O'Brien takes the lead to master young devil

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Await The Dawn on track for Breeders' Cup Classic but only after a display of both tantrums and talent

Of the virtues that a trainer of racehorses needs, patience is arguably number one. And that trait could hardly have been better exemplified by Aidan O'Brien's handling of Await The Dawn, who continued his progress towards the top by winning Royal Ascot's most important mile-and-a-half contest, the Hardwicke Stakes.

And that is not just handling in the broad sense of conditioning the beast, judging its progress and planning its career path, in the short and long term, immaculate though that has been in this case. On Saturday it was handling in its most literal meaning. Await The Dawn's demeanour behind the scenes in the build-up to the race was downright brattish and it was only his master's voice and firm touch that restored order where chaos threatened to reign.

As he was led round the pre-parade ring prior to being saddled, the imposing Await The Dawn decidedly caught the eye. "A good-looking devil, isn't he?" was the judgement of O'Brien's fellow trainer John Gosden. It soon became clear that devil may have been just about right, handsome or not.

In mitigation to the four-year-old, he is callow for one his age (he had raced only five times previously), there was a blustery wind that caused unexpected – and to the equine mind potentially threatening – movements and flappings, the atmosphere was charged.

In a saddling stall, the colt stamped and fidgeted and complained as the various pieces of tack were placed on his back, before plunging forward and dislodging it all as he felt the girth drawn up under his belly. After several attempts had brought the same result, O'Brien himself took the lead rein and led Await The Dawn into the open, to the far end of the enclosure. There his conduct became even worse; he had room to rear like the noble stallion he will one day become, and did so, with O'Brien's right-handman, Pat Keating, having to play him like a kite in a stiff breeze.

His equipment was once again scattered and he was still defiant. But the time of the race was fast approaching; it was time for an end to the impasse. This time O'Brien took the naughty one firmly by his bridle and calmly led him, without further eye contact or demur, out of the parade ring to a parking area away from public gaze.

Without an audience Await The Dawn meekly submitted to the routine of being saddled. Ryan Moore had to mount him on the run as he went straight to the track, missing the main parade. But potential disaster had been averted and the colt's demolition of his rivals in the Group Two contest is now history.

"There is not an ounce of malice in him," said O'Brien afterwards, "but he's a big strong lad, and occasionally wants just to make the point that he's bigger and stronger than us. I could see in his eye that he was just testing us, taking the mickey. And when he's like that, he knows eventually there's a line he doesn't cross."

Await The Dawn's performance put him firmly among the elite Coolmore-owned middle-distance firepower at Ballydoyle, with the Breeders' Cup Classic his long-term target.

Despite ground softer than ideal, Await The Dawn outclassed his rivals to clinch O'Brien's second Royal Ascot trainers' title in three years. He has yet to compete at the top level but holds entries in both the Coral-Eclipse Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. As do 19 other individual Ballydoyle inmates at this stage, including the Co Tipperary stable's two other senior front-line musketeers So You Think, the most likely candidate for Sandown, and St Nicholas Abbey, pencilled in for the Ascot showpiece.

O'Brien's interaction with Await The Dawn was an education and a pleasure to watch, but the Irishman is never complacent in his knowledge and shouldered the blame for the narrow defeat of Australian champion So You Think, who came to his care earlier this year, at Ascot on Wednesday. "We don't know him as well as we thought," he said, "and didn't make him work enough at home to get him hard fit. That race will have brought him on, though, and we'll try not to make the same mistake again."

Royal Ascot: highlights of the week

Finish of the week

The Prince of Wales's Stakes, in which Frankie Dettori on Godolphin's Rewilding bloodied the nose of Coolmore's ex-Australian star So You Think by a hard-fought neck, was a thrillingly full-blooded encounter between two top-class horses representing the sport's two superpowers. Dettori's use of his whip earned him a ban, but with Rewilding responding willingly to its rhythmic effect, it neither damaged the horse nor ruined the spectacle, only highlighted the unsatisfactory nature of the rules and the penalties they invoke for a breach.

Disappointment of the week

In Tuesday's Queen Anne Stakes clash between proven star miler Goldikova and upwardly mobile Canford Cliffs, something had to give. But after the mare's length defeat by her younger rival, it turned out the playing field had not been level, after her rider Olivier Peslier unexpectedly put up 2lb overweight after putting on someone else's boots. Goldikova's supporters may justly feel things may be on the other foot the next time the horses meet.

Goal of the week

Michael Owen has never been seen in tears of emotion in an England shirt but he produced a fair Gascoigne impression after netting his first Royal Ascot winner with Brown Panther, a colt he not only owns but bred, in the King George V Stakes. There was no such joy, though, for an absent sporting superstar. Hoof It, who runs for golfer Lee Westwood and his manager Chubby Chandler, started favourite for the Wokingham Stakes but managed only seventh.

Perfect result of the week

Freaky superhorse Frankel's three-quarter length defeat of Zoffany in the St James's Palace Stakes could not have been better timed, coming as it did just days after the announcement of a knighthood for his trainer Henry Cecil. The margin of victory was only narrow, but the feel-good ovation it prompted was the meeting's most heartfelt by a distance.

Plan of the week

Back in 1999, an ownership group sent a yearling named Jasmick to Hughie Morrison with the notion of having a Royal Ascot winner. The filly did make it to the meeting, only to stumble and unseat her rider in the 2003 Ascot Stakes. Nothing daunted, the syndicate passed the baton to the next generation and, in a victory 12 years in the plotting, their pride and joy's son, Sagramor, also with Morrison, at last took them into the hallowed winner's circle after the Britannia Stakes.

Turf Account

* Chris McGrath's Nap

Trumpington Street (3.00 Wolverhampton)

Stepped up on his disappointing seasonal debut with a narrow defeat, he and the winner well clear of the rest, and even without improvement that effort should be good enough to secure a first victory.



* Next best

Beechcraft Baron (7.40 Windsor)

Handicap debutant who has shown steady progress in his three runs to date and has scope. Trip and ground should suit; his sire and dam both operated on an easy surface.



* One to watch

With his third maiden run now under his girth, Arabian Heights (Sir Mark Prescott) has the profile of one who will be placed to strike given a step up in trip in handicap company.



* Where the money's going

The Willie Mullins-trained Thousand Stars, winner of Saturday's Grand Course des Haies at Auteuil, is 8-1 for next year's World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory