Donn's Articles » Gleneagles and Golden Horn

Gleneagles and Golden Horn

So the match-up did not happen.  The great Gleneagles/Golden Horn duel that last Wednesday’s Juddmonte International at York had become, the race of the season that some were billing as the race of a lifetime.  The Guineas winner versus the Derby winner over the intermediate distance of 10 furlongs, pistols at dawn on the Knavesmire.

Alas, the rains came down on Tuesday, Aidan O’Brien walked the track on Wednesday and decided no.

The trainer wanted to run.  Gleneagles made the trip, flew to York on Wednesday morning with his gear, all set to tog out and line up.  But Gleneagles is a good-actioned horse for whom fast ground is the ideal foil.  Pace, speed, acceleration, they are his attributes, and those attributes are seen to best effect when you can bounce off the ground on which you are racing, not when you are sinking into it.

All of Gleneagles’ best performances have been on fast ground.  His National Stakes win last year, his Guineas win this year, his St James’s Palace Stakes win.   On the only occasion on which he encountered ground on the easy side of good, in the Irish Guineas in May, while he won, he put up one of the least impressive performances of his career.

Not only that, but the Juddmonte International is run over 10 and a half furlongs, it would have been Gleneagles’ first foray beyond a mile.  He has mile pace, but there is every chance that he will get 10 furlongs all right.  He is by stamina influence Galileo, and he is out of a full-sister to Giant’s Causeway, who excelled over 10 furlongs.  However, you can understand why Team Ballydoyle did not want to ask Gleneagles to race on easy ground on his first attempt at the longer trip.

We had been there before.  Gleneagles was all set to run in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, he was set to take on Solow in a clash of the generations, the best three-year-old miler against the best older miler in a winner’s-reputation-takes-all showdown.  The Duel on the Downs they called it, as they usually do when two horses meet in the Sussex Stakes.  But the rains came again and scuppered plans.  Gleneagles wasn’t even declared for the race at the 48-hour stage.

There was also the option to run Gleneagles in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last Sunday, but there was never the real prospect of fast ground there, so those plans never really got beyond draft stage.

John Gosden faced a similar dilemma on Wednesday with Golden Horn.  Anthony Oppenheimer’s Derby winner had also missed his previous engagement, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, because of unsuitably soft ground.  Unbeaten before Wednesday, he looked certain to retain his record when he joined the leader Arabian Queen at the furlong pole, but the filly battled back tenaciously to spring a 50/1 shock.

Gosden said afterwards that, given the chance again, they would employ different tactics, sit closer to their pacemaker Dick Doughtywylie.  It was difficult to make ground from the rear all week at York on the holding ground.

So what’s next?  The Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, said Gosden.  The Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, said O’Brien. By then, it will be three months since the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, when Gleneagles last raced.  His reappearance is eagerly anticipated.

We could get our Guineas winner/Derby winner duel after all at Leopardstown on 12th September.  Ground permitting.

© The Sunday Times, 23rd August 2015