22 February 2024

O’Brien backing Luxembourg to improve with age

22 February 2024

Multiple Group One winner Luxembourg starts his season in the Howden Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh on Saturday, with trainer Aidan O’Brien expecting him to return better than ever this year.

The five-year-old was last seen finishing a close second to Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Cup, prior to which he was runner-up in both the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

His season did include a win, however, and a significant one at that, as he landed the Tattersalls Gold Cup at elite level at the Curragh in May.

There had been discussions about starting his campaign in the Saudi Cup itself and experimenting with running the son of Camelot on dirt for the first time, but it was ultimately decided that he would stick to turf for now.

“We’re looking forward to it, we were surprised at the way he got over the (dirt) track,” said O’Brien.

“Everyone’s very excited to see him. He’s a big, powerful, long-striding horse. A good, scopey horse, with a good mind and very sound.

“We think we haven’t seen the best of him yet, all through this year and next year he’s going to be a horse to really look forward to.

“He’s big with a long stride and often those types of horses take until four or five to really become strong enough to use their stride.

“He had a lean enough body, but his body is getting stronger all the time.”

“We were in two minds about it, the Saudi Cup is probably the most exciting race in the world. We were going to go there and take our chance, but then last minute we thought it was the wrong thing for the horse this early in the season.

“It’s the race everyone wants to win and we nearly did it, maybe we thought it might be safer to do it the other way and maybe we could go there with him next year.

“We will experiment, maybe we should have done it this time but we definitely will, he could go to Dubai and it’s very possible he’ll go there on the grass as well.

“Then we might think about switching over for the second half of the year, something like that.”

Also in the race are Daniel and Claire Kubler’s Astro King and Andrew Balding’s The Foxes, with John and Thady Gosden running Jack Darcy and Richard Fahey represented by Bahrain International Trophy winner Spirit Dancer.

O’Brien has a further hope at the meeting in Tower Of London, who lines up in the Red Sea Turf Handicap over a mile and seven furlongs.

The four-year-old was twice a winner last term and was unlucky to miss out on a Group Three success when going down by just a head in the Bahrain Trophy Stakes at Newmarket.

His three-year-old season ended in September, so he returns from a significant break, but his trainer has been pleased with his preparation for the race and expects him to perform well.

“He’s been off a good while and he’s carrying a little bit of weight, but he’s been working very well,” O’Brien said.

“We always thought the trip would suit him well and this type of race would suit him well.

“He has plenty of weight but he’s a classy horse, we think that ridden a little bit patiently and gently we will see a very big run from him.”

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