Aidan O'Brien having an embarrassment of riches is nothing new but, even by his lofty standards, the Irishman's team of smart juveniles' looks to be outstanding this season.
On Sunday, soft ground meant that ante-post 2000 Guineas favourite City Of Troy was a late absentee from the National Stakes at the Curragh.
In his stead, Henry Longfellow took the Curragh Group 1 in wide-margin fashion for O'Brien. The Dubawi colt is now a perfect 3-3 and he'll have Classic aspirations come 2024.
|Dewhurst Stakes||14th October, 2023||9/2|
|2000 Guineas||4th May, 2024||9/2|
|Epsom Derby||1st June, 2024||8/1|
All odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.
Sunday was a landmark day for O'Brien at Ireland's home of Flat racing. Henry Longfellow became his 12th winner of the National Stakes but was also the 4,000th winner of his astonishing career.
His tally of top-level wins stands at 417 – an incredible rate of nearly one in 10 wins – across his now three decades of winning races.
The son of Dubawi and top-class filly Minding, Henry Longfellow originally looked the second string for O'Brien until City Of Troy became an 11th-hour withdrawal on account of softening ground.
The early pace was fast, with Cuban Thunder acting as a pacemaker for stablemate Bucanero Fuerte.
Given that Henry Longfellow was already a dual winner at 7f and Bucanero Fuerte a Group 1-winning sprinter, the race set up perfectly for Ryan Moore. His colt has plenty of stamina and he got to the lead two furlongs from home as the front pair were toiling.
Far from being there too soon, Moore and Henry Longfellow increased their lead on the run for home and were bettering last month's Group 2 success over the same course and distance in putting an extra three lengths between themselves and the second, Islandsinthestream, from their previous C&D tussle.
A bit like Auguste Rodin this season, some will ponder whether a mile in the Guineas next spring might be too sharp for this colt as he develops.
The Epsom Derby, for which he is now 8/1, may ultimately be the Classic most suited to him in 2024.
City Of Troy had been as short as 7/4 for the Guineas at Newmarket next May before he was pulled from Sunday's race.
"I'd made a promise to the lads we wouldn't run City Of Troy on soft ground, so we had to be true to our word," O'Brien said post-race of his decision not to run. "Ryan was adamant it was closer to soft than good to yielding."
A colt by Justify, City Of Troy bolted up in the bet365 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket in July, powering home more than six lengths clear of next-time-out Group 2 winner Haatem.
He's now eased to 9/4 favouritism for the opening Classic of 2024 with his trainer adding that City Of Troy "is the more likely of the two to run again this season."
A deeper look at the market for the 2000 Guineas shows just what a strong hand O'Brien appears to be sitting on now.
River Tiber, winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, is 8/1 having been third in last month's Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville in his only start since.
Diego Velazquez, a son of Frankel with two wins in two so far, is next in the betting at 12/1 after his win in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes on day one of the Irish Champions Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday.
That leaves O'Brien with the first four in the 2000 Guineas betting at the time of writing.
It all comes easily to this maestro, who meticulously prepares a battalion of stars to go about their racing business year on year.
His landmark National Stakes scorer may have been greeted with plenty of fanfare by others at the Curragh on Sunday but the man himself says he was blissfully unaware until the on-course commentator said it crossing the line.
"I promise you, I didn't know until that horse crossed the line that it was our 4,000th winner," he insisted. "I had no idea."
When they arrive in such plentiful fashion, it is probably hard to keep count.
Based on the current crop of youngsters in his care, the road to 5,000 will be well worn in by the time this latest crew embark on their Classic campaigns in 2024.