Wednesday 21 February 2018

O'Brien to consider Gleneagles for Classic mission in Breeders'

Gleneagles could be on his way to America for the Breeders’ Cup
Gleneagles could be on his way to America for the Breeders’ Cup
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Gleneagles is on schedule to form part of a thrilling Qatar Irish Champion Stakes line-up but Aidan O'Brien has suggested that a tantalising tilt at the Breeders' Cup Classic will also be considered for his classy colt.

The brilliant 2,000 Guineas-winning son of Galileo hasn't run since securing a third Group One in succession in Royal Ascot's St James's Palace Stakes. In the interim, plans to run in the Sussex Stakes and the Juddmonte International have been scuppered by unsuitably slow ground.

Acknowledging that Gleneagles' intended outing in a star-studded line-up for Leopardstown's €1.1 Group One on Saturday week could also be foiled by the elements, O'Brien has outlined a contingency plan of sorts.

"Given suitable ground, Gleneagles will run in the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday week and, failing that, he will be aimed at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October," the perennial champion trainer said. "His end-of-season target is the Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland where he may face American Pharoah."

That is some prospect, although only time will tell how viable a proposition it is. Already an iconic Triple Crown hero in the States, American Pharoah, whose breeding rights have been acquired by Coolmore, suffered a first defeat in nine outings since his August 2014 debut when thwarted by Keen Ice at Saratoga on Saturday.

Bob Baffert has indicated that he could still be aimed at the Classic despite Saturday's shock reversal, a laboured turn that was in stark contrast to the manner in which he had previously been dominating high-class fields.

Gleneagles, which could face the likes of Golden Horn, Cirrus Des Aigles, Free Eagle, The Grey Gatsby, Pleascach and Arabian Queen at Leopardstown, is as low as 8/1 to plunder a historic first Breeders' Cup Classic triumph for O'Brien on October 31. The ultimate dirt Grade One has hitherto been a source of some frustration for O'Brien; Giant's Causeway endured a galling near-miss at Churchill Downs in 2000 and George Washington was fatally injured at Monmouth Park in 2007, with Henrythenavigator also just denied at Santa Anita in 2008.

However, he has saddled three Grade One winners at Keeneland, which will be hosting the two-day Breeders' Cup event for a first time.

Meanwhile, O'Brien's St Leger contenders Fields Of Athenry, Bondi Beach and Order Of St George are among 140 initial entries for the Melbourne Cup. Dermot Weld has put Manalapan and Zafayan in the November 3 Grade One that he has famously won twice before, with Willie Mullins's 2013 fourth Simenon engaged again alongside stablemates Clondaw Warrior, Max Dynamite and Wicklow Brave.

Irish Independent

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