Following Holy Roman Emperor’s shock retirement to stand as a stallion at Coolmore earlier this month, trainer Aidan O’Brien admitted on March 26 that he is looking for another of his 3-year-olds to step forward in order to fill the void left by that horse’s departure.
O’Brien, the perennial Irish champion conditioner, unveiled his main hopes for 2007 at his annual media day at the famous Ballydoyle stables in County Tipperary, Ireland. He has several potential classic contenders.
"I was counting on Holy Roman Emperor beating Teofilo in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) (Newmarket on May 5) all through the winter," said O’Brien.
"He was very forward and our best shot in the Guineas and then the St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I). Everything had focused on him all winter and we felt he was unlucky in the Dewhurst last year (when second to Teofilo)."
The St. James’s Palace Stakes is also over a mile at Royal Ascot on June 19.
Names mentioned by O’Brien as possible Guineas contenders included Duke Of Marmalade, Mount Nelson, Spanish Harlem, Yellowstone and Astronomer Royal.
"Duke Of Marmalade is definitely in the Guineas picture as we’ve always though a lot of him. He fractured a pastern last year but seems fine again now. However, he was seven pounds below Holy Roman Emperor so we will have to step up to beat Teofilo. He could go straight for the English Guineas, as could Mount Nelson. There is a good chance they can make the jump in class."
Excellent Art, purchased by Coolmore over the winter, is likely to go for the French Two Thousand Guineas, while O’Brien’s hopes for the 12-furlong Epsom Derby (Eng-I) at Epsom Downs June 2 include Macarthur, a full brother to 2005 Derby hero Motivator, Mount Nelson, Admiralofthefleet, Eagle Mountain and Anton Chekhov.
"Macarthur won’t go the Guineas route, he’ll go over a mile and a quarter and could run in the Ballysax Stakes (Ire-III) (at Leopardstown April 22) . Anton Chekhov is another Ballysax type.
"Mount Nelson could be anything. He has a lot of size and scope and he is by 'The Rock' (Rock Of Gibraltar) out of a Selkirk mare, so he is not sure to get a mile and a half, whereas Macarthur and Anton Chekov should definitely get the trip. He might run at Leopardstown in two weeks, while Admiralofthefleet might go to York for the Dante Stakes (Eng-II)" at York May 17.
Of his fillies, O’Brien said that Rock Of Gibraltar’s sister Nell Gwyn and Theann were among his One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) possibles at Newmarket May 6 .
The trainer has more than 80 2-year-olds in training, mostly unnamed, and one he singled out was a first crop High Chaparral colt out of Mountain Holly.
George Washington, whose fertility problem’s prompted Holly Roman Emperor’s sudden retirement, is now back in training at Ballydoyle. The Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot on June 19 is a possible target, O'Brien said.
"I’ve not seen much of him and at the moment he is on five legs so it will be clearly Ascot before he has a chance to get back.
"I think George Washington has about six mares scanned in foal, all from near the end, so there is a chance it could get sorted out with him in the future."
Kieren Fallon is riding daily at Ballydoyle while currently banned from race riding in Britain. O’Brien said he will use the best jockeys available including Seamus Heffernan, Colm O’Donoghue and French ace Christophe Soumillon, who contacted Ballydoyle last week but also remains contracted to ride the Aga Khan’s horses.