O'Brien's ascendancy restored by Duke

The skirmishing is over, the big push imminent, and yesterday the heavy artillery at last began their bombardment. Aidan O'Brien, who had saddled just two winners since the beginning of the month, began Guineas week by rolling out two of his big guns and each found an immediate range. True, Yeats was made to work pretty hard to win a listed race at Navan, but morale at Ballydoyle could only be fortified by news from Paris, where Duke Of Marmalade won the stable its first Group One prize of the year.

It might be naïve to treat these as solid portents for the three-year-olds, whose challenge for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas on Saturday is supposedly led by the unbeaten Jupiter Pluvius. But it should be noted that many were professing disquiet with the stable's form two years ago, when O'Brien mustered only two winners during the whole of April. Sure enough, George Washington romped home at Newmarket. Like that tragic colt, and indeed like all four of O'Brien's Guineas winners, Jupiter Pluvius will be making his reappearance on Saturday.

Last night O'Brien cautioned that it was "by no means" certain that his new stable jockey, Johnny Murtagh, would ride that colt. Nothing would be decided until the horses had worked in midweek. O'Brien admitted that he could not be certain that Jupiter Pluvius, a son of Johannesburg, would stay a mile. "He's a big, powerful horse and we weren't even sure he would get the seven furlongs when he ran at Leopardstown last year," he said. "We asked Seamus Heffernan about the mile, and he said he thought he would get it, but these things are never guaranteed."

Henrythenavigator and Plan are the other candidates for Murtagh's attention. O'Brien confirmed that Kitty Matchem and Savethisdanceforme were the stable's likely runners in the Stan James 1,000 Guineas, on Sunday, with Georgebernardshaw and Halfway To Heaven at this stage instead pointing towards equivalent targets in France.

Duke Of Marmalade laid down a legitimate marker in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp. It may not be too fanciful to suggest that he could yet approach some of the heights subsequently reached by Dylan Thomas, after his success in the same race last year.

As a three-year-old, Duke Of Marmalade was a squad player at Ballydoyle, his honesty and limitations alike defined when he made the first four in six consecutive Group One races, without winning any. But he has had some physical issues resolved during the winter, and may be shedding his inhibitions – albeit he kept to the old script yesterday, gaining first run and grimly repelling Saddex by half a length.

"He's a horse to look forward to this year," O'Brien said. "He had a few pins in his leg after Goodwood as a two-year-old and it bothered him all last year. They were removed in the winter and he's looked a different horse, much happier."

Though there is stamina in his maternal pedigree, O'Brien is in no hurry to try the Danehill colt over a mile and a half. "Johnny was very surprised by the pace he showed today," he said. "He quickened up so well, but he's a lazy horse and will always do just enough. He's built like a miler, to be fair, round and strong. I'd say we'll be looking at the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh next month."

As for Yeats, the ground was softer than he would care for at Navan, but he knuckled down well for Heffernan when Red Maloney had the temerity to move smoothly past him in the straight. The 13th furlong was enough to bring his stamina into play and he was firmly in control at the line, three-quarters of a length in front. "Seamus was very happy," O'Brien said. "He just said that he was very idle, very laid-back, and that he was happy he was never going to get beat."

While other stables progress only fitfully towards the Classic races, John Gosden now finds himself with one of the favourites for each of the first four Classics, Centennial having made a perfectly adequate reappearance at Sandown on Saturday.

It was a gritty display, lacking the charisma attributed to Centennial in gallops gossip over the past month. But Gosden's 1997 Derby winner, Benny The Dip, managed to get himself beaten in this race and we will learn a lot more about Centennial when he meets Twice Over at York next month. In the meantime, Raven's Pass and Infallible have the chance to open new frontiers at Newmarket this weekend. Gosden does not seem to be running a war of attrition, but a Blitzkrieg.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Ask The Gatherer(Towcester 2.40)

NB: Bormo (Towcester 3.10)

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
PROMOTED VIDEO
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?
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: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'