02/27/2004 12:00AM

O'Brien and Weld hold all the Irish aces

Email

NEW YORK - In Irish racing, three trainers dominate all.

Aidan O'Brien, Dermot Weld, and John Oxx collect most of the spoils that escape British invaders. Where this year's Irish classic generation is concerned, O'Brien and Weld could be even more dominant. With Oxx's main supplier, the Aga Khan, devoid of any leading juveniles in Ireland last year, the top 15 2-year-olds in Timeform's year-end ratings are trained by either O'Brien (12) or Weld (3).

In One Cool Cat, O'Brien appears to have a star in the making. By Storm Cat out of the Mr. Prospector mare Tacha, One Cool Cat won his last four in a row before being put away early after his one-length victory over Wathab in the seven-furlong, Group 1 National Stakes at The Curragh on Sept. 14.

He had previously defeated stablemate Old Deuteronomy by a length in the six-furlong, Group 1 Phoenix Stakes and appears ideally suited to go for a 2000 Guineas double at Newmarket on May 1 and at The Curragh on May 22.

Old Deuteronomy was rated nine pounds below One Cool Cat by Timeform but was only four pounds behind on the International Classification. Another son of Storm Cat, he has since been purchased by Niall O'Callaghan, who is preparing him for an American campaign.

But Dermot Weld has a colt who may have even more potential than One Cool Cat. Grey Swallow was a late season sensation in Ireland, where he won his maiden by 10 lengths at Galway in July, then slammed the well-regarded Newton by eight lengths in the seven-furlong Group 3 Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown on Oct. 27.

By Daylami out of a mare by The Minstrel, Grey Swallow will stay at least a mile and is almost sure to show further improvement as he matures.

Another Weld trainee of note is Wathab. This son of Cadeaux Genereux was given a hard 2-year-old campaign when trained by Kevin Prendergast, who sent him out 10 times. Wathab seemed to thrive on his difficult regimen, winning a six-furlong listed race in his ninth start in August prior to his sharp second to One Cool Cat in the National Stakes. He is a Guineas candidate for Weld, but one wonders if the rigors of his 2-year-old season haven't already taken their toll.

Relaxed Gesture is the third Weld-trained horse on Timeform's Top 15 Irish juveniles of 2003. By Indian Ridge out of an Alzao mare, he is a maiden winner who was second in the one-mile Group 2 Beresford Stakes. Sent to Santa Anita to test the waters for a possible shot at the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes, he could not handle the dirt when finishing a distant eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

But, as usual, it is O'Brien who has classic hopefuls abounding. That he and owner Sue Magnier could see fit to unload a prospect like Old Deuteronomy speaks volumes about the strength of his stable.

But outside of One Cool Cat, there are questions surrounding most of O'Brien's 3-year-olds. His Danehill colt Troubadour won at first asking at The Curragh in August, and although he was a decent fifth after serving as a pacesetter in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, he may be overrated with an International Classification rating just five pounds behind One Cool Cat.

A full brother to last year's Epsom Derby runner-up The Great Gatsby, Magritte was an impressive five-length maiden winner in his Tipperary debut before failing to take them all the way when three lengths third of four behind the very good American Post in the one-mile Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. He should improve over longer distances.

Grand Reward is a regally bred son of Storm Cat and Serena's Song, but like Troubadour and Magritte has won nothing but a maiden thus far. A full brother to one-mile Group 1 Coronation Stakes winner Sophisticat, he was third in a pair of six-furlong Group 2 contests, the Gimcrack Stakes and the Mill Reef Stakes, but would have to improve to challenge for a Guineas title.

Colossus, a full brother to Danehill Dancer, and Moscow Ballet, a half-brother to champion European sprinter Stravinsky by Sadler's Wells, were both well beaten in their lone Group 1 tries. The Sadler's Wells colt Mikado followed a maiden score with victory in a nine-furlong listed race at Leopardstown and could make a viable Derby candidate.

The Darshaan filly Necklace, the lone O'Brien-trained female to make a mark at 2, needs fast ground to show her best, as she demonstrated when a dull 10th in the Prix Marcel Boussac in sticky going after a sharp effort on good to firm when winning the seven-furlong Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Yeats may be O'Brien's sleeper. By Sadler's Wells out of a Top Ville mare, he took a one-mile Curragh maiden by four lengths on Sept. 21 in his only start and appears to have a great deal of potential.

O'Brien has nominated nine to the Triple Crown, among them One Cool Cat and Grand Reward, while Weld has named 10, among them Grey Swallow, Wathab, and Relaxed Gesture. But with the Irish racing season not starting until March 21 at The Curragh, it would be very surprising to see any of those 19 at Churchill Downs on May 1.