Of all sports, racing is the one where genes count, and not just under the saddle. Yesterday at the Curragh, after winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Roderic O'Connor, Aidan O'Brien's pride and delight was uninhibitedly obvious.
It was his seventh victory in the race, and a third in four years, so yet another might have seemed almost routine for the man in charge of the Ballydoyle conveyor belt of talent. But this one was special; on top, winning his first Classic, was the trainer's teenage son, Joseph.
In pouring rain that did nothing to dampen the occasion, his entire family welcomed the young man, who turns 18 tomorrow, into the winner's circle after a first-class ride that belied his years. With O'Brien Jnr, still an apprentice, judging the fractions perfectly, Roderic O'Connor made every yard of the running to hold the 7-4 favourite, Dubawi Gold, who finished strongly from off the pace under Richard Hughes,by three-quarters of a length.
At 7-2, Roderic O'Connor was the shortest-priced of the three Ballydoyle contenders; the 25-1 chance Oracle, ridden by Seamie Heffernan, came in third. "I cannot say how grateful I am to the boss [John Magnier of Coolmore] for giving Joseph this chance," said O'Brien Snr. "He knows the horse very well, he rides him at home in all his work. And he got the pace just right today."
Roderic O'Connor had beaten only two home in the 2,000 Guineas earlier in the month, when Dubawi Gold had finished second in the wake of Frankel's trailblazing blitz. Yesterday he was the one allowed to dominate.
"The ground was very fast in Newmarket and I think he was just taken off his feet," said O'Brien Jnr. "Today it wasn't so quick, and once he broke well I let him stride on, as I knew the stiff mile would suit him well. He travelled well the whole way and I didn'tsee another horse, and though I heard Dubawi Gold coming, I knew he wasn't coming quickly enough."
Although the winner was by no means at the end of his reserves to hold Dubawi Gold, the runner-up could justifiably be judged unlucky; while it may have been a finest hour for young O'Brien, who tied for last year's Irish apprentice title, it was not for Hughes.
Beforehand, he had telegraphed his intention to try to settle his mount, who tends to run with the choke out, behind rivals, but the exaggerated pull he took leaving the stalls put him straight on the back foot. And as O'Brien was winding up the gallop from the front, Hughes was meeting trouble trying to come through the pack. "I had to switch mine for his run and though I got going eventually,it was not in time," he said ruefully.
Roderic O'Connor, a son of Coolmore's champion sire Galileo, is one of eight Ballydoyle inmates still in the Derby, for which he was cut to 20-1, and is also entered in the shorter Prix du Jockey Club. "He is a strong possibility for either," said his trainer.
In today's Irish 1,000 Guineas, O'Brien Jnr takes the mount on Look At Me, with Ryan Moore on the most fancied of the Ballydoyle quartet in a field of 15, the favourite Together. The most serious business of the afternoon for the Co Tipperary operation, though, is the second northern-hemisphere appearance, and first at Group One level, of the Australian superstar So You Think in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. The five-year-old faces just four rivals; Moore will be in his saddle, with O'Brien entrusted with pacemaking duties on Windsor Palace.
The afternoon also marks the reappearance of another genuine celebrity, the French wonder mare Goldikova, who will take on eight, including Dubawi Gold's Richard Hannon stablemate Dick Turpin, in the Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp.
Hungary's national hero Overdose, nicknamed the Budapest Bullet, failed to fire on his first British outing, finishing only seventh, as 9-4 favourite, behind Sole Power in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. The winner, who had taken last year's NunthorpeStakes at 100-1, finished late andfast under Keagan Latham to collar Kingsgate Native.