There was no surprise that the name O’Brien dominated the opening two races at the Curragh but it was Joseph who unleashed two hugely promising juveniles, beating two trained by his father Aidan in the process.

Midnight Strike made a brilliant start to his career when taking the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Race.

The Starspangledbanner colt was a 15-2 chance under Dylan Browne McMonagle but oozed class throughout.

In a field of six Midnight Strike was always travelling strongly and had gained a clear lead by the final furlong marker, going on to cross the line two lengths ahead of Treasure Isle (5-4 favourite), the first two-year-old runner this season for Aidan O’Brien.

“I thought he was a nice colt but didn’t expect him to win like that,” the winning trainer said.

“He looks an Ascot-type horse and he’s another nice Starspangledbanner for the owners.

“We thought he’d stay six but was certainly quick enough to start at five. He looks very smart.”

The younger O’Brien then struck again in the Keadeen Hotel Irish EBF Maiden with Cowardofthecounty, a 17-2 chance under Browne McMonagle.

Again the market was dominated by a Ballydoyle horse as Whistlejacket, a full brother to former champion two-year-old Little Big Bear, went off the evens favourite.

Whistlejacket took up an early lead and looked the winner at one stage, but Cowardofthecounty loomed up beside him to prevail by two and a half lengths.

“This fella looked like he could be a bit special at home but you’re never really sure with a two-year-old until they go to the races,” O’Brien said.

“He’s a particularly laid back horse and couldn’t have been more impressive. He’s a big horse, well over 500 kilos which for a two-year-old at this stage is a lot.

“He could go straight for the Coventry now. He’s such a big horse I don’t know does he need to run again but we’ll have to see.

“We knew when the horse ran well in the first that there was a good chance this lad would run well too.

“A lot of people pitch in two-year-olds with an older horse to give them a guide, but we don’t and keep the two-year-olds together.

“They are the first two colts that we have run and it looks like we have a couple of nice ones!

“They have both been away once and today is just the second time they have been on grass. We don’t drill our two-year-olds and like them to progress. It bodes well on what they have done today.”

Jack Jones’ An Bradan Feasa looks to take the next step in his promising hurdling career at Musselburgh on Sunday.

The four-year-old was previously trained by Joseph O’Brien before making his debut for new connections at Cheltenham in November, where he chased home James Owen’s highly-regarded Burdett Road in a Grade Two Triumph Hurdle Trial.

His next outing was a return to the same track the following month, where he contested a lesser Triumph trial and prevailed by three lengths as the favourite.

The Fred Winter at the Festival has always been the goal for An Bradan Feasa and he will prepare for that with a run in the bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle this weekend, a Listed contest for four-year-olds.

“He had a quiet week or 10 days after Cheltenham and then we got him back into his work, he’s had a mini break but this has always been the aim from a long way,” said Jones.

“He’s fit, well and happy, he’s schooled a couple of times and Tom (Bellamy) is going to come and school him tomorrow morning for the finishing touches and then he’ll travel up Saturday.

“He’s all good to go, Musselburgh looks a suitable opportunity and we’re very happy with him.

“I’m pleased we managed to schedule a little break in and he’ll go out there with a very good chance. The Paul Nicholls horse (Liari) is level with us on ratings, so it should be between the two of them, without being overconfident.”

Of his Cheltenham aspirations, the trainer added: “We’re aiming for the Fred Winter, and we’ll enter him in the Triumph, but we’re keeping expectations sensible and the owners are agreed on that one.

“We’ve always been working back from the Fred Winter.”

Trainer Jack Jones can justifiably dream of Cheltenham Festival glory after his star juvenile An Bradan Feasa ran out a decisive winner of the JCB Triumph Trial at Prestbury Park.

Successful on his hurdling debut at Ballinrobe in September for Joseph O’Brien, the three-year-old subsequently moved across the Irish Sea to join Newmarket-based Jones in the autumn.

