Aidan O'Brien is a world-class trainer, there is no doubt about that. Coolmore is a world-class operation with world-class money behind them, there is no doubt about that either. But are the top British trainers running scared of the Ballydoyle Empire? O'Brien's brilliant 1-2's in the 2000 Guineas and Derby were genuine enough as our best turned up on the day and were not good enough, but just how much easier could we make it for them in other top races? Rock Of Gibraltar simply cantered home in the Irish 2000 Guineas leading home an O'Brien 1-2-3 in the contest, but the only British runner in the classic event was John Gosden's Foreign Accent, winner of a £6,000 maiden race last October. Hardly giving them a run for their money is it? Our championship races are being ruined by a severe lack of competition and I find it very dissapointing, only five turned up for the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown won by O'Brien's Hawk Wing and followed home by his pacemaker from Ballydoyle Sholokhov, and five also for the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood where Rock Of Gibraltar was an easy winner under stable jockey Mick Kinane. They had another 1-2-3 in the Irish Derby in July and won every single Group One race for juvenile colts in Europe last season. Now, it is up to others to catch up and not for Ballydoyle to come back to the field as it were, but how do British handlers expect to win big races if they don't enter them? Are they running scared? They would say no, I would say probably but either way we need some proper competition in these big events or the racing public will lose interest fast. The Coolmore operation did not have a runner in the King George at Ascot last month and we ended up with a thrilling finish between Golan and Nayef which was about a million times better to watch than most of our other Group One races this year, and we can expect something similar if 'The Rock' does not turn up for the Juddmonte International at York later this month with Golan, Nayef, Sakhee, Grandera and others all penciled in at the moment to run there.
So how do we stop our best races becoming a complete bore? Well, first of all you've got to be in it to win it so get your horse entered for God's sake! If we had bigger fields for these races the likes of Hawk Wing and co would not find it so easy and if you look carefully at their times and the horses they have beaten, they are not all world-beaters. They are just solid Group One performers and it just takes another good horse from a top stable to be in competition with them to make an exciting race.
Anyway rant over, and looking ahead to this weekends racing and it is the third time Ascot racecourse has staged the Shergar Cup meeting, a six race competition between Great Britain and the Rest Of The World. A total of 178 horses have stood their ground at the time of writing and it promises to be an entertaining day. One of my old favourite's Kareeb is entered in the Shergar Cup Mile and if lining up he will take some stopping if getting the fast pace he desperately needs. Lets hope they are more exciting to watch than some of our so-called 'big' races this season!
Article by Gary Christie
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