Aidan O'Brien has the potential to tie the record of 25 grade 1 wins in one year over the weekend

Aidan O'Brien has the potential to tie the record of 25 grade 1 wins in one year over the weekend

Anne M. Eberhardt

O'Brien Closing in on Frankel's Magic 25 Top-Level Wins

Champion trainer is two wins shy of Hall of Famer's mark for top-level victories.

Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien is two victories shy of the late Bobby Frankel's record of 25 top-level wins in a calendar year and has the firepower to tie that mark the weekend of Oct. 13-14 at Newmarket.

O'Brien has the top three choices in a field of 12 for the Oct. 13 bet365 Fillies Mile (G1). The trio is led by Happily, a Galileo (IRE) filly out of the Storm Cat mare You'resothrilling, who comes to the Newmarket tilt fresh from a convincing triumph over colts in the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) at Chantilly Oct. 1 at the same distance.

She contributed another group 1 win to O'Brien's tally before that, in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh Sept. 10 and overall has four wins from six starts.

Happily's margin of victory in the Moyglare Stud was only a short head over stablemate Magical and Magical returns to try again in the Fillies Mile. Magical's Oct. 1 trip across the Channel resulted in a fourth-place finish in the Total Prix Marcel Boussac (G1). She also is by Galileo, from the Pivotal (GB) mare Halfway To Heaven (IRE).

O'Brien's third chance in the Fillies Mile is September, by the Japanese-bred Deep Impact (JPN), a son of Sunday Silence, out of the Danehill mare Peeping Fawn. September will try to improve on a third-place finish in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Ryan Moore, who has ridden all three, has the mount on Happily with Donnacha O'Brien up on Magical and Seamie Heffernan engaged for September.

None of the other nine fillies has a group 1 win to her credit.

Should the Fillies Mile go his way, the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (G1) Oct. 14 at Newmarket would give O'Brien a chance to tie Frankel's mark, set in 2003. That might require an upset, however, as the antepost favorite is Expert Eye, an Acclamation (GB) colt trained by Sir Michael Stoute for Juddmonte Farms. Expert Eye is 2-for-2, impressively.

Pending final confirmations, O'Brien's best chance would seem to be U S Navy Flag, a War Front  colt who upset the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (G1) Sept. 30 at Newmarket going six furlongs. U S Navy Flag, out of the Galileo mare Misty For Me, is a full brother to Roly Poly, who provided O'Brien's 23rd group 1 of the year Oct. 7 in the Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (G1).

After the Sun Chariot win, O'Brien acknowledged surpassing Frankel's record "would be incredible for everybody." But, he quickly added, "The horse always comes first. That's the important thing. The horse always comes first.

"After every race, the lads (the Coolmore partners) sit down and have a chat among themselves and see what race they want to pick. They have a big discussion with the people around them, make a target and we go with that. It's race to race, horse to horse. The horse always comes first and we're doing our best in every race. It's all we can do."

If all he can do is not enough at Newmarket, there's still Idaho in the Pattison Canadian International (G1T) and Rain Goddess in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1T) at Woodbine Oct. 15 and the British Champions card Oct. 21 at Ascot with four group 1 events up for grabs. And O'Brien is expected to have a significant presence at the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar.