Aidan O'Brien equals Vertem Futurity record with 'very exciting' Luxembourg
Aidan O'Brien matched a record set by Sir Henry Cecil and emulated the master trainer's famous phlegmatic approach as Luxembourg justified huge support with success in the Vertem Futurity.
His tenth winner of the final Group 1 race of the British season scored with authority and was made 4-1 favourite for next year's Cazoo Derby (from 6) by Paddy Power and 6-1 (from 8) for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
It has not been a universally successful campaign for the man who has dominated this event since his first triumph with Saratoga Springs in 1997. He had not won a top-level juvenile colts race all season and his prize-money haul in Britain was down on pre-pandemic levels.
Yet the laconic Sir Henry, whose Futurity ten took the same 24 years to amass as O'Brien's, was never one to rail against ill-fortune on the track. You cannot win every time.
And his co-record holder was keen to stress the positives in a season when Oaks winner Snowfall and St Mark's Basilica starred for Ballydoyle.
"We're very happy with the year," the trainer said. "Someone told me that was our 18th Group 1 win and we had seven Classics. We lost loads of races, we won a few but that's the way it is. It has to go around and everyone has to live, everyone has to get a bit of it and we're delighted when we do get a bit of it.
"We try very hard to get every one of them, but usually we go home not having the winner and we have to accept it, move on and learn from what we did. I might have made mistakes with horses this year, maybe ran them in the wrong races and sometimes horses were disappointing, sometimes they surprise you.
"A lot of stuff went other people's way not our way but that's the way it is. You have to accept that and we're delighted to get any bit that we can."
Asked for his highlight of the year, O'Brien said: "The filly [Snowfall] was very special at Epsom but it has to be St Mark's Basilica. We haven't had the like of him since Galileo, and we might never have had the like of him. We were so lucky to find him."
It was also good to find Luxembourg, a 150,000gns yearling who gave the yard its seventh British Group 1 win of 2021, having been backed from 10-11 into 4-6 before justifying that support with a length and three-quarter win under Ryan Moore.
"He's always been very exciting," O'Brien said. "Everything he's done from day one. He's a big horse, he travels very well, everything seems right with him. Today he had to get down and stretch in the last furlong, which was good for him really.
"He was very babyish in front but he's a lovely horse. You'd have to be delighted with him."
The last four Vertem winners have won the 2,000 Guineas or its Irish equivalent and O'Brien is confident that Luxembourg has the speed to cope with that test.
"He has a lot of class and a lot of pace," the trainer added. "The last day he won at the Curragh they said his last three furlongs was faster than all the sprints on that day.
"He has a big open stride but that's what good horses have. Like human beings – the good athletes cover the most ground, don't they?"
Moore said: "He's a real smart horse, very scopey. We're delighted with what he's done and he's an exciting horse to look forward to. It couldn't have gone smoother and there's more improvement to come."
The overnight Cox Plate success of State Of Rest, who was fifth in last year's Vertem Futurity, shows the quality this field can offer and Wayne Lordan was delighted with the Donnacha O'Brien-trained runner-up Sissoko.
He said. "He feels like he's going to be a better three-year-old. It was a very good run going into the winter with prospects of next year."
Roger Varian is eyeing the 2,000 Guineas with Bayside Boy, who was a short head back in third, and said: "He was a touch unlucky. When he needed room he didn't have any. I don't think it stopped him winning but he'd have been a good second with a clear run.
"We'll winter him and aim him at the Newmarket Guineas because he deserves that."
Hannibal Barca was a head further away in fourth and Brian Meehan said: "That was a great run and it was only his third start. We could start him off in the Craven next year, he's a proper horse.
"There's a lot of physical improvement in him, he's definitely Group 1 class for next year."
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