Australia 'exceptional' - O'Brien
Aidan O'Brien is still pinching himself at training a horse of the "exceptional" quality of Australia as he builds towards the Investec Derby on June 7.
A son of Galileo out of the brilliant racemare Ouija Board, Australia burst onto the scene with a scintillating victory at Leopardstown last September and despite his stout breeding, was strongly fancied for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this month.
Although he came up just short on the Rowley Mile, beaten three-quarters of a length into third behind the Kieren Fallon-ridden Night Of Thunder, he ran a perfect trial and is the red-hot favourite for Epsom.
O'Brien has saddled four previous Derby winners in Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012) and last year's hero Ruler Of The World.
Camelot had previously won the Guineas and almost completed the Triple Crown in the St Leger - but O'Brien feels Australia is even better.
Speaking at a press morning at Ballydoyle, the trainer said: "He's a Derby horse we've not had the like of before.
"I thought Camelot was the best horse we had for the Derby, but this horse is another step up. The very first time he worked as a two-year-old we knew he was exceptional and the lads always rated him.
"I've never had a horse like this. I'm not trying to blow him up, I'm just saying how it is. A lot of things have to go right, though.
"For a horse by Galileo to be doing what he's doing, we've never had that before.
"The reason we were excited before the Guineas (was that) his lead horse was Oklahoma City and he was treating him with contempt every day.
"Even in March and April (last year), he was doing half-speeds with horses he shouldn't have been able to go with.
"What pricked everyone's ears was one morning he did four furlongs and it was 11 seconds a furlong for each furlong.
"I can't remember a two-year-old doing that before. It's very unusual and when he pulls up he would be yawning!
"When Frankie (Dettori) was over last year, he jumped off the ground after he sat on him.
"He's very uncomplicated, very relaxed. He has a great cruising speed, a great mind and has speed.
"He's also bred to get the trip well and that makes him exceptional."
It has been a relatively slow start to the season for Ballydoyle team, with O'Brien revealing some of his string were under the weather earlier in the year.
For that reason, he is expecting Australia to improve considerably for his comeback run at Newmarket.
"At the start of the year we were struggling a bit, it hasn't been straightforward. We had a bit of a cough around for a long time. I think it's more or less gone now, we're happy with where the horses are now. We've trained our way gently through it," said the trainer.
"If the horses are going to a Classic, they have to run in a prep race. We're not complaining about it, everyone gets a run of it sometimes.
"Australia was sick six weeks before the Guineas - he was probably the first horse to show signs of the cough and then it spread like wildfire through the yard."
Of the Guineas, which saw the field split into two, with Australia in the near-side group, O'Brien said: "At Newmarket it would obviously have been better if the horses had all been in a bunch. We knew from halfway he was behind so he had to make a move early. Therefore he was getting there early and had to keep going.
"It was only in the last half-furlong he spotted Kieren's horse coming. It was great for Richard Hannon, though, who did a great job."