To win a joint-record 25th Group 1 race of season, Irishman has five races across two continents
Aidan O'Brien on cusp of equalling Bobby Frankel's Group 1 record
Come Saturday, all eyes will be on Aidan O’Brien. He is one win away from equalling the American trainer Bobby Frankel’s record of saddling 25 Group 1 winners in a season.
To achieve this, the Irishman has five races across two continents: the Group 1 Caulfield Cup at the Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, and four Group 1 prizes at the British Champions Day card at Royal Ascot.
Johannes Vermeer is fancied in the Caulfield Cup, and if successful, O’Brien’s attention can shift to going past the record of 25 Group 1 winners at the Champions Day meeting at Ascot where he will field a strong team at the last major meeting for the season in Britain.
The Irishman is confident Johannes Vermeer has all the attributes to land the US$3 million (approximately Dh11m) prize at Caulfield.
“He’s a quick breaker, he’s usually settles well and he usually quickens well,” O’Brien said. “You need a horse with tactical pace who then relaxes and then can really quicken.
“I suppose it all adds up to you really need a good colt. He is pacey, a flat track should suit him. The lads are very happy with him.”
If Johannes Vermeer lives up to his trainer’s word, the Irishman will start his Champions Day meeting campaign later in the day having equalled Frankel’s record.
O’Brien has a strong presence in all four Group 1 races – the British Champions Sprint, British Champions Fillies and Mares, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champions Stakes.
Caravaggio spearheads his challenge in the Sprint in which Godolphin’s hat-trick seeking Harry Angel looks the one to beat.
Hydrangea will have to overcome the Prix Vermeille winner Bateel, in the silks of the Abu Dhabi owners Al Asayl stables, and runner up Journey in the Fillies and Mares.
Churchill can prove O’Brien’s best chance despite his disappointing run in the Irish Champions Stakes in his most recent start behind Decorated Knight. Godolphin has three entered in the race led by Ribchester, Thunder Snow and Toscanini.
“It’s not definite yet whether Churchill will drop back to a mile in the QEII or run in the Champion Stakes,” O’Brien said. “We'll be talking things over, keeping an eye on the ground and leaving a decision as late as possible.”
The Epsom Derby runner up Cliffs Of Moher and multiple Group 1 winner Highland Reel fly the O’Brien’s flag in the Champion Stakes, in which Godolphin’s Barney Roy and the John Gosden-trained Cracksman pose the threats.
Clive Cox, the trainer of Harry Angel, is upbeat that the Godolphin runner will follow up on both his impressive victories in the July Cup at Newmarket and Sprint Cup at Haydock
“He's going to Ascot fresh and well,” Cox said of the bay colt by Dark Angel in the Godolphin website.
“We have a wonderful variety of training facilities here, and we have been topping up his fitness since his last run. If anything, he's stronger than before.
“When he went to Haydock in heavy ground, he was in unexplored territory. He had broken a track record on firm ground there earlier in the season, so it was very different. Yet, he was brilliant."