Gleneagles has Classic claims for O’Brien

Gleneagles has Classic claims for O’Brien

Aidan O’Brien’s latest bid to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be led by his champion three-year-old Gleneagles in what could prove to be an enthralling duel with American Pharoah.

The master of Ballydoyle has won a large chunk of the major Grade One races around the globe and already has eight wins at the Breeders’ Cup.

by:  Lisa Andres 

Yet the Classic is one race to elude O’Brien and, as one of the premier thoroughbred races in the world, it’s a prize the Irish trainer would dearly love to add to his collection.

He has come close to winning it. In 2000, Giant’s Causeway came agonisingly close when the famous ‘Iron Horse’ was narrowly denied by Tiznow. Eight years later, O’Brien saw Henrythenavigator finish second behind the British-trained Raven’s Pass.

There is certainly plenty in Gleneagles’ pedigree to suggest he can go one better than those two horses and run a better race than his 12/1 odds at the time of writing with betfair may imply.

Gleneagles may not yet have run beyond a mile, or on dirt, but a look down his breeding line gives hope that both the 10 furlongs distance of the Classic and the surface at Keeneland will give him a chance of overcoming a likely strong American challenge.

His sire Galileo made his own attempt to win the Classic in 2001, but he was sixth to Tiznow, having never properly got into the race, with the surface largely to blame. However, Galileo does supply the stamina for Gleneagles after winning three Group One races over 12 furlongs.

It’s through Gleneagles’ dam You’resothrilling that plenty of optimism is provided that the colt will be able to handle the dirt surface. You’resothrilling is a full sister to Giant’s Causeway, being by Storm Cat and Mariah’s Storm.

That American pedigree will be vital to Gleneagles’ chances of adapting to the surface. Storm Cat finished a nose second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1985 and Mariah’s Storm was a 10-time winner during her racing career.

Given Gleneagles’ relationship to Giant’s Causeway, there shouldn’t be a major concern about him taking to the surface. He has also inherited some of Giant’s Causeway’s other traits, including a penchant for never winning by more than he really has to.

Since finishing fourth on his juvenile debut, Gleneagles has passed the post first in his eight subsequent races – five of which have been at the highest level. Yet he has never won by a distance further than two-and-a-half lengths. That indicates, just like Giant’s Causeway, there will always be more in the tank, if another horse gets to his quarters, which hasn’t been that easy to do once he has hit the front.

Debut aside, the only blemish in Gleneagles’ career was being disqualified from first place, and demoted to third, in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp on his final appearance as a juvenile.

This season, he has proven himself to be the dominant miler of his year group by winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish equivalent at the Curragh and then the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been seen since Ascot in mid-June on account of his preference for running on fast ground.

Connections’ concerns about running on going which didn’t contain the word ‘firm’ in it saw Gleneagles ruled out of a clash with the best older European miler Solow in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. He also then missed his intended first run over 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York.

The plan for Gleneagles now is, ground permitting, to finally step up in distance in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown – a race Giant’s Causeway won during his career. If the going turns against him again, then Gleneagles will return to Ascot for the QEII Stakes over a mile in October before going to the Breeders’ Cup. Such a scenario would mean his first run over 10 furlongs would be in the Classic. The other worry is that the Classic comes just a fortnight after the Ascot race. Giant’s Causeway ran in all three of those races, but there was a much bigger gap between the QEII and the Breeders’ Cup in his day.

Still, from a long-term breeding perspective, it’s understandable why Gleneagles’ owners – the Coolmore operation – are willing to let him take his chance in the Classic.

Coolmore bought the stud rights to American Pharoah, but winning the Classic isn’t going to add too much to the value of a horse who has won the Triple Crown. If Gleneagles can win a Grade One race of such stature on dirt, he then becomes a lucrative stallion prospect in the United States as well as in Europe.

If he doesn’t perform on the dirt surface, then it’s not going to unduly worry the Coolmore clan given how it’s not had an adverse effect on Gleneagles’ sire Galileo.

But it feels unlikely that it will be a case of like father, like son as Gleneagles has more in common with his other relation – Giant’s Causeway. He should relish how the Classic will be run and he looks a live prospect to give O’Brien his first win in the race.