Aidan O'Brien out to address alarming British strike-rate – starting at York
It was always going to be tough for Aidan O'Brien to repeat his record-breaking achievements of 2017, and the trainer's struggles to match last year's exploits are laid bare by statistics compiled by the Racing Post that reveal a marked decline in his strike-rate in Britain.
O'Brien goes into this weekend's Group 1 action at Deauville with eight Group 1s to his name this year, six fewer than at the same stage of last season, when he ended with 28 top-flight successes, beating Bobby Frankel's previous benchmark of 25.
However, the most startling statistic is his strike-rate in Britain, which has tumbled to 9.02 per cent across the four months to the end of July. It was 20.88 per cent in 2017 in the same period, 24.39 per cent in 2016, and 27.08 per cent in 2015.
O’Brien has made no secret of a bug that swept through his stable over the last month, and that is surely a key contributor to his falling strike-rate, but the bug has been banished, according to the man himself.
Indeed, O'Brien is heading into York's Ebor meeting next week full of hope, his team captained by 2,000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International.
O’Brien said of the bug: “It went through the whole yard. All the horses got it. We hadn't leaned on any of the horses up until last weekend and we thought that if we got through last weekend we might be able to start leaning on them a little bit more.
"Problems can resurface when you go chasing them. You don’t want those problems to relapse.
"They seem to be back in good form and we're really looking forward to our next big week, which is York. It'll be interesting to see how they get on there, but I'm happy with where we are at the moment."
Declaration Of War and Australia handed O’Brien back-to-back wins in the Juddmonte International in 2013 and 2014 and Saxon Warrior is 9-2 third favourite to give the trainer another success.
He has nine to choose from in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, with July Cup winner US Navy Flag the best fancied of that brigade.
O'Brien is often stronger in the second half of the season, but Sky Bet make him 7-1 to end 2018 with 26 or more top-flight winners, while Coral and Paddy Power have also offered markets
Simon Clare of Coral said: "Our betting suggests 2018 may see a more modest return of between 15 and 17 Group 1 wins, which of course would still be the envy of trainers in all four corners of the world.”
Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “It’s been a trying time for the maestro with almost all of his horses being affected by the bug Ballydoyle has endured.
"For that reason we think Aidan’s more likely to saddle a total that will be disappointing for this hugely competitive sportsman, especially given the tremendous tallies of the last two campaigns.”
While he is not hitting the heights in Britain so far this year, O'Brien's strike-rate in Ireland has, by contrast, been operating at the highest level since 2013, his 80-winner haul from 314 runners giving him an impressive 25.48 strike-rate in the period from April to July.
2018 TOP-FLIGHT WINNERS
Coral: 6-4 15-17 incl, 13-8 14 or fewer, 9-4 18 or more
Paddy Power: 4-5 16 or more, 10-11 15 or fewer
Sky Bet: 10-11 15-20 incl, 2 21-25 incl, 11-2 14 or fewer, 7 26 or more
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