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Horse Racing profile: Little Big Bear

Little Big Bear's racing career was short and sweet for connections, but he made a huge mark on the sport in just 15 months before his retirement was confirmed in August.

Aidan O'Brien and his team enjoyed some incredible days with the son of No Nay Never, and while he flattered to deceive in the 2000 Guineas, he still gave connections some memories to last a lifetime before being retired to stud.

Speed the key trait in juvenile term

His April 2022 racecourse bow saw Little Big Bear giving best by a short-head in a terrific battle with Ger Lyons' Tough Talk in a hot maiden, but the Ballydoyle colt would soon atone for that.

The precociously-bred son of No Nay Never went on to win his next four starts as a two-year-old.

He obliged at the second time of asking in a 5f Naas maiden in May and went off a strong 6/5 favourite for the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

There he had a real battle on his hands to see off Rocket Rodney but Ryan Moore's partner got it done with perhaps more comfort than a neck margin implied.

Curragh wins from improved performer

Next stop was the Curragh in July and a first attempt at 6½-furlongs in the Anglesey Stakes where the odds-on favourite never encountered a moment of worry in a straightforward success.

It was the Kildare venue again in August, this time for the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes - his Group 1 bow - and his case was aided by the late defection of stablemate Blackbeard due to an allergy.

Bradsell, winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, was sent off favourite but had a bit of a nightmare trip after stumbling from the starting gates.

It likely mattered not, as Little Big Bear made every yard of the running in an impressive display that saw him stretching seven-lengths clear of Richard Hannon's July Stakes winner Persian Force.

That win put the seal on a sparkling juvenile season for Little Big Bear, who skipped the late season options.

Guineas a 'non-event' for Ballydoyle pair

With a record ten wins on his CV, Aidan O'Brien isn't exactly well versed in having to declare the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket a 'non-event', but that's what happened this season.

Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear arrived into the race with four wins from five each and leading claims on paper. Ryan Moore was on Auguste Rodin, the 13/8 favourite, with Wayne Lordan on 5/1 chance Little Big Bear.

The jolly was 12th in a field of 14, with Little Big Bear failing to beat a single rival home in the Rowley Mile Classic.

"It was a non-event for Ryan's horse [Auguste Rodin] and then Wayne's horse (Little Big Bear) got badly bumped and just got lit up," said the trainer post-race. "The whole thing was a bit of a non-event really."

Connections still had time for one more swansong

After a disappointing display at Newmarket, connections of Little Big Bear decided to send the three-year-old to Haydock for the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at the end of May rather than to the Curragh for the Irish 2000 Guineas. 

Their decision was rewarded immediately, as he beat a field of seven with Frankie Dettori on board. With momentum in his favour, he was entered in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, finishing second to Shaquille despite a heroic effort. 

He was the 10/11 favourite for that contest over six furlongs, and he was the 5/2 joint-favourite along with Shaquille for the Group 1 Pertemps Network July Cup Stakes in July. 

Sadly, he was hampered two furlongs out in that race, forcing jockey Moore to ease him home, with post-race tests revealing he had suffered a condylar fracture in his right front fetlock. O'Brien was quick to praise his stable star for an incredible career, and he also confirmed he will now head to stud to try and breed the next set of superstar sprinters. 

Confirming his decision, O'Brien said: “He was an unbelievable juvenile. He was a very genuine, very quick horse. He was different class, different gear, and matured very early for a big horse. He’s big, scopey, strong, clear-winded and very, very fast – a class sprinter. 

"He just didn't get the rub of the green this year, but at least he will be primed to go to stud now. He could produce serious stock because he's so big and strong."

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