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Monday, 10 December, 2018

O'Brien's filly right in the mix for Champions Day success

Rhododendron could have the Fillies & Mares on her agenda

Rhododendron (right) can redeem herself when it matters most at Ascot
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Capri's win in the St Leger brought Aidan O'Brien's tally of Group 1 wins this year to 18 and, while they're not likely to admit it, behind the scenes the Coolmore partners will be chucking all their weight behind getting O'Brien over the line to beat Bobby Frankel's all-time record of 25.

At 5-1 the field, one of the remaining Group 1 contests that looks ripe for plucking is the Qipco Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.

Seventh Heaven, who had no luck in running in the race last year, is pencilled in, but "the lads" hardly every limit themselves to one runner in such a race and Rhododendron may well emerge as a contender.

She propelled herself into favouritism for this year's fillies' Classics with a splendid performance in the Fillies' Mile around this time last year and didn't let anyone down early in the season when she was simply unlucky to bump into two superstars in Winter and Enable.

While ultimately outstayed that day, there was no disgrace in that against such a strong filly as Enable and she pulled six lengths clear of the rest, so I have no doubt Rhododendron could step back up to this mile-and-a-half trip.

Given a break after being pulled up in the Prix de Diane, she returned with a low-key effort in the Matron Stakes that was actually much better than it looked on paper.

Held up out the back, she was never involved but kept on under hands-and-heels riding to finish just under five lengths behind Hydrangea. The further she went the better and more confident she looked and the most important thing was that she hit the line running.

It laid a good platform for the future and it would be foolish to think all her early-season talent has somehow dissolved.

She would get a handy three-year-olds' allowance off the likes of Seventh Heaven here and looks a massive price at 16-1.

Read Cathal Gahan every week in the Racing Post Weekender

It laid a good platform for the future and it would be foolish to think all her early-season talent has somehow dissolved
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