Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

O’Brien has the Master

Brian Meehan’s Delegator will have to contend with eight rivals and very heavy ground when he lines up for tomorrow’s Boylesports.com Irish 2,000 Guineas, in which Aidan O’Brien will field four colts, spearheaded by race favourite Mastercraftsman.

It will be a chance to put Sea The Stars’ Newmarket Classic form to the test — Delegator was runner-up — though whether any accurate conclusion can be reached in severely rain-affected ground is another matter.

O’Brien said yesterday: “It (the ground) is not ideal for any horse, but Mastercraftsman has handled it before and he is a very versatile horse. I’ve been happy with him since he ran at Newmarket.”

The other Ballydoyle runners are Hail Caesar, Drumbeat and Viceroy of India, which is a squad of some depth to again take on trainer John Oxx.

Oxx relies on the unbeaten Rayeni, who should be at home in the ground. If Oxx again saddles the winner, it will be viewed as another positive for followers of his stablemate Sea The Stars.

Jim Bolger did not declare Intense Focus, which wants fast ground, and will instead rely on Fergus McIver.

Richard Hannon’s Soul City will be having his first run of the campaign. Kevin Prendergast will saddle Recharge.

The ‘block entry’ submitted by Ballydoyle may be a taste of what is to come at Epsom. O’Brien has seven Derby entries and trains six of the first nine, including 5/2 favourite Fame And Glory.

Fame And Glory and Black Bear Island have landed the two most influential trials, the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial and the Dante Stakes, while Age Of Aquarius was victorious in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

O’Brien said: “Everyone will discuss it — the boss, Sue, Derek and Michael — and they will decide themselves. A decision is a little bit away still.

“It’s very difficult, but we’re privileged to be in a position to have horses who have come through trials. Everyone is saying that Fame And Glory was the most impressive winner and obviously we see the same as everybody else sees.

“We were very happy with Age Of Aquarius at Lingfield.

“We were over the moon with that and he came out of it great,” he added.

Also in consideration is Rip Van Winkle, a staying-on fourth in the English 2,000 Guineas on his only start this term.