Friday 30 September 2016

Golden's mettle to be tested

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

Frankie Dettori celebrates his Epsom derby victory aboard Golden Horn and the pair are in action again today at Sandown
Frankie Dettori celebrates his Epsom derby victory aboard Golden Horn and the pair are in action again today at Sandown

A much-vaunted crop of elite three-year-old colts has its first meaningful test against its elders when John Gosden's brilliant Derby victor Golden Horn puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Eclipse Stakes.

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The commanding Epsom hero, stablemate Jack Hobbs and Aidan O'Brien's Gleneagles have been the standard-bearers among the Classic generation. At different turns, each has looked more than a little bit special, but they will ultimately be judged by how they fare in open company.

Today's 10-furlong affair might not be a vintage edition of the Sandown Group One, but The Grey Gatsby is a legitimate rival against which Golden Horn can be assessed.

Cougar Mountain is the sole Irish contender for Ballydoyle. O'Brien has secured the Eclipse on five previous occasions, so, while the market doesn't give the Queen Anne third much of a chance at 12/1, don't be too surprised if he and the irrepressible Ryan Moore engage in a bit of giant-slaying.

Last year, Moore conspired to foil Australia aboard the Kevin Ryan-trained The Grey Gatsby, having also taken Taghrooda's scalp at York on Tapestry. Taghrooda, of course, was boldly campaigned by Gosden, and it is refreshing to see that he has similarly ambitious agendas for Jack Hobbs and Golden Horn, both of which could yet tackle the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

"I don't let it bother me," Gosden says of balancing the dilemma of giving a horse like Golden Horn the opportunity to fulfil its potential while trying to maintain its reputation.

"Any horse can get beaten; it happened to Nijinsky, Kingman in the Guineas. I'm never going to let that worry me. If the horse's ability is there and they're in good form and come out of their races well, that matters to a trainer more than anything else."

"I've no illusions about it. It's a mile-and-a-quarter on a track that can favour front-runners and against older horses. I've bags of respect for those horses and nothing is a given."

O'Brien and Dermot Weld also embark on an audacious New York sally, with lesser lights Outstanding and Postulation tackling the Belmont Oaks and Derby respectively. Both men's exploits on the international stage are exemplary, so it will be fascinating to see what unfolds in the Big Apple.

Closer to home, Barry Geraghty will formally begin his tenure as JP McManus' retained rider with three mounts in the famous green, white and gold silks at Limerick tomorrow, the first of which, Waver, is trained by O'Brien. The brilliant dual champion jockey hasn't ridden since suffering a fractured tibia in March, yet a lot has happened in the interim, and we're not talking about his getting a stone removed from his kidney on Tuesday or Kauto Star suffering a fatal injury.

Of more significance for Geraghty was AP McCoy's exit, paving the way for him to graduate to the ultimate number one gig. He is already among the most decorated riders in the history of the game, so it is frightening to think what he might achieve with such a wealth of ammunition at his disposal.

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