State Of Rest won twice at the highest level on foreign soil last year and Joseph O’Brien is confident he can fly the Group 1 flag for his team closer to home in 2022.
The Starspangledbanner colt ran only three times last season – but made the most of his opportunities by winning the Saratoga Derby and the Cox Plate in Australia on his final two starts.
O’Brien is hoping to see the four-year-old reappear in the coming weeks, potentially in France, before bidding for a first Irish Group 1 success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on May 22nd.
“State Of Rest is probably our flagship horse for the year, hopefully,” O’Brien said during a media visit to his Co Kilkenny yard on Wednesday.
“We’re looking at either the Prix Ganay or the Mooresbridge as a starting point, with the Tattersalls Gold Cup being his first big target.”
Asked whether he felt State Of Rest could be underrated, he added: “I think that’s fair to say. The horse he beat in the Cox Plate (Anamoe) won a Group 1 by six and a half lengths last week.
“He (State Of Rest) is rated 120 and I think he’s going to be competitive in those big 10-furlong races this year.
“If he happens to win or be competitive in those Group Ones early in the season, you have Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes), Sandown (Eclipse) and York (Juddmonte International).
“He also has American options and then Australia again as he’s been bought by an Australian stud (Newgate Stud and partners), so he’ll probably end up in Australia again if the season went well.”
State Of Rest will lead what O’Brien believes is his strongest ever team into battle.
Some of his big hopes in the three-year-old division are set for imminent action, including potential Derby contender Buckaroo, who is being readied for Saturday’s Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
He is likely to be joined at Leopardstown by both Seisai and Agartha, who are set to cross paths in the Ballylinch Stud ‘Priory Belle’ 1,000 Guineas Trial.
Another colt identified by the trainer as a potential Classic contender is Hannibal Barca, who rounded off last season by finishing fourth in the Vertem Futurity Trophy for Brian Meehan and has since switched yards.
O’Brien said: “He will probably go to the Curragh for the Tetrarch Stakes and then we’ll see.
“That race is the same course and distance as the Irish Guineas, so will that will give him the chance of being an Irish Guineas horse.”
Discussing some of his other three-year-olds, the trainer went on: “Brasil Power will probably run in a handicap at Leopardstown at the weekend. He is working like a nice horse and could be progressive.
“Velocidad won a Group 2 last year. She’s bred to stay but I’m not sure how far she will stay, so I’m toying with the idea of starting her at seven (furlongs) or going sprinting.
“Tranquil Lady will probably go for an Oaks Trial – the Salsabil Stakes or the Blue Wind, something like that and take it from there.
“Above The Curve will probably run in a maiden next week and we think she’s a nice filly – we think she’ll make up into a Stakes filly, hopefully.
“Vega Magnifico is another nice maiden who could go to Leopardstown a week today.”
O’Brien appears particularly happy with his team of “80 or 90” two-year-olds, while the older horse brigade includes Thunder Moon, who was only narrowly beaten in last season’s Prix Jean Prat.
“Thunder Moon will probably go for the Gladness Stakes and we’ll try to win a Group 1 with him after that,” said O’Brien.
“I think seven furlongs is his trip and he was unlucky not to win a Group 1 last year in France.
“I think I got his conditions wrong a few times – I tried to sprint him or go a mile and if you look at all his runs over seven furlongs, they’re way ahead of his form over any other trip.
“Gear Up will start off in the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh and seems to be working nicely. He didn’t fire last year really, but he had a bit of an injury.
“He was a very good two-year-old before that and we’re happy with what we’ve seen from him so far.”