The Ballydoyle camp are “delighted” with Gleneagles ahead of today’s mouthwatering showdown with Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International.
The dual Guineas hero has been forced to step up in trip from a mile after the ground at both Goodwood and Deauville was deemed unsuitable, so Aidan O’Brien will likely be hoping the light rain that fell in York yesterday does not amount to much.
“He’s in good form and we’re very happy with him, obviously he’s missed a few engagements. We trained him for Goodwood, but the ground just wasn’t right for him. Then we thought we might go to France,” said O’Brien.
“We’re delighted with him and looking forward to it and delighted the lads agreed to let him take his chance.
“He’s a horse that shows a lot of speed at home and we always thought a mile was his trip, but I suppose he needs to get out. It’s a run for him and we’ll learn a lot about him.”
Golden Horn represents a stiff test for Gleneagles and the Derby hero’s owner Anthony Oppenheimer admitted he still gets nervous watching his pride and joy.
Despite Golden Horn having already won the Derby and Eclipse this season, stretching his unbeaten record to five, Oppenheimer finds it hard to relax seeing his homebred in action.
Oppenheimer is likely to be even more jittery than usual today as, besides Gleaneagles, Golden Horn faces one the most impressive winners of Royal Ascot in Time Test and The Grey Gatsby, last year’s French Derby winner.
“The horse is very well. I went to see him on Friday and he looked marvellous,” said Oppenheimer of the John Gosden-trained colt.
“It’s easy to say anything, but one really doesn’t know if this is his greatest challenge. All we know is that it looks to be a terribly exciting race and we’re glad to be part of it.
“Gleneagles is a very good horse and I’m sure he’ll stay.
“I was at Roger Charlton’s last week and saw Time Test. He’s a gorgeous-looking horse and is very smart, but whether he has the experience to take on the two more experienced horses, time well tell.
“I still get nervous watching him, but he’s done marvellously for us so far and it would be lovely if he could win again.”
The unknown quantity in the race is Time Test, who steps up markedly in class from his win in the Group Three Tercentenary Stakes.
“I have huge respect for Golden Horn, Gleneagles and The Grey Gatsby. They are all very high-class Classic winners who have won eight Group One races between them,” said Charlton.
“Whatever wins will clearly be the best three-year-old in Europe.”
With Ryan Moore injured and Frankie Dettori, who is the only other jockey to have ridden him this season, on Golden Horn, Pat Smullen has received the call up.
“He’s a very exciting horse for the future. It’s a big step up for him in what looks like being the race of the year, but connections are very sweet on him and I was taken by the way he quickened at Ascot and I’m really looking forward to the ride,” said Smullen.
“He’s going to take on the two biggest guns that are around at the moment and don’t forget The Grey Gatsby, but I’m really excited about the ride on this horse and hopefully he can make the step up.”
The Grey Gatsby comes in slightly under the radar after Golden Horn ultimately beat him comfortably in the Eclipse, but trainer Kevin Ryan is keen to have another crack.
Ryan said: “We’re looking forward to it. The horse is in great form. It deserves to have the best horses there and it’s going to be a very exciting race.
“He (Golden Horn) is going to be a hard horse to beat. He’s a great racehorse and he’s proven he’s top class.
“If we can’t beat him, let’s hope we give him a race.
“He (The Grey Gatsby) has got a great turn of foot, so hopefully it will be a true-run race.”
David Elsworth’s outsider Arabian Queen is the only filly in the field and owner Jeff Smith feels it is worth having a crack.
“There’s no formline between the three-year-old fillies, which I think are exceptional this year, and the colts, so who’s to say the colts are better?” Smith said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved