O'Brien points Fame towards Stars

Irish Derby winner lined up for possible Leopardstown showdown with Sea The Stars
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The Independent Online

Others may have had their doubts, but the long and the short of it is that when Aidan O'Brien said that Fame And Glory could easily be dropped back in trip after his runaway success at the Curragh on Sunday, that was precisely what he meant. Yesterday the Ballydoyle trainer revealed that the colt's next race would probably be the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on 5 September – a logical target, also, for Sea The Stars, who beat him in the Derby at Epsom last month.

Sea The Stars declined a rematch in the Irish version on Sunday, and in his absence Fame And Glory beat Golden Sword – who had been breathing down his neck at Epsom – by five lengths. The obvious inference was that Fame And Glory, having been so well suited by a much stronger pace across the open terrain of the Curragh, needs a good test of stamina at a mile and a half. But O'Brien was quick to point out that Fame And Glory had produced two brilliant trials over 10 furlongs at Leopardstown in the spring, while Johnny Murtagh, his jockey on Sunday, argued that the colt had woken up considerably since that first defeat of his career at Epsom.

O'Brien yesterday confirmed that the present intention was to return to Leopardstown, with the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp the following month also on the agenda. On the face of it, that programme might make it more likely that Yeats, the record-breaking Gold Cup winner, would be pressed into service in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot later this month. But for the moment O'Brien is confining himself to saying that Yeats is "in the picture", with no decision likely for a few days. It might yet prove that Rip Van Winkle enters the equation for that race, depending how he fares in his own showdown with Sea The Stars at Sandown on Saturday.

With Murtagh suspended, yesterday's appointment of Jimmy Fortune to ride Rip Van Winkle in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes seems a pretty instructive one. Fortune is known as a rider capable of making a horse's mind up. Given that he has only had one other mount for Ballydoyle this season, it looks very much as though connections have decided that the time has come for Rip Van Winkle to arrest the sequence of excuses he has so far assembled in three Group One starts.

The irony would not be lost on Murtagh should Rip Van Winkle finally make his breakthrough. The jockey made a conspicuous gesture of fidelity when preferring this colt to Fame And Glory at Epsom. But the suspension he picked up for careless riding at Royal Ascot is only one of several such misdemeanours this season.

Fame And Glory was a record-breaking seventh Irish Derby winner for a trainer who is still only 39, but the same card offered no less remarkable a measure of his talent when Alfred Nobel became his 11th winner in 13 runnings of the Railway Stakes, a Group Two race for juveniles. Three of them – George Washington, Rock Of Gibraltar and King Of Kings – went on to win the 2,000 Guineas the following spring. But this looked a modest field and there seems little doubt that Steinbeck, impressive on his debut at Naas in May, is viewed as a superior prospect.

Steinbeck is being handled with care at Ballydoyle. He was spared what would surely have proved a dispiriting encounter with Canford Cliffs at Royal Ascot, and was again said to need more time when leaving the Railway Stakes to Alfred Nobel. But O'Brien indicated that Steinbeck could well resurface at the July Festival at Newmarket next week.

Turf account: Chris McGrath


Incendo (8.50 Kempton) Bred to stay well, and has shown more than enough in two handicaps over a mile to suggest that he can defy a modest rating in stepping up to this kind of distance.

Next best

Promise Maker (5.0 Catterick) Landed a gamble when stepped up to this trip in a selling handicap at Ripon on her reappearance, and easily excused failure on softer ground when amateur-ridden last time.

One to watch

Yuritini (Eve Johnson Houghton) Looked clueless early in her debut at Windsor on Monday, in a maiden sprint, yet stayed on nicely for fourth.

Where the money's going

Ialysos is 5-1 from 6-1 with the sponsors for the Coral Charge at Sandown on Saturday.