The return of racing to Doncaster and the Curragh over the weekend signalled the start of the 2015 Flat campaign, but there’s one or two more big days to come before the National Hunt season’s biggest obstacles are left dormant over the summer.
Here are a few equine talking points from the weekend:
Winning start to the Ryan Moore era at Ballydoyle, but room for improvement
Two-time Epsom Derby-winning jockey Joseph O’Brien’s days on the Flat could be numbered, with the near-6ft 21-year-old sent hurdling at Limerick by father Aidan over the weekend in an attempt to get his weight down.
There has been increased talk of Moore, also a two-time Derby winner, taking over as stable jockey for O’Brien senior, who said over the weekend:
“Obviously nine stone has been a problem [for Joseph] for the last two seasons and last year it was a big problem. This year he’s heavier than he was this time last year. He’ll go gently and we’ll see what will happen. There’s no doubt he’ll come back down to the Flat gently and how far down he’ll go, we’ll wait and see.”
Jockey bookings for the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas will tell a lot at the start of May. Ballydoyle currently have three of the first five market leaders in 3/1 favourite Gleneagles, 10/1 shot Ol Man River, and Highland Reel at 12/1.
Moore had three rides for O’Brien at the Curragh, winning the Big Bad Bob Maiden on 11/4 favourite The Warrior.
Leighton Aspell hops off Pineau De Re ahead of the Grand National, market shrugs its shoulders
Last year’s winning jockey Aspell will ride Oliver Sherwood’s 25/1 shot Many Clouds, who looks likely to carry top weight at Aintree.
The defending champion’s trainer Richard Newland clearly wasn’t too perturbed by the news, with his horse unmoved at a top price of 25/1 for a repeat victory.
“Daryl Jacob will ride Pineau De Re. He rode him at Cheltenham first time out. We know him well and he has always done a great job for us.
“It is quite ironic because it was about this time last year we didn’t have a jockey for Pineau and then we secured Leighton.”
Jacob won the world’s greatest steeplechase on Neptune Collonges in 2012.
Lincoln winner Gabrial looks an each-way good thing next time out
Owner Marwan Koukash, trainer Richard Fahey, and jockey Tony Hamilton combined for the second time in four years to take the Flat’s curtain-raiser with this 12/1 shot, and the former was quick to confirm his horse will go in Chester’s Huxley Stakes next at the end of May.
Judging by Fahey’s 2012 Lincoln winner Brae Hill, a place at worst looks likely in Gabrial’s second run of the year.
Having claimed the Doncaster mile at 25/1, Brae Hill finished fourth of 24 next time out in Ascot’s Victoria Cup Handicap, also in May, at 20/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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