O’Brien’s horses more forward than was believed

THE early indications, after just four days of the flat season, are that Aidan O'Brien's horses may well be much further forward than the trainer believed.

At the recent open day at Ballydoyle, he indicated that they would certainly come on plenty for a run, but the weekend was rather encouraging.

The one horse I think we all took out of Ballydoyle was the unraced Galileo colt, Acapulco, which O'Brien referred to, more than once, in favourable terms.

He made his debut at Navan on Sunday, against just three opponents. Mindful, perhaps, that Acapulco was likely improve a bundle for the outing, punters were slow enough to get involved and he was available as high as 6-4.

Around two and a half minutes after they left the ten furlong gate, that 6-4 looked the bet of the century.

He won doing handstands, hardly coming out of second gear to score unextended by nine lengths. The downside of that particular result, from a Ballydoyle point of view, however, was the display of Copper Bell, nine lengths and a short head third.

His only outing last season saw him finish three lengths runner-up behind Motivator's full-brother, Macarthur, who has been mentioned as a possible Ballydoyle Epsom Derby candidate.

At Limerick on Saturday all three O'Brien horses ran well, he had a first, a second and a third, and while it is far too early to be drawing any sort of conclusions the early portents are good.

John Oxx's horses too are in fine shape. His charges normally take much longer to hit top gear, but already he has had three winners. By Oxx's standards that represents a blistering start.

One of the Oxx horses, however, who didn't come up to expectations was the once-raced Athenian Way in a fillies maiden at Navan.

Many of the faces were scrambling to get on in the morning. Her chance was far from obvious, having shown little in one run as a two-year-old, but the layers had heard the talk as well and were waiting in the grass for the lads to arrive.

Realistically, she should surely have been a 5-1 or 6-1 shot. Not a bit of it, though, and the early offer was around 5-2. So strong was the word, however, that punters still wanted to be on - at least where relevant layers were willing to take a wager! Yes, yes, we have heard about those who were unwilling.

Anyway, on what she had done, 12th in a Curragh maiden in October, the daughter of Barathea had no right to win and duly managed only sixth behind Jim Bolger's Ezima.

That daughter of Sadler's Wells was the form choice and it is a contest which may well throw up a share of winners.

Certainly, Dermot Weld's newcomer In A Rush, beaten half a length into second, should be hard enough to beat next time. And the third and fourth, both first-timers, also caught the eye as well. They were O'Brien's Peeping Fawn and Weld's ‘second string’, Subtle Shimmer.

AT Limerick on Sunday, Charlie Swan's Slash And Burn may have only won a moderate maiden hurdle, but does look a horse for the future.

Lightly-raced, having never contested a bumper, he has chaser written all over him. The son of Presenting is, of course, out of that very good mare, Force Seven.

Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud own Slash And Burn and their Call Bewleys, trained by Philip Rothwell and also in action at Limerick, is another for the memory bank.

He ran in one point-to-point, scoring by 20 lengths at Tinahely in January of last year. His two runs on the racecourse, prior to Sunday, were very disappointing.

Call Bewleys finished 14th in a bumper at Fairyhouse a year ago and wasn't seen again until Cork in December when a tailed-off last of nine behind Emma Jane in a three mile novice hurdle.

On Sunday, he finished a highly creditable third behind 130-rated Holly Tree and the more than useful Larkwing, beaten just over three lengths.

On what he had shown on the racecourse, Call Bewleys had no right to be that close and this fine, big horse should give us a pay-day, at least one!

GREAT news that Aran Concerto is going to run at Punchestown at the end of the month and, hopefully, Noel Meade's horses will have returned to their best form by then.

At the moment they are just not firing and are rather hit and miss, which is unusual for this yard.

Anyway, Punchestown will, hopefully, tell us who the real Aran Concerto is. Still have difficulty getting my head round his performance at Cheltenham, when he got just about everything wrong.

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