Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O'Brien

Anne Eberhardt

O'Brien Readies Stable for Classics

Champion Irish trainer had 48 horses work March 22.

Turf Flat racing resumed in Ireland at the Curragh on Sunday, March 22, but probably more significant was Aidan O'Brien's decision to work 48 horses on the course after racing.

The going was officially soft for the racing, but the state of the turf did not put off Ireland's champion trainer who exercised many of his big-race aspirants. In any event, they were not tested too hard and learning anything from the workouts was not easy for spectators.

However, O'Brien, who did not have any runners earlier in the afternoon, was satisfied with the Danehill Dancer colt Mastercraftsman, winner of four of his five starts last year including two group I races, who has been well supported in the ante-post betting market for the first British Classic of the year, the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket at a mile May 2  

"Mastercraftsman got a little tired but he was entitled to," O'Brien said in his analysis. "It was tacky ground and Westphalia was the same too, but at the same time they swung along. Westphalia could be aimed at the French Guineas, and might have a trial for that, but he is still very much in the Newmarket picture."

Another on target for the same race is Galileo colt Rip Van Winkle, despite encountering a setback earlier this year.

O'Brien reported: "Rip Van Winkle missed a good bit of time. Johnny (Murtagh) said he was very fresh.. He got a bad over-reach and missed six weeks but I'd still be happy. We've plenty of time between now and Newmarket."

The Sadler's Wells colt Black Bear Island led home the second big group of horses, and he has been backed for the Epsom Derby (Eng-I), the 12-furlong Epsom Downs' classic on June 6.

O'Brien said was delighted with the full brother to Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral: "You would have to be very impressed with him as they could be a fair bunch of horses."

Trainer Jim Bolger showed that his team was well forward with a treble at The Curragh, while British flat racing on turf gets under way for 2009 at the traditional starting place, Doncaster Racecourse, on Saturday, March 28.