© Photo Healy RacingAidan O'Brien is triple-handed in his bid to land a record eighth victory in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown today.
The Ballydoyle trainer landed successive renewals of the recognised Derby trial with subsequent Epsom heroes Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) and has since struck gold with the mighty Yeats (2004) and Fame And Glory (2009), among others.
He appears to have a strong grip on this year's renewal, with Capri, Douglas Macarthur and Yucatan the highest-rated trio in a nine-strong field.
Capri had Yucatan behind when landing the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last September, but was subsequently beaten into third in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Yucatan, a son of Galileo out of the great racemare Six Perfections, was last seen finishing a close second in the Racing Post Trophy.
O'Brien said: "Yucatan is a nice horse. He's done very well and, because of that, probably will improve a nice bit from the run, but he's ready to start off.
"Capri ran in France a little bit later last season. He's in good form as well. It's a step up in trip for him as well as the other fellow but they are ready to start.
"I'm happy with him (Douglas Macarthur) as well and again, he's just ready to start off. We'll see where they slot in then."
O'Brien's son Joseph saddles Rekindling for the first time.
The High Chaparral colt impressed in a Gowran maiden last autumn before finishing down the field in the aforementioned Saint-Cloud Group One on his final start for the now-retired David Wachman.
"He looks up against it on ratings, but he seems in good form," said his new trainer.
"It's his first run for us and hopefully he'll give a good account of himself and come on for it."
The Godolphin colours are carried by the Jim Bolger-trained Dubai Sand and Saltonstall from Mick Halford's yard.
Speaking in an upcoming stable tour on attheraces.com, Bolger said of Dubai Sand: "He's probably the most idle horse I've ever trained here. I trained his father and his mother and neither of them were like that, so I'm not sure where he's getting it from. Because of that idleness, I'm not going to know where I am with him until he runs.
"I 'd be hoping he has improved since last year and I think he'll get a mile and a half. He's a good ground horse and I'll be hoping the ground continues to dry out at Leopardstown. While he's very idle, he doesn't need a lot of work, so he should be straight enough in fitness terms, but I'm largely in the dark with him until he runs!"
Halford said of Saltonstall: "He has a bit to find on ratings, but he's a fine big horse with a good temperament. We think he'll get the trip and will like the ground and we'll be wiser after he runs."
Brutal, Grandee and Legitimus complete the line-up.
The first stakes race of the afternoon at the Foxrock venue is the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial.
Aidan O'Brien relies on Orderofthegarter, who bolted up by 11 lengths on his reappearance at Naas a fortnight ago, and the returning Taj Mahal.
He said: "Taj Mahal is in good form and he's just ready to start. We've been happy with him since last year and happy with the way he has done over the winter.
"Orderofthegarter won his maiden very nicely first time out. Obviously it's a step up in grade but he's been in good form since."
Dermot Weld's dual winner Firey Speech and Bolger's impressive Roscommon scorer Zorion are others to note in a seven-runner Listed contest.
In his attheraces.com stable tour, Bolger said: "The handicapper was very mean to me, as he wouldn't give him a rating so I couldn't go down the Kevin Prendergast route and try to win the Madrid with him! Though, when you consider how soft it was at Naas that might have been a blessing.
"I'd be expecting a good run from him on Saturday, even though it looks a hot race. The reason he didn't run again after his debut was that he picked up a very small hairline fracture that was just about enough to finish his season on the track.
"He can handle soft ground, but heavy would be a doubt. He'll probably stay a mile and a quarter. He's a horse I like and he'll keep improving. He's a bit more industrious than Dubai Sand, but whether he proves to be better remains to be seen."
Group Three honours are up for grabs in the Ballylinch Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial, in which Joseph O'Brien's Intricately takes top billing.
The three-year-old provided O'Brien with his first Group One success as a trainer when landing the Moyglare Stud Stakes last September, but disappointed when sent to the Breeders' Cup.
She makes her first start since and O'Brien expects his charge to improve for the outing.
He said: "She seems in good form and we're looking forward to getting her started.
"We're happy with her at home, but obviously it's her first run of the year and I'd like to think she'll come on for it."
O'Brien senior runs Hydrangea, Promise To Be True, Rain Goddess and Winter.
He said: "Hydrangea is in good form. Obviously she had a busy season last year but she's in good form and just ready to start off.
"Promise To Be True is in good form as well. Her last run was in France last year and we're happy with the way she's done.
"Rain Goddess won her maiden at the back-end on her only run. She's just ready to start again now.
"Winter is a fine, big filly. She ran a few times last year. We think she's a nice filly and, like the others, she's ready to start."
Halford is hoping for a good show from Rehana, who was a shade over two lengths behind Intricately when fourth in the Moyglare.
"She has a few pounds to find on ratings, but she's wintered well and we're happy with her at home," said the Copper Beech Stables-based trainer.
"We're very pleased with the way she's been working. The run will leave her right, but she's plenty of work done."
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