Magical and Flag Of Honour give Aidan O’Brien a strong hand as he chases a fifth victory in the Alleged Stakes at Naas on Saturday.
The Ballydoyle handler landed the very first running of this Group Three contest with Black Sam Bellamy in 2003 and has since struck gold with Brian Boru (2004), Dylan Thomas (2007) and last year’s winner Capri.
Ryan Moore has unsurprisingly opted to partner the top-class filly Magical in this year’s renewal. The daughter of Galileo landed the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot last October before pushing John Gosden’s Enable all the way in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
O’Brien is looking forward to seeing the daughter of Galileo return to the fray this weekend.
He said: “She’s obviously back after a break, but we’ve been happy with her and she’s been doing everything nicely at home. She’s just ready to start, but we’re happy with what she’s doing.
“We were delighted with her at the end of last year and she really got it together. Obviously we’re looking forward to this year with her.”
Seamie Heffernan takes the ride on last year’s Irish St Leger hero Flag Of Honour.
O’Brien added: “We’re happy with him and he’s just ready to start. He’s in good form and hopefully he will run a nice race.
“Obviously we know he stays much further and we’ll probably step him up after this.”
O’Brien’s son, Joseph, saddles the Irish Derby hero of last season in Latrobe.
The Camelot colt provided O’Brien junior with his first Classic success as a trainer when claiming a narrow victory at the Curragh last summer.
He went on to finish second to Flag Of Honour in the Irish St Leger before being shipped to Australia, where he was only narrowly denied in the Group One Mackinnon Stakes in November.
A trip to Sha Tin for the Hong Kong Vase the following month proved a bridge too far – but he is reported to be in rude health ahead of his return.
O’Brien said: “”He is a great horse to have in the yard and we are looking forward to the year with him.
“We would have always thought that he would make as good a four-year-old as he did a three-year-old.
“I don’t think he is a stayer – he has a big cruising speed and I think a mile and half will be his optimum trip.”
Dermot Weld runs last year’s Epsom Derby fifth Hazapour, while the Ger Lyons-trained Mustajeer and Jessica Harrington’s Still Standing are both previous winners over the course and distance.
The quality field is completed by Jim Bolger’s Stellar Mass and Ken Condon’s stable stalwart Success Days.
Condon said: “He had a busy year last year and after going to Australia, his form wasn’t as good as it has been in previous years. He ran well off the plane in the Mooresbridge in Naas, but his form tailed off a bit after that.
“He’s had a longer break this time and he seems to be in really good form.
“It looks a very good renewal and he has a bit of work to do to get back to where he was. It will be interesting to see if he can.
“He is going well at home, so I’d be hopeful he’ll perform better than he did in his last couple of runs last year.”