Wednesday 13 December 2017

'A millimetre of rain' would make ascot ground too soft for Gleneagles, insists O'Brien

Richard Johnson (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Richard Johnson (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Wayne Bailey

Gleneagles will make the journey to Ascot today but might not run after Aidan O'Brien said that any drop of rain would prevent his participation in the today's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

The master of Ballydoyle walked the course on Friday afternoon and was encouraged enough by what he saw to allow his dual 2000 Guineas hero to travel on race-day morning.

O'Brien said: "The ground is borderline. Parts of it are good and parts of it are on the soft side of good.

"We're going to take him racing and see how it rides for the first few races.

"The ground is not far away from where it needs to be for him to run. You would hope it might tighten up a bit before his race. A millimetre of rain though would be too much.

"After Ryan (Moore) has ridden on it, he will know what it is like - he will know straight away. The times will tell us a lot as well.

"From the three-furlong pole to the furlong pole is where it is quicker.

"The horse has always come first and we want to be fair to him. If it doesn't rain, there is no heavy dew and when the lads have ridden on it and say it is good ground or better, especially Ryan, then we might take our chance.

"It's a close call - if the ground starts shifting and breaking off the top, we are going to be in trouble."

It has been a frustrating summer for Gleneagles and his supporters, with the three-year-old having missed several engagements on account of unfavourable ground conditions since landing the St James's Palace Stakes in June.

Ascot's clerk of the course Chris Stickels, who walked the track with O'Brien, revealed there is still a chance of some rainfall at the Berkshire circuit. "I think it's a very close thing and I wouldn't like to say which way it will go," said Stickels.

Meanwhile, Richard Johnson yesterday racked up a century of winners for the jumps season with a double at Wincanton.

Runner-up for so long to Tony McCoy in the jockeys' championship, Johnson is firmly on course for his first title and continued his momentum with wins at the West Country track on Regulation and He's A Bully, for Neil King and Philip Hobbs.

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