O’Brien hop­ing rain stays away

Irish Examiner - Racing - - RACING - By Ash­ley Iveson

Joseph O’Brien is hop­ing con­di­tions at Leop­ard­stown do not de­te­ri­o­rate ahead of Bat­tle Of Marengo’s highly-an­tic­i­pated re­turn to ac­tion in to­mor­row’s PW McGrath Me­mo­rial Ballysax Stakes.

A win­ner of three of his four ju­ve­nile starts, Bat­tle Of Marengo ploughed through the Cur­ragh mud when sign­ing off for the year in the usu­ally in­for­ma­tive Beres­ford Stakes in late Septem­ber.

How­ever, O’Brien is sure his mount is far more ef­fec­tive on a sounder sur­face and he would pre­fer for the ground not to be too test­ing for Bat­tle Of Marengo’s three­year-old de­but.

“He’s in good form and he’s just ready to start off. If he runs a nice race, we’ll be happy,” said Ire­land’s cham­pion Flat jockey.

“I would be a lit­tle but wor­ried if the ground went very soft. There’s no deny­ing he gets through it all right, but I’ve al­ways thought he was a bet­ter horse on bet­ter ground.

“He’s a lovely mov­ing horse and the day he won in Leop­ard­stown last year on good ground, my sad­dle slipped, I couldn’t push him at all in the straight and he still broke the track record.

“For his first run back and his first run over a mile and a quar­ter, you wouldn’t want the ground to be too bad.”

Bat­tle Of Marengo is one of two run­ners for the rider’s fa­ther, Ai­dan O’Brien.

The mas­ter of Bal­ly­doyle has sad­dled six pre­vi­ous win­ners of this recog­nised Derby trial, with sub­se­quent Epsom heroes Galileo and High Cha­parral both on the roll of hon­our, as well as the in­cred­i­ble Yeats.

The sec­ond O’Brien run­ner this week­end is the Seamie Hef­fer­nan-rid­den Foundry, who cre­ated a big im­pres­sion when mak­ing a win­ning de­but at Leop­ard­stown in early Novem­ber.

Joseph O’Brien said: “He only had the one run to­wards the back-end of last year, but he couldn’t have done it any eas­ier than he did.

“Sea­mus was very im­pressed with him and we were all de­lighted, so hope­fully he’ll run a nice race on Sun­day as well, but Bat­tle Of Marengo is ob­vi­ously the form horse.”

Jim Bol­ger has trained seven pre­vi­ous Ballysax win­ners, in­clud­ing the last three.

This sea­son the pick of his two run­ners would ap­pear to be Alpin­ist, who made a win­ning re­turn to ac­tion in a heavy ground maiden at the Cur­ragh three weeks ago.

Bol­ger said: “He’s very well and we’re hop­ing he can make the step up, but it won’t be easy.

“He has plenty of speed and we could have stayed at a mile if we’d wanted to, but we made a de­ci­sion to come for this race and go down the mid­dle-dis­tance route.

“I think bet­ter ground will suit him well.”

Bol­ger also sad­dles Be­yond Thank­ful, and added: “He’s a lit­tle more ex­posed, but I’m hop­ing he’ll also run a good race.”

The six-run­ner field is com­pleted by Paddy Pren­der­gast’s three-time win­ner Sugar Boy and Im­pe­rial Con­corde.

SEA­SONAL DE­BUT: Bat­tle Of Marengo makes his highly-an­tic­i­pated re­turn to ac­tion in to­mor­row’s PW McGrath Me­mo­rial Ballysax Stakes.

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