Saturday 21 April 2018

Monday Outlook: Gleneagles must earn elite billing

But exciting Ballydoyle colt enhances reputation in Curragh Classic

Gleneagles and Ryan Moore won the Irish 2,000 Guineas
Gleneagles and Ryan Moore won the Irish 2,000 Guineas
Pleascach and Kevin Manning took the 1,000 Guineasas
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

It might have lacked a wow factor but Gleneagles' triumph in Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas didn't lack much else.

The classy Galileo colt had won with tremendous style at Newmarket. In the Tattersalls-sponsored version at the Curragh, while he had the benefit of a run, he had to overcome more adverse factors than on the Rowley Mile.

His draw one off the rail proved to be a slight negative as Ryan Moore found himself locked precariously in a pocket as the race began to unfold. He wasn't able to ride the race he would have liked, but, as Gleneagles has always done since he first got a taste for winning on his second start on Irish Derby weekend last year, his mount knuckled down when required.

Moore was characteristically composed when the need was greatest. He didn't do anything stupid, kept the faith and had the horse to seize the opportunity when a gap opened after the two-pole.

It's no secret by now but this is why the powers-that-be at Coolmore persisted for so long in their pursuit of him and then essentially allowed him to dictate the terms of their agreement. Moore picks and chooses when he makes himself available and you won't find him getting involved in the day-to-day machinations at Ballydoyle.

He knows, though, that he now has a concentrated swell of serious ammunition at his disposal, so he is available when it matters. That suits both parties just fine.

Gleneagles' turn of foot wasn't as explosive on ground that rode on the slow side of good, but he got the job done without any real fuss.

Endless Drama ran a blinder in second to confirm his potential, arriving on the scene alongside Gleneagles before getting outclassed. Ivawood got a little closer than he did at Newmarket in third, having been enterprisingly ridden by Richard Hughes.

Despite a reduced margin of victory, though, this was a thoroughly professional performance from Gleneagles that enhanced his reputation.

He has now passed the post in front in four Group Ones, albeit he was disqualified in France in the autumn when he was by some way the best horse in the race. In the 93-year history of the Irish 2,000 Guineas, he is one of just eight horses to have won both it and the original version at Newmarket.

Tellingly, four of the eight have come this century, Rock Of Gibraltar initiating the quartet in 2002 and fellow Ballydoyle star Henrythenavigator (2008) the last to achieve the feat prior to Saturday.

Of Aidan O'Brien's nine previous Irish 2,000 Guineas-winning colts, only Rock Of Gibraltar had won as many Group Ones at the same stage.

He famously went on to land three more to take his sequence to seven, before going agonisingly close in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile on a frustrating night in Arlington Park. On Saturday, O'Brien suggested that they have never before had a miler of Gleneagles' calibre at Ballydoyle.

As ever, we must be cognisant that the great man is speaking in his role as the front for a global commercial entity concerned chiefly with producing and marketing stallions.

In that context, as was the case when he spoke in similarly unequivocal terms of Australia or Camelot or St Nicholas Abbey or So You Think, we must approach the balance of his contribution with some circumspection.

At this stage, on the evidence of what we have seen and that of the form book, Gleneagles is a massively exciting prospect that possesses similarly willing attributes to his uncle, Giant's Causeway. While a tilt at the Derby is unlikely, the sky is the limit for him.

Nonetheless, in each of his two Guineas victories he beat a single juvenile Group One winner, as he did when accounting for a below-par The Wow Signal at Longchamp in October. With that in mind, it is hard to yet vouch with any veracity that he is the best miler to emerge from Ballydoyle on O'Brien's watch.

He is surely superior to most of his fellow O'Brien-trained winners of Saturday's Classic, but Rock Of Gibraltar and Henrythenavigator were a bit special. Other Ballydoyle heavyweights like Hawk Wing, George Washington and even Excelebration weren't too shabby at a mile, either.

After the Curragh, Rock Of Gibraltar plundered the St James's Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Prix du Moulin before things went so gallingly awry in America.

That is the standard against which Gleneagles must be measured if he is to be recognised as the elite stable's most accomplished miler.

