O'Brien's Air Force One primed for Guineas takeoff
Newmarket (United Kingdom) (AFP)
With Rule The World's stirring Grand National triumph still fresh in the mind, racing's compass rotates towards Newmarket this weekend and the first English classics of 2016.
Not for the first time, Aidan O'Brien holds the key with the betting for Saturday's English 2,000 Guineas and the 1,000 24 hours later dominated by blue blooded residents at his Ballydoyle training palace.
O'Brien is aiming for an eighth 2,000 Guineas with Air Force One, who on all the evidence of his two-year-old form and breeding looks hard to oppose.
The odds-on favourite was described by his master trainer as "something like we've never had before" after his stylish win in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October.
He has reportedly wintered well, and should have the class and stamina to prevail on his first attempt at the mile trip.
"I would say he is certainly the best two-year-old I've ever trained, by some way," O'Brien said after the Dewhurst.
Air Force One's task was eased last week with the the news that Saturday's classic had come too soon for one of his main rivals, Emotionless, flying the flag for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin.
Godolphin's royal blue silks will now be represented by Buratino, who had Air Force One two lengths adrift when landing the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last June.
Champion jockey Ryan Moore put Air Force One's defeat that day down to his charge's physical immaturity.
Air Force One turned the tables in no uncertain terms when the pair next met at the Curragh, and it should be a similar story of superiority for the Irish challenger on their third meeting.
Sunday's 1,000 Guineas is also destined for O'Brien with Minding the hot favourite to supply him with a fourth success in the fillies classic.
She is joined by another O'Brien Group 1 winner from last season in Ballydoyle, who impressed in a searching workout last Saturday at the training centre after which she is named, and Alice Springs.
"We know that Minding handles the ease well whereas Ballydoyle is not as effective on easier ground. They were very close as two-year-olds," O'Brien told British media this week.
"I would imagine Ryan (Moore) will ride Minding as he was very impressed with her last year. I think he was more impressed with Minding than Ballydoyle when he rode her."French trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, who has a fond association with the race having won it three times already, sends over Midweek.
By Motivator, the same sire that produced Head-Maarek's two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine Treve, she looks attractively priced at around 25-1 after impressing in her final workout in Chantilly.
"I know she was beaten in the Prix Imprudence, but she will definitely be suited by stepping back up to a mile as she won over that trip last year," the trainer told racing channel, At The Races.
"She was my best two-year-old last season, she was slowly away on her debut and should have finished much closer than fourth.
"I've been lucky with Motivator as a sire in the past and I'm hoping I can be again.
"She's a good filly and will appreciate any cut in the ground - it just depends if any of the other fillies are better than her."
© 2016 AFP