Racing commentator John Hunt gives you his views on issues in the sport.
Another classic sweeps by and more success for Aiden O'Brien as Frozen Fire left his Epsom run well behind to put his handler into the record books once again. Just think about it. Young O'Brien has now equalled the great Vincent O'Brien with 6 Irish derby victories. At the age of 33 that really is a remarkable landmark and I firmly believe we are witnessing the development of the greatest trainer of all time.
I was working with Jason Weaver at the Curragh and I asked Jason what sets O'Brien apart? Jason thought about it for a short while before suggesting that its the small detail that marks a real genius. At the end of the day, anyone can point a horse up the gallops and make it run. But Weaver took me down to the saddling area before Mastercraftsmans win to observe the prerace routine. And here we got a glimpse of O'Brien's special relationship with his animals.
Jason said "Just watch Aiden as the horse is being saddled; he is basically giving that horse a pre race massage.Look, his hands never leave the horse. Even though the horse is being prepared for a race, Aiden is using the opportunity to relax the horse. His hands flow over the horses back in a lovely flowing motion. Note the figure of eight motion across his hind quarters. He then moves up the body and rubs between both ears and quickly rubs down the face and then long firm sweeps down the neck whilst reaching for a brush with the other hand. Contact with the horse is never lost. In a split second a final brush is applied to the mane and tail and in a few vital minutes that horse is feeling absolutely 100 per cent." It really was lovely to watch and a small indicator to what makes O'Brien a special talent. Take the chance to watch the process all over again as O'Brien comes to Sandown on Saturday with Eclipse hope Mount Nelson.
He joined my list of horses to follow after his run in France and went on to run a blinder in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and I will be rooting for him at the weekend. Another of Aiden's that should now be followed is Plan, who ran an astonishing race at The Curragh in the Woodies Listed Mile. For the first six furlongs of that race, he looked to be running appallingly. This don't forget , a horse who ran 8th in the 2000 Guineas. But on meeting the rising ground at the two pole,Plan really took off and eventually finished 4th. He was beaten 5 lengths ultimately having been at least 15 lengths off the pace at one stage. He looks an ideal candidate to now step up in trip to a mile and a quarter and I shall be following him with interest from now on.
I had a busy few days before the trip to Ireland and found plenty to catch the eye at Chester, Newmarket and Kempton last week. Trainer Andrew Balding remains in great form at present and at least two of his runners last week are well worth following. Firstly his Chester winner My Aunt Fanny, who won a maiden with ridiculous ease on Saturday. I went to speak to Andrew straight after the race and was surprised to hear him speak in such glowing terms about his charge. He said "Liam (Keniry) says that she is well worth a chance in Listed company but I think she is well handicapped so she will probably go that route." I'll see that I back her when she lines up in a handicap. A couple of days earlier, Andrew also saddled Celtic Spur, a debutante in a 7 furlong maiden at Kempton. He ran a superb race threatening to upset the hot favourite Roly Boy for much of the contest. When you bear in mind that the winner had run very well in Listed company at Epsom on his previous start, there is every reason for believing the form to be solid. Celtic Spur looks sure to win a maiden at the very least. Balding 's success can be easily quantified this year; he has enjoyed 36 winners already this year compared to a total of just 39 throughout 2007.
Also from that Kempton card a warning about Sheikh Hamdans Azwa, who weakened so badly in the 6 furlong maiden won by Ahla Wasahl, that she may well have a problem. I suppose it could just be immaturity but she emptied rapidly under pressure and I would avoid her like the plague if she turns out again soon. In more forgiving mood, Forget Dirriculous' moderate effort in the sprint handicap, as his reins broke and he was unsteerable when finishing last to Whiskey Junction.
Final thoughts from Chester are that Saturday winners Sweet Lightning and Adversity won with so much in hand that they will probably follow up; Sweet Lightning is entered at Newbury on Thursday and Adversity could win a really decent race in this mood.I also thought that Barons Spy could win more races after he dismantled a field on Friday night with the minimum of fuss. He is in the form of his life and could well land another prize before the handicapper gets hold of him. horses to avoid from this meeting include Locum, a moderate fourth in the mile and a quarter handicap. He had thrown away a great winning opportunity at Wolverhampton on his previous start and looked to have a questionable attitude here too. I'll happily be laying him in the near future.
We've talked a lot about in form yards but we finish this week by sharing sympathy for a yard whose runners are going really well but they just can't get their heads in front just lately. Mark Brisbourne has had 7 horses narrowly pipped into second place in the last 10 days; delighted that his luck changed when Squirtle got up at Thirsk on Tuesday. The long standing maiden Just Oscar was twice denied last week, staying on particularly well at Chester behind Zabeel Tower. Even though he has had loads of chances to break his duck, I'll have a few quid on him if he reappears at Brighton on Sunday. Keep the faith Mark!
Perhaps the biggest eyecatcher of the week came at Newmarket on Saturday when Imaam made a fabulous debut in behind the impressive Weald Park in a seven furlong maiden. The Hannon team have openly stated that Weald Park is one of their better youngsters so to finish second was commendable. All the more so as Imaam was short of room two out and had to be switched. When he got clear of trouble, he really flew home without ever looking likely to catch the winner. John Dunlop's yard have been quiet in recent weeks but this youngster is a certainty to pick up a maiden before moving on to better things. Have a good week.
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