Racing: Dylan faces dirt duel with Bernardini

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The Independent Online

You are not supposed to build a house on sand, and Aidan O'Brien intends to dig appropriate foundations when Dylan Thomas makes a new start on the same surface. As a result, the Ballydoyle trainer yesterday disclosed that Dylan Thomas is likely to have a preliminary skirmish with Bernardini at Belmont on 7 October.

When the runaway Irish Derby winner beat Ouija Board at Leopardstown 11 days ago, O'Brien raised the exhilarating possibility of taking on the American dirt champion for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Unlike Giant's Causeway, foiled so narrowly by the monstrous Tiznow when the race was last staged there, Dylan Thomas has an unadulterated turf pedigree. The same was true of Galileo, who proved a fish out of water when obliterated at Belmont the following year.

Dylan Thomas is duly being given the opportunity to sample the alien racing environment - not to mention its most formidable specialist - in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, itself one of the most prestigious races in the American calendar. With Kieren Fallon having abandoned any attempt to obtain permission to ride in the United States, the race would allow another jockey to share the reconnaissance.

O'Brien is indifferent to the fact that Bernardini, whose latest Grade One romp was a seven-length success in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, is on target for the same race. "We wouldn't go there expecting to win it, by any means," O'Brien said. "It would be a trial for him, a chance just to run a nice race and learn. We'd be throwing him in a the deep end, and no doubt he'll be shocked."

Needless to say, Dylan Thomas could be given a fresh agenda if unable to adapt to the dirt. But O'Brien remains optimistic that he has the necessary attributes. "He's very tough, acts of fast ground, and never gives up," he said. "He stays a mile and a half, but has the class for a mile, mile and a quarter. He is the right type of horse, a grinder, but first he has to get into a position to grind - that's the tricky part."

Ballydoyle seems likely to mount one of its strongest Breeders' Cup raids to date, depending on how some of its key horses - the likes of George Washington and Alexandrova - perform in Europe in the meantime. It would be surprising if the party did not ultimately include a candidate for the Juvenile, though sadly one of the most promising young colts in the stable will not be seen anywhere for the rest of the season. Duke Of Marmalade, unlucky not to catch Strategic Prince in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last month, will instead be among those entering the equation for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas next spring. "He's had a setback," O'Brien confirmed. "But he'll be back in full training in November."

George Washington, meanwhile, attempts to renew all his lustre in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. Having thrashed the Derby winner, Sir Percy, in the Guineas, he suffered a hip injury in the Irish version and resurfaced only last month when third at Goodwood - in Fallon's absence, ridden for the first time by Michael Kinane.

"We went there to have Mick introduced to George," O'Brien said. "We were so fearful that he wouldn't come back that he had never been stretched at home since he got injured. He was stiff afterwards, as he was entitled to be, and everything that could go wrong in the race did go wrong. But everything has gone well since, he's been blossoming."

There were a dozen other acceptors, the four Godolphin candidates headed by two previous Group One winners in Librettist and Proclamation. The present intention is for both to run.

Proclamation has made only one start for Godolphin, when third to Ad Valorem in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. As it happens, O'Brien sent Ad Valorem out to Canada at the weekend, and he acquitted himself honourably with third in the Woodbine Mile.

But it seems unlikely that Yeats will be joining the Co Tipperary stable's globetrotters this autumn after his odds-on defeat at the Curragh on Saturday. Bookmakers scratched him from their Melbourne Cup betting after a director of the Victoria racing authorities said yesterday that he had been notified Yeats would be staying at home.

This, after all, is the week when the world comes to Ireland, rather than the other way round. The inaugural running of the Shelbourne Hotel Goffs Million is the highlight of Ryder Cup raceday, when the Irish sport intends to exhibit its jewels - ranging from the champion hurdler to Vincent O'Brien himself - to a cosmopolitan crowd. British trainers hoping to crash the party are headed by Mark Johnston, whose three in the race include Drumfire, game winner of the Solario Stakes.

l Ed Dunlop, who has been based at Gainsborough Stables in Newmarket for 10 years, is to lease the yard and train there as a public trainer. The change comes after the death of Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum earlier this year and means Dunlop is no longer employed by Gainsborough.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Bridegroom (Beverley 4.25)

NB: You Live And Learn (Brighton 4.15)

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