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O’Brien and City Of Troy all set for Classic day of reckoning

O’Brien and City Of Troy all set for Classic day of reckoning
O’Brien and City Of Troy all set for Classic day of reckoning

Anyone else could be forgiven if they were a little twitchy as the hours count down to saddling the scorching-hot favourite for the Qipco 2000 Guineas. But pressure has long seemed an alien concept to Aidan O’Brien.

It helps, of course, that the Ballydoyle handler has been in this position before – training the favourite for the Guineas is almost a yearly occurrence, and he even knows what it is like to have one beaten at odds-on, as that fate befell Air Force Blue in 2016. But the build up to City Of Troy’s seasonal reappearance has been a little bit different.

There has been a huge buzz about this son of American Triple Crown hero Justify ever since he made his debut on July 1 last year, when O’Brien told reporters at the Curragh that Ryan Moore had said it was “the first time he’s ever rode a two-year-old that he thought wasn’t going to pull up (after the line)”.

He was even more impressive in winning the Superlative Stakes by six and a half lengths and while connections decided not to risk him on the testing ground at home in the National Stakes, they took the plunge in the Dewhurst, the defining race for juveniles, and were rewarded with an imperious display.

Part-owner Michael Tabor went on to say “this horse is our Frankel”, and bookmakers were quick to offer prices for the Triple Crown, last won in Britain by Nijinsky in 1970, trained by the great Vincent O’Brien at Ballydoyle. Quite incredibly he is as low as 5-1 to win the Derby and St Leger, as well as the Guineas.

Frankel, of course, did not run in the Derby or Leger, but he was unforgettable in the Guineas back in 2011 – being the last odds-on favourite to oblige.

The public were given a rare insight into the workings at Ballydoyle when City Of Troy’s last serious gallop was posted on social media with Champion Hurdle-winning jockey Dean Gallagher, his work rider, waxing lyrical to the camera after it.

“Everything has been good, we’ve been happy and everything has gone well in the last few days with him,” said O’Brien.

“That piece of work he did last week was the last serious piece he did and thankfully he came out of that really well and everything has been good since.

“Newmarket missed most of the rain earlier in the week and that’s good, when you are talking about Classics you always want to run them on nicer ground, really.”

City Of Troy in action on the Ballydoyle gallops
City Of Troy in action on the Ballydoyle gallops (Tom Maher/PA)

When asked if he was beginning to feel any pressure in saddling another odds-on favourite for the Guineas, O’Brien replied: “We’ve done all we can, we’re happy with how everything has gone through the winter so we’re just looking forward to it now, really.”

As ever O’Brien and Coolmore are also strongly represented in the Qipco 1000 Guineas on Sunday with Ylang Ylang, who ended her first season by winning the Fillies’ Mile.

She did, though, suffer two defeats prior to that and does not wear the same cloak of invincibility as her stablemate.

“We were very happy to get her back in the Fillies’ Mile,” said O’Brien.

Ylang Ylang and Ryan Moore return victorious after the Fillies' Mile
Ylang Ylang and Ryan Moore return victorious after the Fillies’ Mile (Nigel French/PA)

“She had those two races in the middle of her season when things didn’t work for her, but we were delighted with her in the Fillies’ Mile.

“She was a little bit keen at the Curragh in the Moyglare. We’d decided to go forward with her and she was just too keen. She ran better in the Rockfel and that gave us confidence heading into the Fillies’ Mile.

“We think she’ll stay further having won over a mile last year, but this was always where she was going to start. She stayed on well, so we think she’ll be staying on strongly.”

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