Self-deprecating O’Brien is right - he did get it wrong with War

Aidan O’Brien is definitely the most self-deprecating trainer in the country and, when knocking himself, something he does quite often, most take it with the proverbial pinch of salt.

Self-deprecating O’Brien is right - he did get it wrong with War

When Ballydoyle gets it right, O’Brien generally deflects the credit elsewhere and, when they get it wrong, especially badly wrong, then it is usually his fault!

That’s just the way the trainer operates, we are all well used to him at this stage and those who know the man realise if O’Brien isn’t a genius then he’s certainly not a million miles short of one.

Typically, after War Command had redeemed his reputation in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh last Saturday, O’Brien was at it again.

War Command was simply brilliant when landing the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

We’re all aware the form could be working out a lot better, but he still took that contest by a National Hunt distance, six lengths, and was most impressive.

But then he ran in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month and was very disappointing, only finishing third behind Sudirman and Big Time.

He didn’t travel particularly well through the race and, most disconcerting, failed to pick up at all when asked by Joseph O’Brien.

There was no comparison between that effort and the smooth acceleration he displayed at Ascot.

For many of us it raised doubts as to the real quality of War Command and plenty were willing to take him at the weekend.

But, off a strong pace, he produced a scintillating performance to win going away by three lengths.

After the race, O’Brien blamed himself, totally, for War Command getting beaten in the Phoenix Stakes.

O’Brien indicated that he gave the horse a good break after Ascot, that he was a bit ring-rusty, a trifle lacklustre.

“I obviously didn’t have him sharp enough or tight enough, trainer’s error again I’m afraid,’’ he said.

Do you know what, for once, I’ll bet that he was right to be kicking seven bells out of himself.

It was actually a highly plausible explanation, because the War Command on Saturday, and at Ascot, was entirely different to the one that got beaten in the Phoenix Stakes.

War Command is now heading to the National Stakes at the Curragh and it would be some draw if both Sudirman and Big Time also face the starter.

I think what’s a certainty, should all three meet again, is that War Command would go off favourite to reverse placings with the other pair.

Mind you if one, or both, of them were to beat him then that really would leave the O’Brien explanation with more holes than the Titanic.

The growing tendency for madness to manifest itself on the exchanges was never better illustrated than with the Group 3 St Leger Trial at the Curragh.

All the evidence was that Ernest Hemingway was simply a better horse than eventual winner Royal Diamond, and more than entitled to go off at odds-on.

But when heavy rain came prior to the contest there surely had to be some element of a re-think.

Ernest Hemingway needs fast ground and there was always the possibility the rain had got into the surface and made a difference. That the ground description continued to be given as good was, well, largely irrelevant.

If indeed there was some genuine cut in the surface then Voleuse De Coeurs, a proven mud-lark, also entered the equation.

But, on the exchanges none of this was given any consideration, as Ernest Hemingway became shorter and shorter.

He eventually went off at 4-9, driven by Betfair and Betdaq, as a sort of lunacy replaced logic.

Royal Diamond was sure to handle the ground, if it had gone on the yielding side, and so we sat back and awaited developments.

Ernest Hemingway, of course, never went a yard through the final half-mile, as Royal Diamond and Voleuse De Coeurs ran away from him.

Just one question: how do punters who bet massive amounts at such prohibitive odds manage to keep going?

Cork last Sunday deserved better. Here was a card that promised to be a punters’ paradise, with five of the seven races non-handicaps, but it went up in smoke.

All five contests produced odds-on favourites and with a 1-9, 2-9 and 1-3 involved they were of no benefit to the vast majority of punters.

Flaxen Flare, Domination and Curley Bill were the horses involved and, looking so much better than their rivals, were never going to be much good to anyone.

But, if you want to know what a disaster the exchanges have been to racing then the bumper at Cork was a perfect example.

Cork has a history of throwing up crazy results in this type of contest and Dermot Weld’s Marty’s Magic should never have been as short as 4-7, after one or two layers had tentatively offered 4-6.

Take away the exchanges and there is no doubt this horse would have been, at worst, an even-money chance.

But why would any bookmaker offer that when he could lay him so much shorter by pressing a button?

As a result the punters on the ground at Cork, most of whom do not have an account with either Betfair of Betdaq, or give a toss about them, were deprived of a service.

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