Sunday 25 September 2016

O'Brien has grounds for concern ahead of Gleneagles' Champion bid

Thomas Kelly

Published 27/08/2015 | 02:30

Having previously bypassed the Sussex Stakes on account of the ground, Aidan O’Brien is hoping conditions will be favourable for September 12
Having previously bypassed the Sussex Stakes on account of the ground, Aidan O’Brien is hoping conditions will be favourable for September 12

Aidan O'Brien is keeping a close eye on the weather in the hope that it will improve and allow Gleneagles to step up to ten furlongs for the first time in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

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The dual Guineas hero was due to tackle a mile and a quarter for the first time in last week's Juddmonte International but easy ground saw that plan ruled out just hours before the race.

Having previously bypassed the Sussex Stakes on account of the ground, O'Brien is hoping conditions will be favourable for the September 12 event to enable Gleneagles to run for the first time since winning at Royal Ascot.

"It's obviously going to be weather dependent, but we've some nice horses to run (on Irish Champions Weekend)," he said. "Gleneagles is the main one. If the ground stays good and fast, we'll look forward to seeing him run.

"I think (Leopardstown will suit him). He's a fast horse. Obviously we're not sure about the mile and a quarter. The first time he ran, he ran at Leopardstown and he got beat, but it was first time out so we'll learn a lot more.

"I suppose the exciting thing is to see how he handles a mile and a quarter. He's by Galileo out of a full sister to Giant's Causeway and he's very like Giant's Causeway - the ground will be important to give him a fair shot."

Last year's Irish Champion Stakes was run on good to firm ground and the Ballydoyle supremo is hoping for more of the same this term.

"The ground is still okay," he said. "Last year Leopardstown was good, fast ground so hopefully it could happen again."

Gleneagles is one of a handful of stellar names in contention for the richly endowed event, with Prince Of Wales's Stakes hero Free Eagle another prominent contender

His trainer Dermot Weld has yet to win the Irish Champion Stakes and Free Eagle is reported in fine condition as he prepares to potentially lock horns with not only Gleneagles, but also Golden Horn and Arabian Queen, which lowered the Epsom Derby winner's colours in the Juddmonte.

"It could turn out to be the race of the year. Everybody seems to be coming to Leopardstown and rightly so," said Weld's son and assistant, Mark.

"We really want to be in the thick of it. We really hope to be fighting it out and we are going to give it a good shot.

"The Irish Champion is the one Group One in the Irish calendar Dad has never won. He really wants to win this race.

"The horses that can win this race are far and few between and he is a horse that can win this race.

"The likes of Golden Horn and Gleneagles are damned good. They are way above average."

Irish Independent

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