The inaugural running of this first classic of the year, was in 1809, and it has a roll of honour which reads like a who’s who of thoroughbred racing. Historically, the 19th century handler John Scott, with seven victories, has been the most successful trainer, his final win coming via The Marquis in 1862. It is an awfully long time for a record to stand, but Irish maestro, Aidan O’Brien would seem to have strong prospects of equalling it in this years renewal, where he is triple handed, with Gleneagles, Ol’ Man River, and Highland Reel.
On breeding Gleneagles stands out. He is a full brother to last years Irish 1000gns heroine Marvellous, and if he does win on Saturday his dam Youresothrilling, will have achieved the amazing feat of producing two classic winners with her first two foals. She had plenty of speed, winning the Cherryhinton at Newmarket as a 2yo, and is a sister to the toughest horse of his generation, Giant’s Causeway, (2nd 2000gns, and winner of five Gp1 races between 1ml and 1m 2f). By the outstanding stallion Galileo, ( sire of the brilliant Frankel, who took this in 2011, and Australia and New Approach, who both went close) Gleneagles could not be better bred for the weekends task. He made his racecourse debut in a 7f maiden at Leopardstown last June, finishing 4th, beaten 3L. He upped his game 3 weeks later taking a 7f Curragh maiden by 2 1/2L, and progressed to win the Gp3 Tyros stakes, eliciting the interesting comment from his trainer that he had “been still babyish and would improve a good bit”. He looked more the finished article, when winning the Gp2 Futurity at the Curragh 4 weeks later, and confirmed his progress when taking Ireland’s premier 2yo contest the National Stakes over 1ml at the prohibitive odds of 1/3. Sent to France for his last race, the Gp1 Prix Jean-Luc Legardare, He was quite impressive, showing a nice turn of foot to win cleverly by1/2 L, only to loose the race in the stewards room afterwards. He is one of those animals who does just enough to win, and with Ryan Moore in the plate, looks a very worthy favourite.
Second in the market at around 6/1, is the Andre Fabre trained Territories. This Invincible Spirit colt was the principle sufferer in the Prix Jean-Luc Goddard, behind Gleneagles and was duly promoted from 3rd to 2nd. He upheld the form when winning a Gp3 on his reappearance at Longchamp very comfortably on April 12th, and coming from this stable, who won with Pennekamp (1995) and Zafonic (1993) his chance must be respected. However, despite the outcome of the inquiry after the ” Luc-Goddard”, this observer feels the best horse finished in front and will do so again on Saturday.
The Richard Hannon trained Estidhkaar has won three of his six starts, and having sustained a hairline fracture when going off the 11/8 fav for last years Dewhurst Stakes, must be considered. He ran a fine race in the 7f Greenham stakes on his reappearance, finishing 2nd, a nk behind Muhaarar. Good paddock judges felt the race was needed, and considerable improvement could be expected. However there must be serious doubts about his ability to stay a mile at the highest level. His sire, Dark Angel, was a precocious 2yo who didn’t race at three, and whose best progeny have been sprinters. His unraced dam also has a lot of speedy influences in her pedigree, so perhaps the jury will have to remain out for the present.
Aidan O’Brien’s twice raced Montjeu colt, Ol’ Man River, who cost an eye watering €2,850, 000 as a yearling is attracting some interest and is a best priced 8/1 at the time of writing. He has won both his races (1ml) and like his stablemate has a pedigree to die for. His dam Finsceal Beo is one of only two fillies to have pulled off the English/Irish 1000gns double, and his sire is legendary. However it has to be said that while he has won both his starts, the form hasn’t worked out, and his style of racing would suggest that he will be suited by further.
Charlie Hills, who’s Muhaarar won the Greenham is quite bullish about his Dutch Art colt Dutch Connection. Having stayed on nicely to bag a York Gp3 (7f) He travelled to Ireland to take on Gleneagles in the Gp1 National Stakes. He ran very freely, and in the circumstances and did well to finish 2 1/2L third. Hills feels that Saturday’s likely strong gallop is what the colt needs, and that his recent racecourse workout at the Newmarket Craven meeting, was just what was required to bring him to his peak.
The Sir Mark Prescott trained Celestial Path is of interest. He hails from a family containing many outstanding milers, and as a son of Footstepsinthesand, is a grandson of the great Giants Causeway. He certainly looked the business when trotting up in a listed race at Haydock last September, but was disappointing when only managing 3rd in the Racing Post Trophy six weeks later. Perhaps he was over the top, or unsuited by the soft ground, so given good or faster ground at the weekend, he is another worth considering.
E.W. : Dutch Connection.