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O'Brien targets Winter Derby prize for first time with Dundalk ace Clear Skies

Aidan O'Brien: six entries for Lingfield showpiece
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Aidan O'Brien is set to break new ground a week on Saturday when he has his first runner in the Winter Derby at Lingfield.

The Ballydoyle trainer, who has six entries for the 1m2f Betway-backed Group 3, has nominated the JP McManus-owned Clear Skies, a five-time winner on the Polytrack at Dundalk, as his most likely runner.

O'Brien said: "We're looking at running Clear Skies in the Lingfield race. We have others in the race but the present plan is that Clear Skies will run."

Clear Skies, a five-year-old daughter of Sea The Stars, is a half-sister to five winners, including Derby hero Motivator and Macarthur, who won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. She achieved her most recent success last month when landing a 1m2f handicap by five and a half lengths.

O'Brien has made six entries for the US Triple Crown – comprising the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont – but plans for a possible raid will not be finalised until after some of the horses involved have had their first run of the year.

He said: "We're looking at the Listed Patton Stakes over a mile at Dundalk on March 2 and the Kentucky Derby Trial over nine furlongs on March 18, and Mendelssohn, Seahenge and Threeandfourpence are the horses we're considering.

"We'll probably split them up and it's possible Dubai might also be on the agenda for them before we make any decisions about the US."

Mendelssohn (left) chases home US Navy Flag in the Dewhurst Stakes
Mendelssohn won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Mile at Del Mar on his final start of last year, while Seahenge won the Champagne Stakes before finishing third in the Dewhurst, in which Fairyhouse maiden winner Threeandfourpence was fourth.

St Patrick's Day, a three-year-old brother to US triple crown winner and Breeders' Cup Classic scorer American Pharoah, will be on the Ballydoyle team this season.

Trained last year by Bob Baffert, the Sue Magnier-owned colt won a maiden at Del Mar on his second start in September. He suffered a tendon injury and was sent to Britain for treatment and is continuing his recuperation in Ireland.

O'Brien said: "We haven't done anything yet with St Patrick's Day so there are no plans, but he's a welcome addition to our team and we're looking forward to him."

O'Brien added that US Navy Flag, last year's European champion two-year-old who completed the Middle Park-Dewhurst double, is likely to go straight for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.

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We're looking at running Clear Skies in the Lingfield race. We have others in the race but the present plan is that Clear Skies will run
E.W. Terms
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