With this year's Classics now all in the formbook, the search is in full swing for the successors to such as Camelot. At The Curragh yesterday, the 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner's young stablemate Battle Of Marengo became the latest to push claims for consideration for Epsom next June, with a bloodless victory, as 4-9 favourite in a field of four, in the Beresford Stakes.
The Group Two mile contest is one with a rich history: recent winners include St Nicholas Abbey, Sea The Stars, Alamshar and Azamour and those in the more distant past Nijinsky and Sadler's Wells. But as with any race, there have been some on the roll of honour who subsequently prove nonentities. Whether Battle Of Marengo follows the hoofprints of St Nicholas Abbey, the best of Aidan O'Brien's 11 previous winners, or Lermontov, the worst, remains to be seen.
For the moment, the dark bay son of Galileo is around a 16-1 shot in the early Derby trading. Another Ballydoyle inmate, once-raced Mars, heads the lists at a general 10-1; followed by such as Toronado and Telescope, recent good winners at Doncaster and Newmarket respectively, and Dawn Approach, who is scheduled to put his reputation as the season's best juvenile to date on the line in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket 12 days hence.
Yesterday, Battle Of Marengo came clear of trailblazing Orgilgo Bay in the straight for a three-and-a-half-length victory in typical testing autumn conditions at the County Kildare track, winning with his ears pricked. "He did not like the ground," said rider Joseph O'Brien, "and I can't wait to get him on a bit of good ground. But he's tough, and he's going the right way. He has a great attitude and was actually able to quicken through the ground when I asked, and he came though the last 100 yards back on the bridle."
The Racing Post Trophy at the end of the month has been pencilled in as Battle Of Marengo's Group One test. There, he is likely to meet another upwardly mobile staying youngster in Steeler, winner of Saturday's Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket. "He's still quite immature and he'll be better next year," said trainer Mark Johnston, "but the plan is to go to Doncaster."
A decision over whether Camelot, who lost his unbeaten record and the Triple Crown to Encke in the St Leger last month, runs in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday is likely to be made tomorrow at the earliest. But should he turn out in Paris, it will be without O'Brien Jr, his partner in all six of his races. The reason is wholly practical, and no reflection of the tall teenager's performances; he simply cannot get down to the weight required.
"The Arc weight of 8st 11lb is not an option for him," said O'Brien Snr, "unless we cut off one of his arms." Battle of Marengo was the middle leg of a treble for the O'Briens, after the filly Magical Dream in the Group Three Park Stakes and before Declaration of War in the finale. O'Brien fils is now level with Pat Smullen in the jockeys' title race but his younger sister was unable to add to the family tally, riding Flower Bouquet into sixth place in the apprentices' handicap on her debut in the saddle.
CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: Felix Fabulla (2.20 Bath)
After failing to cope with better, speedier company at Newmarket four days ago returns to the course, distance and class of a progressive-looking victory earlier this month..
NEXT BEST: Caterina (3.20 Bath)
Off the mark two weeks ago on her first step up to today's trip, beating one rival who won next time and another who failed to do so by inches.
ONE TO WATCH: Well-related juvenile Authorship (Mahmood Al Zarooni) is beginning to get the hang of things and will further flourish when presented with a test in excess of a mile.
WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING: Viztoria, a seven and a half-length winner at the Curragh yesterday, has been introduced into the 1,000 Guineas betting, now 16-1 with Ladbrokes.