Gleneagles acid test of Golden Horn’s lofty reputation

If the clash between Golden Horn and Gleneagles goes ahead at York in the Juddmonte International Stakes next Wednesday it will surely be compulsive viewing, even for those who only have a passing interest in Flat racing.

Gleneagles acid test of Golden Horn’s lofty reputation

These are two massive juggernaut three-year-olds and to see the Epsom Derby winner (Golden Horn) and the dual 2000 Guineas winner (Gleneagles) taking each other on over an intermediate distance, 10 and a half furlongs, is about as good as it gets.

The problem, of course, is the weather and the possibility of a surface that might be on the soft side.

Whatever about Golden Horn, there seems little possibility Gleneagles will appear unless the ground is deemed to be suitably quick.

But if both turn up you’d imagine the BHA handicapper will watch the contest with even more than his usual interest.

He did go out on something of a limb and give Golden Horn the same rating, 130, after he won the Eclipse at Sandown, that Frankel enjoyed as a three-year- old.

Frankel, of course, went on to reach 140.

It was a really brave call and one that did not meet universal approval.

If the handicapper is right then that means we have seen, in a very short space of time, three great horses in Sea The Stars, Frankel and Golden Horn. That’s extraordinary.

But can Golden Horn live up to what some judges consider to be an inflated rating? The starting point has to be that he is unbeaten in five races.

The son of Cape Cross ran only once as a juvenile, winning a maiden at Nottingham by a head in October.

He took off after that, however, and the Dante, Derby and Eclipse have all come his way — and in imperious fashion.

Golden Horn beat Jack Hobbs out the gate in both the Dante and Derby and then Jack Hobbs went on to land the Irish Derby by five lengths.

In the Eclipse at Sandown, Golden Horn slammed reliable yardstick, and older horse, The Grey Gatsby, by three and a half lengths.

What was so impressive about that was the manner in which Golden Horn lengthened clear in the closing stages, after The Grey Gatsby looked a major threat for much of the straight.

Aidan O’Brien has praised the owners of Gleneagles for their sportsmanship in taking on Golden Horn and he’s right.

But there’s also the notion that they have everything to gain. Most pundits will conclude Gleneagles won’t beat Golden Horn anyway, but what if he does?

Gleneagles has never raced beyond a mile and another two and a half furlongs will be altogether new territory. But being by Galileo is some plus.

He was brilliant when taking the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on his seasonal debut, less so on rain-softened ground when winning the Irish equivalent at the Curragh and was back on song when easily landing the St James’ Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last time.

Mind you that Ascot contest was a modest enough renewal, with the second, Latharnach, and the third, Consort, both failing subsequently in lesser company.

It is well known, however, that Gleneagles has always had a tendency to do just enough, so not too much should be read into that.

There are one or two others who won’t be without hope, especially Time Test, and this has the potential to be the most fascinating contest of the season.

On what we have seen so far you cannot escape the feeling that Gleneagles has to improve, at least a little, to trouble Golden Horn.

It would be gas if that improvement were actually brought about by stepping up in trip.

In any case, I think most of won’t care who wins, a real rarity in this game, we just want to see the battle take place.

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As one who fancied Air Force Blue to win last Sunday’s Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, it was certainly a most enjoyable contest to watch.

In theory Air Force Blue should not have been able to beat Buratino.

They met in the middle of June at Royal Ascot, with Buratino beating his rival by a snug two lengths into second.

But Air Force Blue went to Ascot as a relative greenhorn, on the back of just one outing, taking a maiden at the Curragh by a neck.

He was then afforded a long break, as indeed was Buratino, but had any amount of scope for stepping way up on Ascot.

And, typically for one of Aidan O’Brien’s, that’s exactly what he did, producing a superb turn of foot in the closing stages.

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A horse of O’Brien’s that caught the eye, on the same card, was the debutant, Beacon Rock, sixth in the maiden won by Ger Lyons’ Restive.

He was partnered by Seamie Heffernan and was, presumably, the stable second string, behind the Joseph O’Brien-ridden Cole Porter, who finished fourth.

In any case there was just a lot to like about the way Beacon Rock came home, after being towards the rear of the 12-strong field for much of the journey.

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