Point Lonsdale flies Ballydoyle flag in $2.5m highlight in Doha

Aidan O’Brien confirms Luxembourg being pointed at Turf contest on Saudi Cup card

It is just 30 days to the start of Ireland’s flat season at the Curragh, a fact underlined by Aidan O’Brien’s pursuit of big money in Qatar on Saturday.

The Ballydoyle stalwart Point Lonsdale is on duty for the $2.5 million Group Three Amir Trophy run at the Al Rayyan track in Doha. Ryan Moore takes the ride in the mile and a half race due off at 1.15 Irish time.

Moore and O’Brien combined last month to score a Group One success with Warm Heart in Florida, and they will have another string to their bow in Doha with Cairo, who lines up for a $400,000 local Group Two over a mile on Saturday’s valuable Sword Festival card.

Other Irish interest revolves around Ado McGuinness’s Go Athletico, who flies the flag in a $400,000 sprint. McGuinness memorably landed the same contest with Bowerman in 2021. Ronan Whelan rides.


O’Brien’s former international servant, Broome, now at stud in Turkey, could manage only fifth in the feature event a year ago, although Order Of Australia, currently on stud duties in India, did win on the undercard.

O’Brien’s latest Middle Eastern raid comes ahead of next weekend’s Saudi Cup festival in Riyadh where triple-Group One winner Luxembourg will return to action in a $2 million race on turf.

Last seen when just denied in the Hong Kong Cup, Luxembourg had been a possible for the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race.

However, O’Brien explained: “It’s his first run back after a little break and we just felt it [Saudi Cup] was going to be too tough a race to pitch him into for his first time on dirt.

“The competition is very strong, and he’s never run on the surface before, so we thought it was a bit too much to ask of him. The Neom Turf Cup will suit him better.”

Luxembourg ended his 2023 campaign when just pipped by Romantic Warrior at Sha Tin and is set to be a frequent flyer in 2024.

“We’ve been very happy with him since Hong Kong. It was the first time he’d been on a long trip abroad and he ran a great race and took the travel very well,” O’Brien reported.

“We were very pleased with the run and he’s been in good form since. Hopefully, he runs well in the Neom Turf Cup and maybe that opens up the option of Dubai.

“He could be a horse that travels a lot over the coming year. He’s got a very high level of form and some solid foundations to build from.

“The Neom Turf Cup looks ideal. Everyone has been very complimentary about the track in Riyadh, and we think it’s a track that will really suit him, and obviously the prize money is very good, so we had to consider it.

“The Saudi Cup meeting is a very important festival now and it’s great to be going there with a couple of good chances,” he added.

Last year’s St Leger fourth, Tower Of London, will also be in Riyadh to take his chance in a handicap.

In the shorter term, Point Lonsdale was rated a 5-1 shot by some firms on Friday to pick up the biggest prize of his career to date.

The one-time Classic hopeful takes on a quality international field in Doha that includes the French Group One winner Simca Mille and Godolphin’s 2022 Breeders’ Cup winner Rebels Romance. Israr represents the John Gosden team.

Ireland’s flat season on turf gets an earlier start than normal at the Curragh on the Bank Holiday Monday of the St Patrick’s weekend.

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Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column