O'Brien is playing catch-up with Dylan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am

He needs to be driven hard, says Irish trainer

Irish training wizard Aidan O'Brien has admitted playing 'catch-up' with Dylan Thomas in the lead-up to tomorrow's HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase, but believes the European Horse of the Year will still come through.

O'Brien (pictured), 38, has been working the robust Dylan Thomas every morning over the past week and was at it again yesterday.

Dylan Thomas is a son of Danehill, and like so many of the progeny of that wonderful sire he has a seemingly bottomless constitution. O'Brien, knowing that fact, has been brave enough to push the boundaries.

'He might have gotten away from us a bit, with the travel and the quarantine, so since we've got here I admit we've had to keep chasing him along,' O'Brien said.

'But for all of it, he seems to be in pretty good shape.'

O'Brien also admits he has kept Dylan Thomas 'on the go' since the beginning of the year, and that potentially he could pay a price with under performance tomorrow.

'With any normal horse, you'd be worried. And with a normal horse, I doubt I'd do it,' O'Brien said. 'But this is not a normal horse. He has an amazing constitution and an appetite for hard work.'

O'Brien received strong support from another top trainer who has been keeping an appreciative eye on Dylan Thomas all week, the Australian master Lee Freedman.

Like O'Brien, Freedman has trained more than 100 Group One winners and said, to his eye, Dylan Thomas was in great shape.

'I've been watching him carefully and he's a typical Danehill bull - as tough as they come and he obviously thrives on racing and hard work,' Freedman said.

Although Dylan Thomas has had the work poured into him every day, topped off by yesterday's fast breeze (800 metres in 48.5 seconds, the final 400m in 24 and the ultimate 200m split in 11.79), Freedman said: 'Running 800 metres in that time is just like having a snack before breakfast for a horse like him - he hasn't turned a hair. I wouldn't be arguing with Aidan O'Brien.

'He's the class horse of the field, a mile ahead of them on ratings, and the only surprise about him is the price - 7-4 [with overseas bookmakers] seems an enormous price for a horse of his quality.'

O'Brien is also positive about his Hong Kong Mile hopeful Excellent Art, who is coming off a second in the Breeders' Cup Mile on October 27.

'He was definitely unlucky there, but he's also done well since he's been here,' O'Brien said. 'He seems to be very happy, and I'm pretty confident he'll run to his form.'

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has done a lot of groundwork trying to get O'Brien and his backers, the John Magnier-led Coolmore group, to take the December 'turf world championships' seriously.

'You have to give a lot of credit to [international racing manager] Mark Player,' O'Brien said. 'It's only due to him that we're here at all. He promised us that we'd be coming to a very professionally run meeting and he's been proved absolutely right.'