Gleneagles aims for BC Classic, potential clash with American Pharoah
"Given suitable ground, Gleneagles will run in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) on Saturday week and, failing that, he will be aimed at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Ascot in October," O'Brien said in a statement to Britain's Press Association Sport. "His end-of-season target is the Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland where he may face American Pharoah."
In addition to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, the Classic is the long-term goal of Metropolitan H. (G1) and Whitney (G1) winner Honor Code. The Classic might also feature dual champion mare Beholder, recent winner of the Pacific Classic (G1) against males.
Ireland's champion juvenile last season, Gleneagles has captured the 2000 Guineas (G1), Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), and St James's Palace (G1) so far this season. However, he's sidestepped several races since the latter score at Royal Ascot in June due to soft ground. Among these were the Sussex (G1), Prix Jacques le Marois (G1), and Juddmonte International (G1).
The Irish Champion, which would mark Gleneagles' first attempt beyond a mile, has the potential of being a belated clash between Gleneagles and Europe's leading middle-distance three-year-old Golden Horn, winner of the Derby (G1) and Eclipse (G1). The two originally were scheduled to meet in the International at York, but Gleneagles was a late scratch to course conditions. Golden Horn ran and suffered his first career defeat by a neck to the filly Arabian Queen.
The Breeders' Cup Classic is a race O'Brien and Coolmore have attempted to win on multiple occasions but without success. They've come close, though, with Giant's Causeway narrowly edged by Tiznow after an epic stretch duel at Churchill Downs in 2000. More recently, Henrythenavigator ran second in the 2008 Classic dominated by European imports over Santa Anita's old synthetic track, while Declaration of War was a strong third to Mucho Macho Man in the 2013 Classic contested on dirt at Santa Anita.
The composition of the Classic field remains fluid, especially after American Pharoah's defeat in the Travers (G1) at the weekend created uncertainty about his racing future. Honor Code must also satisfactorily pass his final prep test, most likely the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on October 3.
Gleneagles' participation would give the Classic a needed boost in the event one or more of the main protagonists do not line up, and even greater intrigue if they all start. The potential now exists for this year's Classic to be the kind of "World Championship" Breeders' Cup marketers envisioned.
(Gleneagles photo courtesy of Sportinglife.com)