Rhododendron blossoms as peerless Aidan O'Brien hits Mile high
Aidan O'Brien tightened his stranglehold on next year's Classics after Rhododendron led home a one-two for the trainer in the Dubai Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.
Less than a week after he saddled the first three home in the Arc at Chantilly, the Ballydoyle master secured his 19th top-level Flat winner of the year in a campaign that has surpassed even his own high standards thanks to this victory posted by the daughter of Galileo.
Twelve months after Minding enhanced her own Classic claims in the same race, Rhododendron cast her opponents aside in similar fashion to leap to the head of the betting for both the Qipco 1000 Guineas and Investec Oaks.
Backed into 5-2 joint-favouritism, the Coolmore-owned filly did not let her supporters down when she came from the rear of the field to register a third straight Fillies' Mile win for O'Brien, and a fifth in total.
As the majority of those close to the pace, which was cut out early on by Spatial, weakened out of contention approaching the final quarter of a mile, Ryan Moore sat full confidence aboard his mount before sending her into what was an unassailable lead.
Hydrangea, who had finished one place ahead of Rhododendron in the Moyglare at the Curragh last time, made a late attempt to raise another effort, but it was to little avail as two and a quarter lengths separated the pair at the line.
O'Brien said: "Ryan was very happy. She settled lovely. Seamie (Heffernan, Hydrangea's jockey) went a sensible pace. Both fillies know each other well.
"We were a little bit confused with her (Rhododendron's) Moyglare run. We thought she was a little bit better than the other filly (Hydrangea). It just goes to show the Moyglare was a very good race.
"We thought she would like to go up to a mile, which she did.
"They're two very high-class fillies and we knew they were progressing. That might be it for the year, but the lads will talk about that and see what they want to do.
"Both fillies are in a good place at the moment, so it (Breeders' Cup) is an option if the lads want to do that.
"She is out of Halfway To Heaven and she got a mile and a quarter well and is by Galileo so she does have options.
"Looking at that, I'd say she would have no problems starting off in a Guineas."
While no match for the front pair, the James Tate-trained Urban Fox picked up some more black type when she finished six lengths back in third at her first try at the grade.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager for owner Saeed Manana, said: "It was a very good run. She travelled very well behind the second.
"She stumbled a bit coming down the hill. It didn't really cost her momentum. I thought she might pick the second up but she stayed on well.
"I don't think there is anything more for her and I would have thought that would be it for the season. We will probably take her to one of the Guineas trials next season."