Of course, there is a relative lack of worthy rivals among the older milers, so it is entirely possible that he will further enhance his stock.

Still, he has to go and do it before justifying such critical acclaim.

Bolger eyeing Irish Derby for Guineas starlet Pleascach

Jim Bolger enhanced his status as one of Irish racing's most enterprising minds by producing Pleascach to deny Found in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.

On Wednesday, the Coolcullen genius paid €12,500 to enter his home-bred Teofilo filly in the Irish Derby. Having hosed up at Naas over 10 furlongs, the 12 furlongs of a Derby or Oaks would have seemed more likely to lead to Classic glory for Pleascach.

But dropping to a mile at the Curragh yesterday, Bolger improvised. His 66-rated 200/1 shot Mainicin set a ferocious pace, tracked by his 97-rated Steip Amach, with Pleascach next.

Steip Amach took over at halfway, and then Kevin Manning was handed the baton on Pleascach two furlongs down. Sporting the first colours of the trainer's wife Jackie, the 11/2 shot - whose name means explosive - lived up to her title. She edged left as the favourite Found challenged, but few expected the half-length verdict to be reversed in the subsequent stewards' inquiry. Devonshire nosed out Jack Naylor for third.

"The plan was for Mainicin to lead, and the other filly just broke well," Bolger said in an effort to play down the master plan. "Pleascach is a relentless galloper with a turn of foot. We'll aim for the Irish Derby next and then the Irish Oaks." Bolger and Manning had won yesterday's €300,000 race in 2007 with Finsceal Beo.

Of the Derby entry, Bolger quipped: "It wasn't so much what I thought of her, it was more what I thought of the colts - with all due respect to my neighbours!"

Ten fillies have won the Derby, but only two since 1900, Salsabil (1990) and Balanchine (1994). On a day when another filly, Curvy, foiled Ballydoyle's Epsom hope Giovanni Canaletto by a neck in the Gallinule Stakes, Pleascach was quoted at 7/1 for the Irish version.

Al Kazeem (3/1) fought bravely to emulate his 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup win, having returned to the track last year after proving sub-fertile at stud. James Doyle, who was completing a hat-trick in the Group One, threaded the seven-year-old through a tight gap between Postponed and The Grey Gatsby at the furlong pole.

Fascinating Rock flashed home to be a neck second with Postponed third. "He is an amazing horse," his trainer Roger Charlton said. "To have a horse like that to run so consistently at a high level after coming back from stud is my proudest moment."

Ryan Moore lost out in yesterday's big races, but he still helped himself to a 58/1 treble thanks to wins on Air Force Blue, Master Speaker and Bantry Bay.

Mustajeeb passes audition for Ascot

Mick Halford's horses were knocking on the door all weekend and he got among the winners when Hasanour earned a trip to Royal Ascot for the Hunt Cup with a smooth handicap win on Saturday.

Ger Lyons went close in the feature and he got on the score sheet with the juvenile Miss Katie Mae. She won't go to Ascot but Dermot Weld's Brooch and Mustajeeb will, as will yesterday's David Wachman winner Curvy.

Weld's duo impressed on their respective comebacks, with Mustajeeb set to tackle the Diamond Jubilee Stakes after a convincing experiment over six furlongs in the Greenlands Stakes.

Brooch is Duke Of Cambridge-bound after convincingly stretching her unbeaten run to four.

Tweet of the weekend

Oisin Murphy (@oisdacm)

The Gold cap is the lucky cap in the Temple Stakes again! Well done to @GeorgeENB1982 on Pearl Secret!!

A year after winning the Haydock sprint on Qatar Racing's Hot Streak, the Killarney-born star is gallant in defeat on the same horse as the firm's lesser-fancied Pearl Secret prevailed for George Baker.

Numbers Game

17 Age at which Victory Gunner has been retired. Richard Lee's mud-lover won 14 times. I haven't ridden for 12 years, but I rode him in the 2003 Champion Bumper at Aintree for Craig Roberts, who had just succeeded Jimmy Neville. The Wexford-born entrepreneur had sadly died prematurely the same year, as would my career months later. Victory Gunner, though, was still winning races 10 years later and was placed four times at 16 years of age. Some servant.

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