Be wary of Australia if the word soft ever appears on a going description

If watching the Aidan O’Brien horses gallop after racing at the Curragh on Sunday, and took what was on offer at face value, then there is no way you would want to be with Australia this season.

Be wary of Australia if the word soft ever appears on a going description

There is no doubt, at least to this uneducated eye, Australia found it hard work and certainly didn’t arrive at the finish with Joseph O’Brien giving the impression he was full of horse.

But to read too much into it would be largely ridiculous, because it seemed the son of Galileo was struggling with the conditions.

I would even go so far as to say he was all at sea on the surface and, if soft ever appears on a going description where he’s running, then Australia may well be more than vulnerable.

The confidence behind him, even by Ballydoyle standards, is nothing short of staggering.

I know, with a view to heading for stud down the line, over-hyping horses from this quarter is very much par for the course.

But, even accepting that, there is no doubt Australia is regarded as being something special, nor is there any doubt that what he has done thus far on the racecourse warrants the closest inspection.

A somewhat unlucky second on his debut at the Curragh, he then returned to headquarters to win his maiden snugly enough.

But it was his final outing as a juvenile, in a Group 3 at Leopardstown in September, that blew us all away.

Australia was a 5-2 shot, because he was taking on Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle (2-5), who looked a flying machine at Leopardstown previously when winning his maiden by half the track.

Amazingly, the chances are that Australia will be less than 5-2 for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 3.

Anyway, what he did to Free Eagle had to be seen to-be-believed. Australia quickened quite brilliantly in the straight and galloped powerfully all the way to the line to trounce his rival by six lengths.

There is every possibility Free Eagle is a really good horse and time may well reveal what Australia achieved that day was extraordinary.

I became a massive fan of the horse then and resolved to be with him until knowing better, but now only when he has his ground.

In the same exercise as Australia’s, War Command didn’t half catch the eye and clearly worked far better than his stable companion.

Four times a winner in five races last season, he arrived at the end of the gallop apparently full of running.

The other to impress, in a separate spin, was Geoffrey Chaucer. He won both his races last season, at Leopardstown and the Curragh, both times on fast ground.

But he seemed happy enough on the tacky surface at the Curragh, hardly a surprise considering he is by Montjeu.

The evidence from the racing itself at the Curragh on Sunday is that O’Brien’s inmates may a bit behind - fitness-wise.

He ran four horses and none of them ever threatened to be competitive. The Islander finished fifth, Dance With Another tenth, Afonso De Sousa nineteenth and Belisarius fourth.

We have, however, learnt in the past than when the Ballydoyle horses start slowly it can often be a precursor to a blinding campaign.

It will be well worth tuning into the action at Meydan this afternoon. O’Brien has some very high-profile horses in action and it will be fascinating to see just how gunned for the day they will be.

I have long given up trying to understand the rules when it comes to stewards’ inquiries in this country.

Indeed, you are almost tempted to say that there are no rules and attempting to second-guess what the officials might do has become well nigh impossible.

At Downpatrick last Sunday, Unoccupied was disqualified after beating Hidden Horizons by a length and a half in the stamina sapping Ulster Grand National.

The winner took the second’s ground, he hampered and bounced off him and there was no way the result could stand. Well, at least that’s what all logic told you.

That the stewards got this decision right is beyond question. But the puzzling part was the fact it took them so long to arrive at a conclusion which was just obvious.

When you have a lengthy inquiry then the assumption has to be the verdict can go either way.

This was a complete open and shut case and, quite frankly, should have been over in the proverbial jiffy.

Mind you connections of Unoccupied have lodged an appeal, while the horse’s rider, Philip Enright, originally decided to appeal against the two-day suspension he incurred for careless riding. Enright, however, withdrew that appeal on Thursday.

It is nice to see Paul Nolan with a promising horse on his hands in Joncol’s half-brother, Fine Article.

The five-year-old certainly shaped as if he might be the real deal at Gowran Park last Saturday when taking what looked a competitive bumper in excellent style.

Given kid-glove treatment by in-form Robbie McNamara, he beat Sub Lieutenant rather snugly.

Sub Lieutenant was ultimately outclassed, but stuck to his task well and, hopefully, will boost the form in the near future and the old bank balance while he’s at it!

The other horse to take out of Gowran, I think, is Vicky de L’Oasis, who was beaten half a length into second by the rapidly improving Bonzo Bing in a novice hurdle.

As a mare Vicky wasn’t allowed the usual 7lbs allowance and was actually conceding the winner 3lbs.

You would have to like her attitude and, with connections adamant she needs far better ground, has to be our short list in the coming weeks, maybe even months.

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