Gandolfo to extend O'Brien sequence

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The Independent Online

Pick a name, any name, from the very best who have trained racehorses for the past 200 years, and you will not find one who has come close to the achievement which Aidan O'Brien may soon complete. There have been seven Group One races open to two-year-olds colts in Europe this season, and O'Brien has won the lot. If he adds this afternoon's Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster to the list, then just one, in France next month, will remain.

Nor is he leaving anything to chance in the pursuit of an extraordinary full house. Three of the six runners in today's race have arrived from Ballydoyle, and while some of the names are not instantly familiar, the talent is surely there. Castle Gandolfo, who won the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month, leads the challenge, and O'Brien's comments after that success hint at the unprecedented strength of his two-year-old squad. "We have always thought a lot of Castle Gandolfo," he said, "but there were a lot of horses to fit into races during the summer and he just didn't get a chance until now."

O'Brien himself is away in New York with Galileo and the rest of his Breeders' Cup party, but that quote will be enough for most punters. Castle Gandolfo is odds-on with all the leading bookmakers this morning but will no doubt figure in thousands of Ballydoyle accumulators with his stablemates in New York, so the bookies will no doubt be doing their utmost to keep his odds short.

Many will see Castle Gandolfo as the sort of bet that tax-free betting was made for, but then they said the same about England when they played Greece three weeks ago. Strange things can happen on soft ground at the tail-end of the season, while Godolphin saw fit to supplement Mount Joy, which suggests he is not making up the numbers. Apparent Ballydoyle second-strings have also won big races before.

Castle Gandolfo will probably come home in front, but with just six runners, an each-way bet against him is not an option, and the sensible alternative is to invest nothing more in the race than admiration for one of the great trainers.

Pickings are fairly thin elsewhere on the card too, where the support includes a conditions stakes in which three runners have official ratings above 100, and three more are rated on 14, at least six stone adrift. Of the three in the 100s, Lincoln Dancer is hopelessly out of form, and Watching is better at sprint trips, so Imperial Dancer (2.35) should clean up without too much fuss.

Bella Chica (2.05), who won a valuable sales race at the Curragh in August when there was some cut in the ground, has been running consistently since and should return to the top enclosure after the Doncaster Stakes. SMART PREDATOR (nap 4.15), whose form improves as the evenings draw in, can win again in the sprint handicap, while at Newbury, Aglow (1.30) and High Pitched (2.30) can take the main events.

For some punters the best meeting of the day is not at Belmont or Doncaster, but at Kempton, where the Charisma Gold Cup card brings high-class jumps racing back to prominence. An interesting field of 13, including Martin Pipe's Sulphur Springs, the winner of his last five races, was declared for the three-mile handicap chase yesterday, although this could shrink if the ground deteriorates.

Four-grand races at Newton Abbot and Stratford are far removed from today's challenge, though, in which most of the major yards put up a runner. Dorans Gold, from Paul Nicholls's stable, is an obvious alternative, but Soundtrack (next best 3.25) could be the value. Venetia Williams thought him worthy of a run at the Aintree Festival last year, and he is still lightly raced for an eight-year-old, while in the novice chase, Fondmort (2.20) should make a winning debut over fences.