Three quick thoughts on Gleneagles and the BC Classic

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

September 1st, 2015

Just three quick (or if you prefer, knee-jerk) reactions to the news about Europe's star three-year-old miler, Gleneagles, now setting his sights on the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland:

An American Pharoah subtext? Let's consider this from the Coolmore chess-pieces angle: the global bloodstock juggernaut owns Gleneagles, and will stand Triple Crown champion American Pharoah upon his retirement to stud. Given the timing of this declaration of intent, it's tempting to read between the lines and think that the chances of American Pharoah making the Classic may be receding. That's not to say there can't be the clash that Aidan O'Brien mentions in his statement on Gleneagles, but doesn't it maximize the benefit to Coolmore to emphasize the hypothetical for the time being?

Can Gleneagles transfer his game to dirt? Connections will harp on the fact that he's out of a full sister to Giant's Causeway, whom O'Brien has repeatedly said Gleneagles reminds him of. And as we remember so well, that valiant "Iron Horse" nearly landed the Classic in 2000, only to be outdueled by one of our most redoubtable battlers, Tiznow. Yet the substantial difference is that Gleneagles is by Galileo, who was only sixth behind Tiznow in the 2001 Classic, and it goes without saying that's a prepotent international sire for turf.

Protecting the investment? The other curiosity about this is that you'd think Gleneagles' natural Breeders' Cup target would be the Mile (G1). But after O'Brien has lavished praise on the colt as the best miler he's ever had, they've been exceptionally cautious about his campaign. As a result, he hasn't run since capturing the June 16 St James's Palace (G1).

Gleneagles was withdrawn from the Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood on account of fears about unsuitably soft going -- some way ahead of time, before knowing how much the ground might dry out. Contrast that with his withdrawal from the Juddmonte International (G1), where O'Brien left it to the afternoon of raceday itself before scratching him. And his fall targets are likewise ground dependent. Perhaps the concern is that Keeneland's turf course may absorb more moisture than ideal.

Perhaps the Coolmore brain trust really thinks that Gleneagles can be the one to garner that elusive Classic on dirt. Or, it could be a case of minimizing losses. It would be a much more costly blow to get him beaten over a mile now. Conversely, Gleneagles has nothing to lose by trying dirt in the Classic. It's a win/win proposition: if he handles it, they've landed the gamble and struck gold; if he doesn't, he'll still always be O'Brien's best miler (a cynic might add, "until the next one").

Those are the thoughts that swirled through my mind: what's your take on the Gleneagles announcement?