An Bradan Feasa made a promising debut for his new connections when second to leading Triumph Hurdle contender Burdett Road at Cheltenham last month, and he was a 5-4 shot to go one better four weeks on in the hands of Tom Bellamy.

Dan Skelton’s Kourosh, a runaway winner on his British bow at Wetherby, set out to make all the running in the two-mile-one-furlong contest, and had built up a clear lead halfway down the back straight.

However, the market leader bridged the gap before the home turn and appeared to be getting the better of the argument when Kourosh crashed out at the final flight.

His exit left An Bradan Feasa in the clear racing up the hill and he kept galloping to score by three lengths from the staying-on Balboa.

“It is unreal,” said Jones. “I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember. To have a runner here a month ago was the stuff of dreams, and for him to do it like that today, I’m speechless.

“Tom gave him a peach of a ride, he jumped and travelled and he was very push button when Tom wanted to give him an inch. I’m very happy.

“It was his first run for us here in November. It was a serious run considering he had to do most of the donkey work and that horse (Burdett Road) looks a fair animal.

“I’m not sure of the depth of the form today, but he has got his win and for the owners to have a winner here is what they have dreamt of – that is why they got him.”

Betfair cut the winner’s Triumph Hurdle odds to 33-1 from 40-1, but he appears more likely to switch to handicap company at the Festival.

“The Fred Winter (Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle) is what we discussed two or three weeks ago,” Jones added. “He could be 50-1 in a Triumph Hurdle but, although he will go up again today, he would have a competitive enough weight in the Fred Winter.

“He will have a quiet enough time now and will have one more run before March and see where we end up.”

Jack Jones is dreaming of Fred Winter glory at the Cheltenham Festival with An Bradan Feasa after the three-year-old performed with real credit behind impressive scorer Burdett Road at the November Meeting.

Saddling what was his first runner at National Hunt’s flagship venue, the three-year-old – who was purchased out of Joseph O’Brien’s yard by owners Christopher and Mary-Ann Middleton – put up a fine display for the Newmarket handler, still holding the advantage when turning for home and approaching the last before ultimately having no answer to the blistering acceleration of the current Triumph Hurdle favourite.

An Bradan Feasa stuck on bravely to pick up a silver medal and although initially trying to convince himself there were options away from the Festival, Jones soon began to eye up a return to Prestbury Park in March for the son of Camelot.

“We will be working back from the Fred Winter,” said Jones.

“It makes sense and we have looked at lots of different angles. I did throw in the comment that Cheltenham isn’t the be all and end all, and then the next sentence we kind of agreed we have got to work back from Cheltenham.

“It was so special for me there on Saturday, I’ve been going to Cheltenham since I was a small boy, it is my local track from home and where my racing dream originates from.”

He went on: “Unless he takes a massive step forward, which he could do and he’s only had the two runs, then realistically we will let Burdett Road go and win the Triumph and on all known form we shouldn’t be beating that. There’s nothing we can do about that.

“They gave us 127 and I thought the winner would get 140 and we would get 128, so I wasn’t a million miles off and from having a scroll through the last few years that looks a nice rating for the Fred Winter.

“He’s got course form, touch wood he jumps impeccably and to have runners at Cheltenham, let alone the Cheltenham Festival, is a huge dream of mine. He’s exciting and the good day was topped off by Star Mind winning at Wolverhampton that evening.”

Jones is still to finalise An Bradan Feasa’s route to the Festival but is not short of options and is tinkering with a two-race plan that includes a possible trip north of the border before arriving at Cheltenham in the spring.

He added: “As easy as it is to get excited about races in between, I have to be mindful he is still only a baby and that was only his second ever run. He did have the Flat run, but that was a non-event and Joseph ran him over hurdles only 13 days after his Flat debut.

“So I have to be careful just to mind him and I don’t know where, but I think two runs between now and Cheltenham will be sensible and then we can go to Cheltenham fresh and well.

