O’Brien still chasing record at the Future Champions Festival

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London – The Headquarters of British racing this week plays host to a prestigious two-day fixture to be savoured by fans of the sport around the globe and featuring a host of fascinating puzzles for punters to solve.

The highlights are the championship two-year-old contests which can make or break a stallion’s career and all of the big names from the racing and breeding world will be congregated at Newmarket to witness the action unfold.

 

BET365 FILLIES’ MILE

The Group 1 Bet365 Fillies’ Mile is the principal contest on the opening day of the Dubai Future Champions Festival on Friday.

At a time when records are being smashed in the sales ring as the racing superpowers in Britain and Ireland battle it out to get their hands upon the brightest future prospects, this meeting has rarely seemed so important.

There is no more important name among the training ranks than Aidan O’Brien and the days ahead have particular importance for the master of Ballydoyle as he hunts down the record of the late Bobby Frankel for the most international top-level successes (25) in a calendar year.

O’Brien has sent out Rhododendron, Minding and Together Forever to win the last three renewals of the Fillies’ Mile and the last two of those came into the race on the back of prominent showings in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh.

Helpfully, O’Brien saddled the first three home in this year’s renewal of the 1400m Group 1 with recent Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Happily upsetting the Ryan Moore-ridden Magical with September in third.

Less helpfully for punters, rather than trim his team down, all three of that trio renew rivalries here, despite Happily and Magical having both been in action in France less than a fortnight ago.

Perhaps those exertions will open the door for September to reverse the placings.

A daughter of Peeping Fawn, a multiple Group 1 winner in O’Brien’s care, September was also beaten by Magical in the Debutante Stakes but had won the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot prior to that and can be expected to relish the step up to 1600m.

Having been busy fighting it out in the sales ring in recent days with Aidan O’Brien’s Coolmore backers, traditional archrivals Godolphin have also taken the Fillies’ Mile before, being responsible for three consecutive winners between 2010 and 2012.

Their representative is Magic Lily, an eight-length winner of a maiden here on her only previous start. William Buick takes the reins.

International interest is added by the presence of the Freddy Head-trained French hope Efaadah, who looked to be set plenty to do when second in a Group 3 at Chantilly last time out.

A more orthodox end-to-end gallop should suit her.

 

THE REST OF THE ACTION

The card starts with the Group 3 Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes over 1000m, in which race sponsors Godolphin have leading claims with the Charlie Appleby-trained Royal Ascot winner Sound And Silence.

The son of Exceed And Excel has been kept notably busy all year long and still seems to have plenty to give this year judged by his latest win in the same grade as this in France.

Longer-term prospects do battle in the following contest, the 1400m Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes, a race named in honour of the Newmarket-trained winner of the fillies’ Triple Crown in 1985.

The sometimes-luckless Limato heads the betting for the Group 2 Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes having bypassed an alternative engagement at Ascot last weekend in the hope of finding a quicker racing surface at Newmarket.

The dual Group 1 hero has yet to win in four starts this season, but showed himself as good as ever when finishing second to Harry Angel in Newmarket’s July Cup.

However, he has also missed a series of possible races where the going has turned soft due to some characteristically mixed British weather.

Trainer Henry Candy will be hoping for dry and sunny conditions in the build-up to racing on Friday, but he’s not the only one.

Another trainer appreciating the recent dry spell is Irish trainer Mick Halford who has endured a frustrating season with Rehana, winner of the Athasi Stakes in May.

“Rehana is in very good form and will go to Newmarket,” he said. “As she has a preference for fast ground it has been difficult to place her throughout the year, but the ground at Newmarket is currently good with a good forecast.”

Joining her from Ireland are the veteran Gordon Lord Byron, O’Brien’s Cougar Mountain and Johnny Murtagh’s True Valour.

The pick of the remainder may be Owen Burrows’ Massaat, who runs in this Group 2 rather than in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day, with Andrew Balding chasing another big prize with Absolutely So.

Meanwhile, versatile Duke Of Bronte will bid to earn a big payday for Devon trainer Rod Millman in the £120,000 bet365 Old Rowley Cup.

Duke Of Bronte, one of 41 inmates of Millman’s Cullompton yard, is a three-time scorer already this season and her trainer said this week: “He’s had a perfect preparation for this race and I’m very pleased with him – he’s still a baby and is a horse for the future but he just keeps blossoming.” – GBI.

 

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