O'Brien to divert Gleneagles to York for Golden Horn duel
The mouth-watering prospect of a Juddmonte International showdown between Gleneagles and Golden Horn could be back on after Aidan O'Brien revealed that his 2,000 Guineas hero is an unlikely runner in Sunday's Prix Jacques le Marois.
Having swerved Goodwood's Sussex Stakes with Gleneagles when he wasn't happy with the ground, O'Brien had indicated last Sunday that this weekend's mile Deauville Group One would be his preferred target for the exceptional three-year-old.
However, after 10mm of rainfall in France and thunderstorms forecast over the coming days, York is now back on the agenda, again with the caveat that ground conditions are suitably quick on the Knavesmire.
"The chances of him running in the Prix Jacques le Marois are unfortunately fading with the forecast," O'Brien was quoted as saying on the official Coolmore website last night.
"I've always considered Gleneagles a true miler but he needs good fast ground to be seen at his best, therefore York will probably be his next race as we are running out of options. It's a very sporting gesture by his owners."
The York going is being given as good to firm. Rain is forecast for the region on Friday and Sunday, but otherwise it looks quite settled ahead of Wednesday's Group One. Of course, with no date known as to when Ryan Moore might return from injury, the ride on Gleneagles is also up for grabs.
A year ago, Joseph O'Brien got down to 8st 12lb to partner Australia in the race, and he has been filling in for Moore on a regular basis since Coolmore's first-choice rider injured his neck in an incident in the stalls last month. This year, though, 9st is as low as O'Brien has ridden at and only infrequently at that, so there is every possibility that a new jockey would be required at York, given the former dual champion's struggle with the scales.
Apart from Moore and O'Brien, the only other rider to partner Gleneagles in a race is Colm O'Donoghue, who did the steering on his Leopardstown debut in June 2014.
Should Gleneagles step up to ten furlongs for a first time following his St James's Palace Stakes triumph at Royal Ascot, he would go toe to toe with Derby hero Golden Horn, which was also a late withdrawal from the King George VI & QE II Stakes due to rain-softened ground.
John Gosden's brilliant son of Cape Cross had successfully reverted to a mile-and-a-quarter to claim the Eclipse. Yesterday, he drifted slightly to a best price of 8/13 to stretch his unbeaten record to six, with Gleneagles trimmed to as low as 5/2. With Kevin Ryan's redoubtable four-year-old The Grey Gatsby (7/1) and Roger Charlton's exciting Royal Ascot winner Time Test (4/1) also intended starters, the International is now shaping up to be as good a Flat race as we will see in this part of the world all year.
O'Brien will also send his annual delegation to Arlington Park's "Million" card in Chicago this Saturday night. The recent Goodwood Group Two winner and French Derby runner-up Highland Reel is pencilled in to line out under Seamie Heffernan in the Secretariat Stakes, a 10-furlong Grade One that the exquisite Ballydoyle handler has claimed a record three times.
In the Grade One Beverley D Stakes, O'Donoghue will take the ride aboard Wedding Vow, which enhanced her profile as an improving sort when running well to be second to Legatissimo in Goodwood's Nassau Stakes.
O'Brien's fellow international heavyweight Dermot Weld is also set to be represented in the Beverly D by Carla Bianca. Andy Oliver is sending his Roscommon Listed winner Panama Hat for a shot at the Grade Three St Leger, while David Marnane will tilt at windmills in the main event with Elleval, which was second to Carla Bianca at Leopardstown last month.
A year ago, O'Brien's 124-rated Magician came up just short in the Million. On Saturday, Marnane will saddle the 106-rated Elleval, a five-year-old that has won just once in 25 starts on turf.
While that offers some context, the 13 other entries for this year's $1m renewal are a far less distinguished bunch. Should Elleval plunder some prize money, then, it will go down as a highly enterprising bit of placing on behalf of the Tipperary handler.