“We’ve got options and I haven’t looked in-depth. There is a Listed race at Aintree in a couple of weeks or he could just go and try and win a midweek juvenile hurdle with a penalty. My vet and Christopher have both mentioned the Musselburgh Triumph Hurdle Trial as well, so that could be a nice option and it might suit him round there.

“We’ve got a lot of exciting options, but maybe a midweek juvenile, Musselburgh, then the Fred Winter would be the potential route.”

Although predominantly associated with training runners on the Flat, Jones has a strong National Hunt grounding having ridden out for Nicky Henderson during his university days as well as serving as pupil assistant to Kim Bailey and Paul Nicholls before attentions turned to Newmarket and the faster thoroughbreds.

Having thrived with the Middleton’s Our Scholar over obstacles throughout the summer months, the young handler is now relishing the prospect of having a top operator to run over obstacles during the winter.

“He’s only been with me around six weeks and we took him for a racecourse gallop two weeks before Cheltenham. We actually took him with a nice horse called Pleasant Man who ran a week later and he finished fourth in the November Handicap.

“For my first runner at Cheltenham it was some thrill to have him still in front turning in. He jumped impeccably, travelled well and Tom (Bellamy) gave him a good ride. He was jumping himself to the front and he’s got a lovely, gorgeous big stride and Tom did the right thing by letting him use himself.

“I was getting very excited between the second last and the last but we were beaten by a good one and Christopher and Mary-Ann were over the moon. He looks a fun horse not only for this year, but you would hope he would be around for a good few years.”

Three exciting Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In races will take place at Leopardstown on Saturday, with the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes (G1) featured during an exceptional opening day on Irish Champions Weekend.

Amo Racing Limited's King Of Steel and Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Westerberg's Auguste Rodin (Ireland), will renew their rivalry, leading a nine-horse field in the 1 1/4-mile Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes (G1).

The winner will gain an automatic berth into the $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) through the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, an international series of 80 Graded/Group stakes races, whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships. That is scheduled to be held November 3 and 4 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Two other Win and You're In berths will also be awarded at Leopardstown.

The winner of the Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron Stakes (G1) will earn an automatic starting position into the $2 million Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and the winner of the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2) will earn a free spot into the $1 million Prevagen Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Auguste Rodin, winner of the Betfred Derby (G1) and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (G1), will bid to bounce back to form after he was eased nearing the stretch in the July 29 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes (G1) at Ascot.

The son of Deep Impact (Japan) seeks to give Aidan O'Brien a fifth straight win in the race, but will have to face again King Of Steel, the 9-4 favorite. King Of Steel finished third at Ascot last time out.

Alflaila (Great Britain) is set for his first shot at Group 1 glory after being supplemented by connections at a cost of €75,000. The Owen Burrows-trained colt made a triumphant return from nine months on the sidelines when powering home to lift the July 29 York Stakes (G2).

Last year's runner-up Onesto (Ireland) will bid to go one better for trainer Fabrice Chappet. The French raider found only Luxembourg (Ireland) too strong in a high-class renewal 12 months ago but will have the assistance of the red-hot Frankie Dettori in the saddle this year.

Luxembourg's most recent racecourse appearance was when he finished fourth behind Hukum (Ireland) in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes.

John and Thady Gosden are represented by Nashwa (Great Britain), who was last seen finishing second behind stablemate Mostahdaf (Ireland) in the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1).

Joseph O'Brien's Al Riffa (France) has been the runner-up in both of his starts this year but was a big-race scorer in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes (G1) during Irish Champions Weekend in 2022.

The“Nashwa is in great form,” John Gosden said.

“It takes a long time to get her into the racing zone but when she's there she really enjoys it. She's built very powerfully, and she takes her racing well; she's not a delicate filly. To that extent, we're game on to go to Ireland. It's a fabulous race and if we can run here and maybe one more time this year that would be great,” he added.

The field is completed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Sprewell (Ireland) and the Aidan O'Brien-trained Point Lonsdale (Ireland).

