O'Brien seals his year with Glory

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The Independent Online

Like any decent epilogue, the success of Fame And Glory in Paris yesterday not only drew together the central themes of the story but also sharpened appetites for a sequel. Aidan O'Brien's 23rd Group One success of 2008 also seems likely to be his last – there are no more opportunities in Europe, and he has no candidate for the handful still to come in the Far East – so Bobby Frankel's world record of 25 elite winners duly seems safe. But the beauty of this final flourish, in the mud of Saint-Cloud, is that it represented as much a beginning as an end.

Fame And Glory had made his debut only three weeks previously, making all the running under an apprentice rider to beat a better fancied Ballydoyle colt in a Navan maiden. Yet here he was, fast-tracked to meet some seasoned juveniles in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, and his success automatically qualifies him as a potential Derby colt next season.

At 16-1, indeed, Coral have only three colts ahead of him in their betting. O'Brien saddled Soldier Of Fortune to finish second in this race two years ago, and it has become a key option for his stable now that it houses so many juveniles with middle-distance pedigrees.

Sure enough, he ran four yesterday – three colts by Montjeu, and one by Galileo – but Johnny Murtagh chose the right one in Fame And Glory. Always handy, he challenged wide into the straight and seized a decisive advantage before Drumbeat, finishing best under Colm O'Donoghue, cut the winning margin to half a length. Another Ballydoyle runner, Age Of Aquarius, was a length away in fourth, with the favourite, André Fabre's Feels All Right, sandwiched in between.

"Though he didn't win by that far, he was well on top by the end," O'Brien said. "He's a green horse. He'd never been away or done anything before he ran three weeks ago. He was a real baby then, but he learned a lot and he learned a lot again today.

"It's great if they can do that in that kind of a race. The horse he followed all the way through today was a Group One winner the last day. So he's a horse to look forward to."

The one caveat is that 10 furlongs in testing ground suits only a pretty dour two-year-old, even in a race run at a conservative pace. Fame And Glory will not be able to show the range of his gears until next spring's Derby trials.

"He never went like a soft-ground horse," O'Brien added. "He's a very good-moving horse, but being a Montjeu he handled it. We gave him loads of time – never asked him anything. The plan was just to give him one run, but then he won the way he did."

Regardless, it was a heartening result for Ballydoyle, following the deplorable performance of Masterofthehorse in the Racing Post Trophy. That colt may yet emulate Frozen Fire, who won the Irish Derby despite finishing his first campaign with a similar failure at Doncaster.

Bar this final encore, of course, the Flat horses had already stepped aside for the jumpers. Cheltenham's first big meeting of the season opens tomorrow, while Snowy Morning, who confirmed himself one of the best staying chasers in Ireland last spring, makes his reappearance at Clonmel today.

Willie Mullins decided against running the Grand National third against Kauto Star earlier in the month. "I wasn't happy with his work on the run-up to that race, and we would have been taking on a Gold Cup winner there," Mullins said yesterday. "His work has improved, and there is a lot less opposition, so hopefully he will run a nice race. But I'm hoping he is going to improve for the run."

There were also some decent types in action at Kempton yesterday, none more so than Briareus. Sixth in the 2006 Champion Hurdle, he then made a promising start to his chasing career but then disappeared for nearly two years with leg trouble. Yesterday he resurfaced to beat I'msingingtheblues, odds-on after making a slick start to his own career over fences at the same track last month, in a valuable graduation race.

The favourite had all his rivals off the bridle turning in, but Paddy Brennan kept feeding the ammunition belt on Briareus and their rally forced Ruby Walsh to reach for his stick on the favourite between the last two. The bigger horse had by now really found his stride and won by a length, going away, much to the delight of his trainer, Andrew Balding.

"His owners have been so patient after his problems, and it would have been easy to give up," the trainer said. "He wants a flat track and likes his races spaced out, so we will look at the King George next. I think he is ready for a step up in distance."

Kauto Star is already odds-on to win at Kempton on Boxing Day, pending his next start at Haydock on Saturday week, so the sponsors, Stan James, are content to offer 33-1 against Briareus.