One of the unusual features of this Flat season has been the recent Group One drought endured by Aidan O’Brien, whose most recent success at the highest level is now fully two months ago, when Kew Gardens won the Grand Prix de Paris. Ballydoyle’s virus troubles became a familiar topic last month but they now seem to be over, judging by 17 wins in the past fortnight at a strike-rate of 33%. 

This weekend brings a hatful of Group One races and, although the final entries are not available for Sunday as I type, O’Brien looks likely to have more than 20 runners in top-class races over the next two days, in Britain, Ireland and France. 

Magic Wand (2.50) is one that catches my eye, on offer at 4-1 for Sunday’s Prix Vermeille at Longchamp. You need to make a few excuses for her but she was found to have a dirty nose after her Irish Oaks flop and, in the context of what was happening at her yard, I think that’s enough to put a line through the form.

She fared better at York last time but needs to be better again to win this. I believe we may see something like the Magic Wand of Royal Ascot, when she pounded four lengths clear of a horse who won a Group One next time.

Crucially, she looks like getting a sound surface. The ground is reportedly good at Longchamp and the weather in Paris is supposed to get quite warm over the weekend. It could be the fastest ground yet encountered by the favourite, Kitesurf, and she might have trouble keeping tabs on Magic Wand if so. 

I mention all this now because, what with the Leger and the Irish Champion on Saturday, there’s not going to be another chance to pore over Sunday’s races. I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend watching the action and don’t stray too far from a telly.

Friday’s nap, at 5-1, is Misty Birnam (3.40), who made an absolutely extraordinary crash down the ratings this summer after arriving from South Africa via Ireland. The grey was dropped 22lb for three defeats in which he showed very little ability, and then showed quite a bit of it when scoring handily at Redcar after missing the break.

I wouldn’t want him to miss the kick from trap three around Chester. Otherwise, he’s surely still well treated on a 7lb higher mark.

At Doncaster, I fancy Ben Vrackie (3.00) in the Mallard, although his odds have been smashed up by a couple of influential tipsters and he’s just 7-2 now. This race has fallen to well-backed three-year-olds in each of the last two years and Ben Vrackie is one of only two runners from that age group, the other being Austrian School, who will probably go and win now.

Earlier, the Flying Childers looks hot but 14-1 is too big about the progressive Well Done Fox (2.25), from the Hannon yard that has won this four times since 2010. Forcing tactics didn’t help him when he was down the field in the Molecomb and he did better when held up in touch at York last time. That was a lesser race but has been a good pointer to this one over the years.

At 6-1, Saunter (3.35) is the one that appeals in the Doncaster Cup, in which he faces some ageing rivals whose best days are surely behind them. A smaller field and a deader surface than he met in the Ebor may help. 

There are each-way possibilities about 16-1 shot Knife Edge (3.55) at Sandown. Two years ago, he won the German 2,000 Guineas for Marco Botti, then disappeared to Hong Kong. He’s back with James Fanshawe and travelled nicely on his reappearance at Chelmsford before finding little. We might see a bit more this time, with the yard in fine form.

Doncaster 1.50 Laugh Aloud 2.25 Well Done Fox 3.00 Ben Vrackie (nb) 3.35 Saunter 4.05 Sangarius 4.40 Buffalo River 5.10 Al Erayg 5.45 Loveisili 

Chester 2.00 Indomitable 2.35 Pass The Gin 3.10 Dance Legend 3.40 Misty Birnam (nap) 4.15 Baileys Artist 4.45 Jabbaar 5.15 Fire Tree

Sandown 2.15 Reticent Angel 2.50 Victors Lady 3.25 Aussie Nugget 3.55 Knife Edge 4.30 Absolutely So 5.00 Sayem 5.30 Astrologist

Salisbury 3.30 Cricklewood Green 4.00 Jash 4.35 Dudley’s Boy 5.05 Headland 5.40 Feel Glorious 6.10 Silver Swift 6.40 Swift And Sure 7.10 Foxtrot Lady


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