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O’Brien happy with Ascot Gold Cup favourite Kyprios

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Kyprios will lead Aidan O’Brien’s squad into battle at Royal Ascot next week as the star stayer bids to regain his Gold Cup crown.

The six-year-old dominated the division during an unbeaten campaign in 2022, with Gold Cup glory followed by victory in the Goodwood Cup and the Irish St Leger before a jaw-dropping 20-length demolition job in the Prix du Cadran.

A career-threatening injury restricted Kyprios to just two starts last season and he had to make do with the silver medal in both the Irish Leger and Ascot’s Long Distance Cup, but having kicked off the new season with successive wins, he is odds-on to continue his resurgence.

“He went through a horrendous year the year before and we were very lucky to get him back racing last year, we didn’t think we would ever get him racing but he ran two very good races,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s had a great winter and a great spring and everyone is very happy with him at the moment. His first two runs were lovely, so we’re really looking forward to getting him there.

“He was always the same horse at home from the time he was a two-year-old – he was all very laid-back, he travels and when he goes there (the front) he doesn’t do much, he always did that.

“We feel the Gold Cup is a very special race, it’s a very unique race. Most horses with a staying pedigree would get nearly two miles, but when you go past that it goes into an unbelievably different territory altogether and very few really get it that well.

“We always think when you have stayers with class it’s a big help, but it’s a difficult race to win and a very difficult race to find a horse for every year.”

O’Brien also has high hopes for Auguste Rodin, who will look to make it third time lucky for the year in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

A dual Derby hero and Irish Champion Stakes and Breeders’ Cup winner last year, the Deep Impact colt was bitterly disappointing in Dubai in March and had to give best to White Birch on his most recent outing in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but O’Brien is confident of an improved performance at Ascot.

“He worked this morning and worked very well and with his two runs this year he was always working towards the Prince of Wales’s,” he added.

“We were very happy with him the last day, the ground went a little bit soft and he had a bit of a wobble coming down the hill, but we were very happy and were using that race as a kind of stepping-stone on the way to Ascot.

“We tactically didn’t take the right decision in Dubai – we decided to drop in and take our time, then they only hacked and if you weren’t handy you never got into it. Ryan (Moore) accepted it very early, which was the right thing because he knew he had no chance, but he came out of the race very well and we were very happy with his Curragh run other than he didn’t win.”

Henry Longfellow and Opera Singer are being readied for the St James’s Palace and Coronation Stakes respectively.

Henry Longfellow is looking to bounce back after finishing eighth as favourite for the French 2000 Guineas, while Opera Singer is expected to take a big step forward in the Irish 1,000 Guineas on her belated seasonal debut following a spring setback.

“Everything is well with him (Henry Longfellow) since the last day, in France we made the wrong decision tactically that we’d drop him and there was no pace on and it just became very messy up the straight – every time Ryan tried to get out he couldn’t get out and his chance was gone,” said O’Brien.

“We felt it was a bit of a non-event, Ryan did as well and everything has been well with him. We’re looking forward to seeing him in Ascot.

“Opera Singer was only in full work probably five weeks before the Curragh, so we really couldn’t expect her to run any better than she did – we didn’t expect her to run that well really.

“We were thinking of a nice run in mid-division and she’d come on a lot for it, so she ran an absolute blinder and we think she’s come forward plenty since then.”

Continuous, last season’s St Leger winner and not seen since finishing fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October, is poised to make his comeback in the Hardwicke Stakes, but O’Brien warned: “We’ve had him away (to work) twice, but he is a big, gross horse who did really mature from last year, so I think no matter what we do he’s definitely going to improve for the run.”

As ever the Ballydoyle handler will be well represented in the two-year-old races over the course of the five-day meeting.

Detailing some of his running plans, he said: “We run Camille Pissaro in the Coventry, he won first time and got beat second time. Ryan thought he was green so we think he’s going to come forward from that.

“In the Queen Mary we run a filly called Heavens Gate, she won nicely at the Curragh over six furlongs last time and just got beat over five the first day. We’re going back to five with her, it could be a little bit sharp but we’ll see.

“In the Norfolk we have a horse called Whistlejacket and in the Windsor Castle we have a horse called Treasure Isle. In the Albany we have a filly called Fairy Godmother, she won at Naas last time and we really like her, then in the Chesham we have a filly called Bedtime Story who won in Leopardstown.

“The racing is very competitive in Ascot, but hopefully they’ll run well. Obviously we like them all, we think they’re very smart horses and they wouldn’t be there if we didn’t.”

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