Thirteen horses were declared for Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron Stakes

H H Aga Khan's Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1) and Coronation Stakes (G1) heroine Tahiyra (Ireland) being the star attraction of the 13 fillies set to go to post for the one-mile Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes (G1) for a free berth into the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Trainer Dermot Weld also saddles high-class older filly Homeless Songs (Ireland), who is one of two hopefuls for Moyglare Stud Farm along with Paddy Twomey's Just Beautiful (Great Britain).

Aidan O'Brien has applied blinkers for the first time to Meditate (Ireland), attempting to regain the form that saw her win the 2022 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Zarinsk (Great Britain) bids for a third straight win for Ger Lyons and Ralph Beckett's Prosperous Voyage (Ireland), while Tom Clover's Rogue Millennium (Ireland) and Olivia Maralda (Ireland), from Roger Varian's yard, all travel from Britain for the Group 1 contest.

Diego Velazquez Puts Unbeaten Record on the Line

Impressive Curragh scorer Diego Velazquez (Ireland), a son of Frankel (Great Britain), who won on debut by 4 3/4 lengths, is a hot favorite for KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2) as one of three runners for Aidan O'Brien alongside Capulet and Democracy (Ireland).

The KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2) over one mile will award the first automatic starting berth into this year's Prevagen Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Joseph O'Brien runs the supplemented Atlantic Coast and Bad Desire (Ireland), while Donnacha O'Brien saddles Bremen (Ireland).

As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for the Challenge Series winners to start at this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships. Breeders' Cup will also provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders' Cup program by the Championships' pre-entry deadline of October 23 to receive the rewards.

The Irish Champions Weekend can be viewed live on SportsMax 2 starting at 7:30am Jamaica time (8:30am Eastern Caribbean) on Saturday from Leopardstown, and 6:15am Jamaica time (7:15am Eastern Caribbean) on Sunday, from the Curragh. 

Warnie continued his rise through the ranks with a decisive victory in the Coolmore Stud Churchill Stakes at Tipperary.

The Joseph O’Brien-trained colt made his racecourse bow at Royal Ascot in the Chesham Stakes, where he was a creditable ninth at 40-1, before readily landing the odds in a Bellewstown maiden.

Sent on his way at 9-2 for this step up to Listed class, Dylan Browne McMonagle’s mount broke well before taking an ideal position just off the pace set by Courageous Strike.

He edged to the lead after straightening for home and while 4-5 favourite Deepone had travelled nicely and looked a threat, Paddy Twomey’s previously unbeaten runner could not quite get on terms with the winner, who had three-parts of a length in hand at the line.

McMonagle – who enjoyed a winner for Ireland in the Racing League at Chepstow on Thursday evening – said: “He’s a lovely colt and keeps on improving. The pace was steady and it got a bit messy off the bend and I got a bump.

“It took a little while to get him organised in the straight, but he picked up really well when I got after him and wasn’t for stopping.

“He’s not slow and he stays well which is really nice to see. He gets through that ground well, but is a good mover and could be even better on top of the ground.”

Ante-post favourite Al Riffa will not run in in Saturday’s Irish 2,000 Guineas after suffering “a little setback” in training.

A son of Wootton Bassett, he made three starts last year for Joseph O’Brien, all at the Curragh, and signed off the campaign with a length-and-a-quarter success over Proud And Regal in the Group One National Stakes.

However, the Jassim Bin Al Attiyah-owned colt has not raced since September and while market leader for the mile Classic, he will be a notable absentee.

O’Brien said: “He has just had a little setback training. Hopefully it is nothing too serious and he will be back later in the summer.

“He has options at Ascot and further afield than that as well.

“These things happen, so it’s a long way from a problem. It is obviously disappointing for the owners. This race has been his target for the last while, but we will look forward to things later in the summer.

“Timing-wise Royal Ascot will be fine, but we will have to decide whether we want to run there or in other races. We’ll not be rushing into any decision.

“Everything else is good. We are looking forward to what is going to be a great weekend of racing at the Curragh. It is very competitive action and there’s much to look forward to.”

With Al Riffa missing the race, Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Chaldean heads the market.

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