It was the final domestic Group 1 of the Flat season on Saturday at Doncaster and we were given some huge clues towards the Classics in 2023.
We also saw the return of jumps racing at Cheltenham where the road to the Festival in March has begun.
Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has dominated the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes since first winning it in 1997. He continued his success in the Group 1 contest for two-year-olds as Auguste Rodin gave him a record 11th win.
O’Brien had concerns about the ground at Doncaster before the 1m contest on Saturday. He walked the course twice and left a decision about his colt’s participation as late as possible.
The Ballydoyle trainer will have been pleased that he chose to take his chance on the testing ground at the Yorkshire racecourse as his horse proved his class, prevailing in impressive style by five lengths under the hands of Ryan Moore.
The son of Deep Impact is now the 4/1 favourite for the Derby in 2023. He is also the 5/1 joint-favourite for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket where he is joined at the top of the betting by stablemate Little Big Bear.
The race at Doncaster has thrown up a lot of Classic winners over the years. O’Brien will know that better than anybody. High Chaparral prevailed in 2000 before winning the Derby the following season, while Camelot came out on top in 2011 prior to landing the Guineas and Derby double in 2012.
O’Brien and Moore both spoke very highly about the colt after the race. His trainer said he was “one to get a little bit excited about next season”, while Moore revealed the horse impressed him the very first time he sat on his back.
A rematch between Pied Piper and Knight Salute was one of the highlights of the card at Cheltenham and it did not disappoint. The former was demoted to second place by the stewards at Aintree in April, but he gained revenge on his rival in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
Under the hands of Jack Kennedy, Pied Pier, who finished third in last season’s Triumph Hurdle, hit the front two hurdles from home. He was always travelling better than his rivals and, when pushed out by his rider, he found a little extra.
Pied Piper is 18/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting at the Festival. However, his path has yet to be decided. The Irish runner is 20/1 in the Stayers’ Hurdle ante-post market, and a step up to 3m cannot be ruled out for the talented hurdler.
The Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud saw Donnacha O’Brien take on his father Aidan in the 1m contest for two-year-olds. The younger of the two trainers was able to land the bragging rights as Proud And Regal finished ahead of Espionage by a head.
Proud And Regal was second in the National Stakes at the Curragh last month but a step up to 1m on heavy ground brought out the best of him. He was ridden to victory at the French course by Gavin Ryan, who recorded his first Group 1 success.
The son of Galileo is 16/1 for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, while he can be backed at to give Donnacha a famous success in the Derby in June.
The Old Roan Chase was the feature race on the card at Aintree on Sunday and the Grade 2 contest was won by Riders Onthe Storm. Richard Hobson’s runner held off the late challenge from Hitman at the Merseyside racecourse at the end of the 2m4f race to score by a head.
It was the nine-year-old’s first victory since he scored at the highest level at Ascot in February 2020. This latest win will give his connections numerous options this season in his division.
Earlier in the card at Aintree, Dingo Dollar scored for the fourth time over fences in the veterans’ race, while in the bumper to end the afternoon, Harry Fry’s Credrojava scored on her first start under Rules.
The stayers’ division on the Flat this season has been dominated by Kyprios. The Ascot Gold Cup winner could face opposition in 2023 from his stablemate Emily Dickinson, as O’Brien’s filly showed her class and stamina in the Group 3 Loughbrown Stakes at the Curragh.
On what was heavy ground at the Irish course, the daughter of Dubawi looked to thrive in the conditions. She stretched away from her rivals inside the final couple of furlongs for a five-length margin of success. Her primary target next season may be the Ascot Gold Cup at the royal meeting.