With a week still to go, the line-up for this year’s Juddmonte International has time to change considerably. Rain may still play a major part in the make-up of the event. But for now, the hope of a Gleneagles - Golden Horn clash is just about as exciting as it gets for a flat racing fan.
The Epsom Derby hero taking on a dual Guineas winner is a mouth-watering prospect. Gleneagles has been a shining light for the Ballydoyle yard and the same can be said for Gosden’s Classic winner. The clash is exactly what this campaign has been waiting for. The pair are the outstanding three -year-olds of the summer, and it’s pretty difficult to say with any certainty as to who would be best suited by next week’s trip on the Knavesmire.
O’Brien’s dual-Guineas winner was doing all his best work at the end of the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. And the same can be said when he stormed clear nearing the finish of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. It’s true he’s not short of speed, but he’s been finishing his races like a horse that would enjoy a step up in trip. His breeding would certainly fill O’Brien with confidence that this race could actually be more to his liking.
O'Brien told the Racing Post yesterday: “The plan was for Gleneagles go to Deauville on Sunday but, with the rain that they've had and the forecast, that won't be happening now. We've discussed things this afternoon and if the ground at York is good to firm then we will let him take his chance in the Juddmonte International.” O'Brien added: “I've always considered Gleneagles a true miler but he needs good, fast ground to be seen at his best therefore York will probably be his next race as we are running out of options with him. It's a very sporting gesture by his owners.”
Of course we already know that Golden Horn will love the trip and he has the experience of winning at the track when devastatingly impressive in the Dante Stakes back in May. His win in the Eclipse at Sandown confirmed his status as a truly top-class thoroughbred. He’s a horse with gears as he showed when scooting past Jack Hobbs in the Derby, but he’s also capable of ‘knuckling down to it’ as he proved when breaking The Grey Gatsby at Sandown.
Chances are that Frankie will be first to commit on the Derby winner, with Gleneagles playing the stalking role. I’d be surprised if the two aren’t a lot closer in the betting as the race draws near. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to side with one over the other. Interestingly, and probably coming as no surprise, it’s O’Brien that has dominated the race in recent times, with four wins from the last seven renewals. Two of those winners were sons of Galileo, the sire of Gleneagles.
John Gosden is yet to win the ‘Juddmonte’ since its inception in 1972.