high hopes of breaking his duck as a coach in the first Classic of the season with Thunder Moon.
Zoffany’s son had Wembley behind him when he won the National Stakes last season at the Curragh, but that form was reversed in the Dewhurst, with Thunder Moon having to settle for third place.
O’Brien junior believes the prevailing soft ground contributed to the loss and has been happy with his charge progress since then.
He said: “Thunder Moon is really good, wintered really well and had a really good season last year. He had a really good race in the Dewhurst when the ground was as slow as it would have been. wish.
“This race has been the plan, he is going in good shape, we are happy with the draw (stall 10) and we are looking forward to the race.
“In Dewhurst we would have preferred a better pitch and a better draw. He traveled well and accelerated well, but he just burned out. We thought a better pitch and a better draw would have helped us out. get closer and we’re hoping it might happen on the weekend.
“He’s always shown a lot of pace, he has a great turn on his foot, which he showed on the track last year, and he’s working satisfactorily at home. Please, he can prove that ‘he is a top class colt this season.
“We’re excited, we think he’s the right guy for the race – he’s a mature, fast guy and we think a mile is a good trip for him.
“Wembley is probably the obvious danger because it was very consistent last season.”