Fresh Gleneagles can slay Pharoah
Guineas hero can bounce back to give O'Brien first Breeders' Classic
All of 15 years after Giant's Causeway so nearly gave him the perfect start, Aidan O'Brien relies on Gleneagles in his quest for a first Breeders' Cup Classic.
In that time, O'Brien has saddled an unlucky 13 runners in the 10-furlong Grade One.
Henrythenavigator and Declaration Of War have both been placed in recent years. However, nothing has gone so close as Giant's Causeway so thrillingly did in the millennium, a galling defeat exacerbated by Mick Kinane getting his reins in a tangle as the dust-up with Tiznow reached its crescendo.
Ever since, there has been a touch of the Holy Grail about the $5m Classic for the Ballydoyle maestro. Tonight, then, it is fitting that Gleneagles is charged with securing the elusive victory at Keeneland.
Being by Galileo, he doesn't have the same stand-out dirt pedigree that his uncle Giant's Causeway possessed, and he is a miler being asked to stretch to 10 furlongs, whereas Giant's Causeway was more comfortable over 10. Still, it is a significant venture. Remember, Coolmore own the breeding rights to the Triple Crown hero American Pharoah. Bob Baffert's iconic colt is a warm and justifiable favourite, so they could have opted to just let him run and cement his legacy. Instead, they are rolling the dice with Gleneagles. The interrupted season that he has endured will have played a part in the decision, but it might also play a part in the result. American Pharoah has run seven times in 2015.
When last seen in the Travers Stakes, he couldn't impose himself on the race and got run out of it by the re-opposing Keen Ice, which he had thrashed twice previously.
Baffert will have freshened him up again for this. Still, he is short at evens, whereas Gleneagles is a 12/1 shot. Those odds underestimate his chance in a race that boasts nothing else with the same X-factor as these two.
Gleneagles has raced just four times this year. Sensational in the both 2,000 Guineas and again at Royal Ascot, he returned from his lay-off to tire into sixth behind Solow on slow ground in the QE II.
While that was a disappointing, it was hardly surprising. In the context of this evening's race, it constituted a much-needed sharpener. Gleneagles travelled well and his run simply flattened out, so he should come on a bundle for it. If he does, and if he handles the dirt and if he gets home, you can be sure there aren't too many better horses in the race. Granted that's a lot of ifs, but that is usually the case with European runners here. O'Brien and Ryan Moore have a fair idea of what's required to get the job done and this could be the night things finally click.
Golden Horn is the other marquee name on duty in the Turf. While he is a short price and O'Brien's Found remains capable of a taking a scalp, I wouldn't oppose John Gosden's colt.
Legatissimo is the first horse charged with adding to an Irish Breeders' Cup haul that stood at 10 prior to last night. Moore's mount will bid to end what has been a fantastic year for her and David Wachman in the Filly & Mare Turf.
All the evidence suggests Legatissimo should win, and Make Believe is fancied to enhance Andre Fabre's Breeders' Cup legacy under Olivier Peslier in the Mile.