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Aidan O’Brien may not have had as memorable a season by his normal high standards but the Ballydoyle stable’s two-year-old colts delivered him a one-two in the Group One Middle Park Stakes on Saturday at Newmarket with Blackbeard sprinting clear from The Antarctic.
There was a major worry before the race as the eventual winner did his normal trick of getting thoroughly worked up in the preliminaries and consequently drifted out to 100-30 in the betting, but he kicked clear in the closing stages to win by two lengths and became the third horse to win a Group One in Britain for the trainer this year.
O’Brien, who was recording his seventh victory in the contest, said: “He’s a character [at home]. There’s no badness in him but he doesn’t have a lot of patience. Some people don’t mind waiting, others like to get going and he does too.
“He can do whatever he wants – he’s a very important horse for us. He’s very fast and always very professional. He started off very early [in the season] and has held his form very strong. I think he’s all about speed rather than a Guineas horse.”
When questioned about whether Blackbeard would now head to the Breeders’ Cup meeting next month in the United States, O’Brien said it was a “definite possibility” but that his horse had been busy this season and he would have to see how he took this race.
O’Brien was asked afterwards about the sidelined Little Big Bear, who beat the third-placed Persian Force in much more devastating fashion when last seen in August, and said: “He’s a horse to look forward to and there’s plenty of stamina on the dam’s side – he’s the one we are thinking about for the Guineas next year.”
Given the winner’s speedy disposition it’s unlikely he will be among the stable’s Classic race candidates next year and Betfair introduced Blackbeard at 5-1 for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, an obvious target for him in his three-year-old career.
The 15-8 favourite Marshman pulled far too hard before trailing in fifth and his jockey Clifford Lee reported his mount was “far too keen” with him.
Ralph Beckett has an enviable record with fillies and Lezoo joined the list of winners of his on the distaff side with victory earlier over the O’Brien-trained favourite Meditate in the Cheveley Park Stakes. Betfair cut the winner from 25’s to 12-1 for next year’s 1,000 Guineas but the Commonwealth Cup sprint contest – for which she is 16-1 with Coral – appears a more likely target.
“Unfortunately I don’t see Lezoo staying a mile – I’ve never felt that she would. I think it’s very unlikely, but the filly who finished fifth [Juliet Sierra] will,” Beckett reported.
There were plenty of surprises elsewhere, with 17-2 shot The Foxes beating Dubai Mile and 2-7 favourite Flying Honours in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket and O’Brien failing to win the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh for the 12th time in succession when his 4-7 favourite Adelaide River had no answer to the finishing kick of the Michael O’Callaghan-trained Crypto Force.
The Foxes earned a quote from Betfair of 25-1 for the 2023 Derby after quickening up best off a muddling pace and trainer Andrew Balding said: “I would have thought that would be it for this season. He’s got the entry in the Futurity at Doncaster, but he’s a horse that will go on next year.”
Charlie Appleby said of the well-regarded Flying Honours: “We’ll just put a line through that – it was a strangely run race. Whether we give him another run I’m not sure, we’ll see how he comes out of it. I might just give him one more to tighten him up. He is in at Doncaster, but there’s a handy race here in a couple of weeks, the Autumn Stakes. He knows the track now.”
Coral make Crypto Force a 33-1 shot for next year’s 2,000 Guineas, while he is 25-1 with the same firm for the Derby at Epsom. “That’s massive. I’m delighted for [owners] Kia Joorabchian and Amo Racing. He’s been a big supporter of mine this year and he’s let me go to the breeze-ups and buy some nice horses. Colin [Keane, the jockey] said he could make up into a Guineas horse over the winter,” said winning trainer Michael O’Callaghan.
Apprentice Aidan Keeley swooped from off the pace aboard the Mick Channon-trained Majestic to land the major betting race of the day at Newmarket, the Cambridgeshire Handicap.
It was the young rider’s first ride at the track and he was understandably emotional afterwards. “I’m ecstatic to win a race like this, it’s by far the best of my career, I don’t really know how to put it into words,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of help off jockey coaches and all my family and thanks go to Mr Channon for giving me the ride. There’s a lot of people behind it, I’m just the one riding the horse. This was my first ride at Newmarket so that was a thrill in itself, never mind it being a winner and in the Cambridgeshire – I just can’t put it into words.”