Breeders’ Cup hopes rest with Gleneagles

Classic remains elusive to Irish champion trainer as he sends out his 14th contender

Aidan O’Brien wound up Ireland’s flat turf season one winner shy of a century, but will hope the figures

work in his favour when Gleneagles lines up in Saturday night’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt.

The dual-Guineas hero will be O’Brien’s 14th runner in the $5 million centrepiece to America’s most prestigious race-meeting which remains frustratingly elusive to the champion trainer despite some of the best of Ballydoyle contesting it over the years.

Star names such as Galileo, Hawk Wing and So You Think have failed to fire on dirt, while the run of near-misses turned tragic in 2007 when George Washington was fatally injured at Monmouth Park.


Henrythenavigator finished runner-up in 2008 when the Classic was run on a synthetic surface, and Declaration Of War was third in 2013, but the closest Ballydoyle has got to landing the prize remains the first try, Giants Causeway in 2000.

Famously resilient

Gleneagles is closely related to that famously resilient colt, encouraging hopes he could successfully adapt to the different surface, even taking into account having to tackle the Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, and racing beyond a mile for the first time.

“The reality of it is we won’t know how he handles it [dirt] until he runs on it,” conceded O’Brien, whose Breeders’ Cup team are set to travel to Keeneland on Tuesday.

That team is also likely to include Found in the mile and a half Turf, while the only other Irish trainer represented at the meeting will be David Wachman, responsible for the red-hot Filly & Mare Turf favourite, Legatissimo.

O’Brien was crowned champion trainer for the 17th time on the final day of the campaign at Leopardstown, where his daughter Ana rode Pretty Perfect to an all-the-way success in a fillies maiden.

That was O’Brien’s 99th success of the season, yielding prizemoney of almost €4 million.

But Bravery found Awtaad too good and Landofhopeandglory failed by three-parts of a length to notch the century in the Eyrefield Stakes, won by Moonlight Magic.

That completed a double for Jim Bolger, who also landed the Nursery with Theoderico. But it was Moonlight Magic who attracted 20-1 quotes for next year's Derby after scoring again just eight days after his debut.

“He’s a good horse. He was a little bit backward and just made it this year. I’d say he’ll improve a lot over the winter and hopefully he’ll be back here for the Derrinstown Derby Trial,” Bolger said, after taking his winner tally for the season to 61, third in the table, one ahead of Ger Lyons.

The English-trained Sovereign Debt secured a third victory of the season in Ireland by proving half a length too good for Iveagh Gardens in the Listed Knockaire Stakes.

"You couldn't but be impressed. It's not easy giving weight away over an inadequate trip on ground that's not ideal," said Sovereign Debt's rider Chris Hayes, who'd earlier scored on Awtaad, a prospect for one of the Guineas trials next spring.

Fran Berry picked up a two-day ban for careless riding on Iveagh Gardens after interfering with the favourite Tested in the Knockaire, and Pat Smullen, crowned champion jockey for the eighth time, appeared to be out of luck on the final day after Dermot Weld's other runner, Silver Concorde, emerged best in the €100,000 November Handicap.

The winner is likely to be back at Leopardstown at Christmas for a maiden hurdle.

But the season did end on an appropriate note as Smullen scored on Chinese Light to notch winner number 103 of another memorable campaign.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column