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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Speed freaks: some of O'Brien's fastest stars over the years

Aidan O'Brien: responsible for some outstanding speed merchants down the years
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After Aidan O'Brien suggested Caravaggio might be the fastest sprinter to have passed through his hands, we look back at some of the trainer's other rivals to that claim


O'Brien did the Champion Hurdle and Nunthorpe Stakes double in 1999. In the days when he still had Istabraq in his care, the Ballydoyle trainer made the inspired decision to drop Stravinsky in distance.

It was something of a gamble, as Stravinsky was out of a miler and his sire Nureyev had sired the Arc winner just a couple of seasons earlier.

After a succession of defeats over seven furlongs, Stravinsky was fitted with a visor and dropped to six furlongs for the July Cup and won going away by four lengths.

Then, to prove he really was all about speed, he went on to win the Nunthorpe, almost a year to the day from his debut on the Knavesmire.


Mozart also had to be dropped back in trip to realise his full potential. Unlike Stravinsky, his was a move not born out of desperation.

He had been second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and, having shown good early speed, was sent to the Jersey Stakes and won. He was made favourite for the July Cup and delivered one of the best performances in the race's history, making all on the stands' rail and scorching clear in the final furlong to win by three and a half lengths.

Mozart was so quick that he could break ordinarily in the Nunthorpe, yet still lay up and win handsomely, which was exactly what he did six weeks after the July Cup.

If Caravaggio is the fastest O'Brien has trained, it is likely to be Mozart he takes the mantle from.

One Cool Cat

One Cool Cat did not achieve as much as Stravinsky or Mozart, but his journey to becoming a sprinter was more dramatic.

Winner of the Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes at two, he was favourite for Haafhd's 2,000 Guineas but finished well beaten.

He subsequently missed a couple of months and, after another defeat over a mile, he ran out an easy winner of the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh and just 11 days later was third in the Nunthorpe.


Always bound to be a sprinter, despite winning the Caulfield Guineas, Starspangledbanner transferred to O'Brien from Australia ahead of the 2010 season when he was still not quite four.

A lukewarm start in the Duke of York Stakes preceded a summer of sprinting dominance, in which he won the Golden Jubilee and July Cup. The former was an especially taking performance, not least because runner-up Society Rock came back to win the race 12 months later.

Starspangledbanner then returned to York for the Nunthorpe as overwhelming favourite, but came unstuck against a 100-1 outsider. In fairness, quite a few would subsequently fail to match up to Sole Power.

Acapulco: smart filly is entered in the Diamond Jubilee


O'Brien's assertion that Caravaggio might be the fastest he has trained takes on an extra significance bearing in mind he has another flying machine.

Acapulco comes from a similar direction to Starspangledbanner, in having been brought back to the hive by Coolmore supremos Magnier, Smith and Tabor after starting her career abroad.

Two summers ago, she lit up Royal Ascot with an impressive win in the Queen Mary Stakes and finished a creditable second to Mecca's Angel in the Nunthorpe as a two-year-old.

Probably more of a five-furlong horse than any of the others on the list, Acapulco is quite possibly the benchmark against which Caravaggio is being judged at home. And if he is making her look slow by comparison, then we have a lot to look forward to.

If Caravaggio is the fastest O'Brien has trained, it's likely to be Mozart he takes the mantle from
E.W. Terms
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