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O'Brien readies Royal Ascot squad in quest for leading trainer gong

 

By Martin Kelly

Aidan O'Brien is bidding for a fifth straight leading trainer award at Royal Ascot next week - and with a powerful array of talent among his team once again this year, he is odds-on favourite for a 10th title in all.

The Ballydoyle trainer enjoyed his first Royal meeting success with Harbour Master in the Coventry Stakes of 1997, and his current total of 65 winners is bettered only by Sir Michael Stoute of those still training.

O'Brien has leading contenders in the Queen Anne Stakes, Prince of Wales's Stakes, Coronation Stakes, Commonwealth Cup and Gold Cup - all forming part of the Qipco British Champions Series, which has eight races under its umbrella during the week, each carrying at least £500,000 in prize money.

The Gold Cup is a race close to O'Brien's heart, having won it four times alone with the incredible Yeats.

"It's amazing to think it's 10 years since the last of his Gold Cups. Time does fly," said O'Brien.

"He was an incredible horse, to win four Gold Cups was out of this world - for a horse to do that was incredible. Another great thing about him is that he's now a very successful National Hunt stallion for Coolmore."

The meeting always kicks off with a bang in the form of the Queen Anne Stakes, and O'Brien's big hope is Le Brivido who looked unfortunate not to be closer than fifth in the Lockinge last time out.

"Le Brivido ran a very good race in the Lockinge, Ryan (Moore) just said that he got caught up in traffic at a bad time when the race was just getting going," said O'Brien.

"We felt he ran a very good race and we've been very happy with him. In an ideal world you'd just like nice ground for him - he's got a lovely action."

The Prince of Wales's Stakes is the highlight of Wednesday's action and is shaping up to arguably be the best contest of the entire meeting, with Magical lining up for Ballydoyle.

A winner on British Champions Day, the Galileo filly pushed Enable close at the Breeders' Cup and has won three times this season, without being extended.

"Magical has done everything right so far this season and has won three races - we're looking forward to running her," added O'Brien.

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