Racing: O'Brien Expects to Stay on Top with High Chaparral

Article excerpt

FOR THOSE perpetually playing catch-up behind Ballydoyle and Godolphin there is now a key phrase, a verbal bow and arrow to fire at their tanks, and it is "what a difference a year makes".

The weekend of the Irish Champion Stakes, which is run again a week on Saturday, 12 months ago saw the twin giants in all their crushing pomp. Grandera won the Leopardstown contest for Team Dubai and, the following afternoon, Rock Of Gibraltar posted a record seventh consecutive Group One victory for Ireland's standard bearers in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. The little guys finished somewhere else.

These same tiddlers of the turf could be excused for having a little snigger this time around. Saeed Bin Suroor, Godolphin's trainer, admitted at York's Ebor meeting that there was not a single, top notch horse among his great band of well-bred and expensively purchased three-year-olds. Not one.

At the same meeting, Aidan O'Brien saddled the first and second in the Great Voltigeur via Powerscourt and Brian Boru, who also occupy similar places in the ante-post lists for the St Leger. It may be that Ballydoyle will enjoy a flourish at season's end. They have not got much to beat in comparison with their fortunes from earlier in the season.

Most embarrassing of all though has been falling out between the Coolmore overlord, John Magnier, and Rock Of Gibraltar's part owner, Sir Alex Ferguson. It all seemed so beautiful as the Rock took root in the history books, with two men at the top of their respective trades glorying in each other's presence. We are unlikely to see them together ever again.

Big John was familiarly tight-lipped about the detail when he was at the Knavesmire, but the crux is that Ferguson has not been offered the half-share in breeding rights to Rock Of Gibraltar (worth a total of pounds 12m in his first covering season) to which he believed he was entitled.

There are few more sordid sights than extremely rich men squabbling over money, but then, for some, this was how they came about their huge wealth in the first place. …