Flat season dawns with O'Brien firmly in saddle


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The Independent Online

Early days, but already it is hard to resist the promise of many excitements ahead. The very first winner of a new turf season on the Flat – which began in Ireland yesterday, and opens in Britain on Saturday – had the decided look of a Royal Ascot two-year-old. And it would be fairly astonishing if the various Ballydoyle three-year-olds who then stretched their legs, after racing at the Curragh, failed to muster a Classic between them.

Most luminous among these was Camelot, winter favourite for both the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and Investec Derby. While some will be sceptical about the substance of his exertions, the fact remains that this was only the third time Camelot has been seen on a racecourse and, with no fewer than 10 stablemates sharing his gallop, the first time he has had more than four horses for company.

While only their trainer, Aidan O'Brien, is qualified to know what each of his workers achieved, you could not fail to admire the way Camelot came gliding past the whole group in the closing stages of their exercise. His reputation at home has long been founded on speed and the mile of the Guineas, rather than the extra two furlongs of a Derby trial, surely beckons for his reappearance. Among the fillies, meanwhile, Wading would also appear to have wintered well – judged, however superficially, on her strong finish in another group of 11.

The first of the stable's putative Classic contenders actually to gallop in anger, Twirl, had earlier proved unable to land strong support in a Group Three race over a mile. But it was certainly no dishonour to be held by a mature rival, in Chrysanthemum, so early in the year – and, having targeted the big meeting in Dubai for a second year running, the presumption is that O'Brien has his team rather more forward than has sometimes been the case.

Though Ryan Moore rode Twirl, that was his solitary mount on the card, whereas Joseph O'Brien had five in all for his father. He will also replace Moore when So You Think contests the Dubai World Cup on Saturday. Though informed sources insisted last autumn that Moore intended to make Ballydoyle his priority, ultimately he appears to have maintained the status quo with Sir Michael Stoute. In confining himself to ad hoc availability, Moore may well find O'Brien Jnr receiving enviable reward for his performances last year on the likes of Camelot and St Nicholas Abbey.

O'Brien had saddled a fancied colt for the curtain-raiser, a valuable juvenile maiden, but was obliged to submit to his mentor, Jim Bolger, who ensured that his 2008 Derby winner, New Approach, landed running in his new career at stud. Dawn Approach, the young stallion's first representative on the racecourse, was sent off a well-backed favourite and it was soon evident why. "He's a very laid-back colt, a bit different to his old man," Bolger said. "And he'll improve a lot and when he goes up in trip."

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Chac Du Cadran (4.30 Towcester)

Least exposed of these and has already proved well suited by this stiff track.

Next best: Song Of Joy (2.45 Lingfield)

Showed little in qualifying for a rating in juvenile maidens, but signs of ability tried in headgear for his first handicap on Kempton return.

One to watch: Melodic Rendezvous (Jeremy Scott) represents a yard that deserves a good horse and certainly looked like one when outclassing his rivals for a Chepstow bumper last week.

Where the money's going: Planteur, now with trainer Marco Botti, is 12-1 from 14-1 with William Hill for the Dubai World Cup on Saturday.