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O’Brien planning American adventure for Al Riffa

O’Brien planning American adventure for Al Riffa
O’Brien planning American adventure for Al Riffa

Al Riffa will head to America before Joseph O’Brien starts to plot a route towards the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

A Group One winner as a juvenile, his three-year-old season was disrupted by injury but he did manage two second place finishes.

He was beaten less than a length into fourth in the Prix Ganay on his reappearance and will now aim for glory in New York.

“Al Riffa is going to Saratoga for the Manhattan Stakes, a Grade One on June 8,” said O’Brien.

“He ran really well in France, his first run back. He was coming there but got a bit tired and the race didn’t set up nicely for him.

“He actually gets a 7lb allowance in America for not winning a Group race last year, so the conditions of the race suit him very well and it’s a lot of money.

“I think he’s going to stay well and we are kind of dreaming he may be an Arc horse, but the aim is to win a Group One first.

“The worry is he’s a big horse and the track might not suit but it’s a $2million race. His other options were the Tattersalls Gold Cup against Auguste Rodin or Royal Ascot and meet whatever there.”

Closer to home, Atlantic Coast will represent the yard in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas this weekend.

Atlantic Coast (left) winning the Killavullen Stakes
Atlantic Coast (left) winning the Killavullen Stakes (Damien Eagers/PA)

“Atlantic Coast disappointed in Leopardstown on his first run back but he’s been training good since then. He’ll probably run in the Guineas because it’s a good spot for him,” said O’Brien.

“He could end up in the Jersey at Ascot but I think the Guineas is a good spot for him. He’s a smart colt but the Guineas looks like being a hot race. I think he just got stuck in the mud first time out but he’s a lovely horse.”

Raise You may be eight but after the best part of two years off, he returned with a decent comeback effort recently behind White Birch.

“We took him out to Sydney but it was a bit of a disaster because he got injured and couldn’t run,” explained O’Brien.

“It was a promising run on his comeback because he’d been off the track for 580 days, it was a really good run and he goes back for the Orby Stakes this weekend. He won it a couple of years ago so it should be a nice race for him.”

O’Brien is also building a strong team for Royal Ascot, adding: “Uxmal won at Killarney the other day and he’ll go for the Queen Alexandra because I think that will suit him.

“He could be a Melbourne Cup horse, I thought he won well the other day and he’s done nothing wrong. His form from last year has worked out. He’s a tallish horse and always took time. He got beat in a maiden at Gowran when we thought he’d win but A Piece Of Heaven beat him, then he won his maiden and just got beat in a Listed race in France going up to 106. I thought that looked steep but the horse that beat him did really well in Dubai.

“Nusret goes for the Ascot Stakes. He’s a staying handicapper who likes cover. He might end up in a Galway Hurdle or something as well.

“Stromberg ran well on his first run back behind Donnacha’s horse (Bremen). He’ll probably run in the Gallinule and then go to the Hampton Court at Ascot, that kind of a programme.

“Dawn Rising will head to Ascot. He took a bit of getting fit this year. His first run was only OK but his second run was a lot better. He loves the long distance. He always gets a bit hot, you’d think a guy of his age would know by now but that is just what he does. He’s done it since he was a young horse.”

One horse who O’Brien has especially high hopes for is Galen, who was kept on the sidelines after a very promising debut behind City Of Troy.

“Galen was second in a maiden last year and will have an entry in the Curragh this weekend,” he said.

“He had a bit of a hold up last year but I’ve been waiting for some nice ground. Hopefully he’s a stakes horse going forward, he’s done well over the winter. He’s still a maiden and has to go up through the ranks. We’ll take it slowly with him.”

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