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O'Brien dreams of Ascot winner in breakthrough year

 

By Nick Robson

Donnacha O'Brien is hoping to top a landmark season with a first career victory at Royal Ascot.

The 19-year-old son of trainer Aidan O'Brien has enjoyed a brilliant start to 2018, opening his Classic account in the 2000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior and the Oaks on Forever Together.

The young jockey went close at the Royal meeting last year when second on the 66-1 outsider Spirit Of Valor in the Jersey Stakes.

"Ascot is the biggest meeting we have in this part of the world for flat racing," O'Brien said.

"It would be special to get a winner there.

"I got close last year. But I don't know yet what I'm riding or how many rides I'll get."

O'Brien was cut to odds-on favourite to be champion jockey in Ireland at the weekend after taking his domestic tally to 29 to give him a narrow lead over titleholder Colin Keane.

"I think it's a massive task to win it and I think it's unlikely. But obviously I'm going to try and ride as many winners as I can regardless of the championship and see where I am closer to the time," said O'Brien.

"I'm in front at the minute but in another week I could be five winners behind. It changes so quickly and there's still a long way to go.

"A lot of the winners at the moment are in maidens which will obviously slow down as the season goes on.

"Some of the other riders will be able to ride a lot more in handicaps so I need to be doing well at this time of year."

Walk In The Sun will make his debut for Martyn Meade in the Group Three Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot rather than tackle Group One company in the St James's Palace Stakes.

The Street Sense colt, who cost $1.4million, won his first two starts for Jeremy Noseda but was transferred to Meade's care after the owner, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, opted remove all its horses from the Newmarket trainer's yard.

It has been alleged that Walk In The Sun had failed a drugs test following his second victory at Lingfield in February, but Meade is just concentrating on getting his charge to Ascot in top shape.

He said: "Walk In The Sun goes for the Jersey Stakes rather than the St James's Palace.

"He's only won two novice races so it might be asking a bit much to go straight for a Group One so we'll run him in the Jersey.

"I've had him about two months, I should think, and he's perfectly fine to run, say the British Horseracing Authority.

"Looking at his breeding, fast ground should suit and obviously it will be his first run on turf, which will be a bit of an unknown quantity, but I think conditions should suit him."

BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey declined to expand on the situation regarding the alleged failed test, adding: "It is BHA policy not to comment on investigations or speculation surrounding potential investigations."

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