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Aidan O’Brian confirmed yesterday his horses are on their way back to full fitness following an illness that has swarmed Ballydoyle in what has been frustrating year for the Champion trainer.

Speaking on At the races, O’Brian said the bug has seemed to disappear from the yard and the horses effected should come on for their previous runs.

The bug could be an explanation to why the 2018 season so far at Ballydoyle hasn’t been anywhere near as impressive as 2017, which saw O’Brian saddle 27 group 1 winners.

Whilst the year has been a frustrating one, it is worth noting that despite the problems, O’Brian has still saddled 8 group one winners this term, most recently on the same day as US Navy Flag won the July Cup before Kew Gardens won the Grand Prix De Paris.

However, the high standards that were so brilliantly set last year are a far cry away now. By this time last year, O’Brian had already 13 group one wins to his name, including at Goodwood, where last week only Land Force won in Coolmore colours.

O’Brian’s record in classics last year was outstanding, having cleaned up in both English and Irish Guineas’ as well as winning both derbies. Those 6 group one wins, classics at that, have only been matched once this year, with Saxon Warrior in the English 1000 Guineas but frustrations in the other.

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Whilst the illness that has developed in the yard could explain the reason for the performances, it could also be suggested that the 2018 crop of Ballydoyle horses are just not as good as previous years, with horses such as Saxon Warrior not going on in style of other classic winners, such as Winter did last year.

We are now into the second half of the season and even though there have been problems, O’Brian could easily still add to his group ones for the season. He will be hoping to begin as early as Sunday, with Sergei Prokofiev O’Brian’s main hope in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

Next month’s St Ledger, a race O’Brian won with Capri last year, will be another group target, with Kew Garden’s the ante post favourite. The three year old has been one of the big success stories from Ballydoyle this season, having struggled during the earlier parts before an empathic win at Royal Ascot was quickly followed by Group 1 success.

Article by @gauravchaddah