Highland Reel and J F Kennedy may head the markets for next year’s Classics, but Aidan O’Brien introduced Gleneagles as another contender.
O’Brien was all smiles after his charge won the Group Two Futurity Stakes at The Curragh on Sunday, part of a fabulous four-timer for the Ballydoyle maestro.
Having shed his maiden tag at the venue in June the Galileo colt then went to Leopardstown to land a Group Three contest and was a warm order for this seven furlong Group Two event.
In what looked a respectable affair, the strong pace set by Convergence made for a good start but the leader was done with two furlongs out as Gleneagles got a clear run up the inside. With rider Joseph O’Brien keeping him up to his work he landed the spoils by three-parts of a length from Vert De Grece.
This was a good tough display by the winner who seemed to idle when he hit the front but the bookmaker representatives on the course were impressed enough by him to significantly cut his odds for next year’s Epsom Derby.
There is much water to flow under the bridge before that and O’Brien is now viewing the National Stakes over a mile as the next step, after which future plans will be made.
The runner-up ran a tremendous race. First off the bridle, Vert De Grece finished strongly and has plenty of options to aim at in the coming weeks, including a rematch with Gleneagles in the National Stakes.
O’Brien set out his stall early when saddling the first and second-placed finishers in the Group Three Royal Whip Stakes over a mile and two furlongs as Hall Of Mirrors, apparently the second string, beat Kingsbarns.
Making every post a winning one under Shamie Heffernan, the Duke Of Marmalade colt Hall Of Mirrors looked in trouble a furlong or so out when challenged by Kingsbarns.
Responding well to a hands and heels ride, Hall Of Mirrors regained the advantage close to home and ran out a comfortable half-length winner with the Jim Bolger-trained favourite Parish Hall a further length and a half back in third place.
Although he had failed to raise a flag in three outings this term Hall Of Mirrors showed that he is better than just a pacemaker. It will be interesting to see how he is placed from here.
Kingsbarns, who was a Racing Post Trophy winner as a juvenile, has undoubted ability but has been difficult to keep right. He looked likely to score when delivering his challenge, but having his first outing since April tired in the closing stages.
Ascot Gold Cup hero Leading Light limbered up for a tilt at the Irish St Leger and justified cramped odds to land the Group Three Irish St Leger Trial over a mile and six to give O’Brien his third success of the afternoon.
Coming from off the pace, Leading Light took up the running inside the two furlong marker and comfortably held the challenge of Royal Diamond by a length and three-parts.
Connections are now confident that the Montjeu colt can add the final Classic of the season, the English equivalent, which he captured last year. He will once again be up against Royal Diamond who ran a satisfactory race after finishing a long way back in the Ascot Gold Cup.
As a previous winner of the Irish St Leger he is bound to come into consideration. Trainer Johnny Murtagh said that the race will bring him on a good deal, but at eight years of age will he have the legs to go with the younger horses?
Adjusted completed the quartet for O’Brien when justifying strong support in the concluding mile and a quarter three-year-old maiden.
Having posted two nice efforts from as many outings this term Adjusted looked the form horse and punters duly took advantage, sending him to post a heavily supported favourite.
Always close to the pace the Montjeu colt set sail for home early in the straight and had far too many guns for Sindarban, winning by two and a half lengths. In his post race remarks the winning handler revealed that this is a lovely jumping prospect, so presumably he will go juvenile hurdling somewhere down the line.
Jim Bolger had a live contender in Lucida, who was successful on her debut at Naas for the Group Two Fillies two-year-old race. Although she ran a superb race she had to be satisfied with second place behind Raydara.
Backed from 5&6/1 into 3/1 joint favourite Lucida looked a winner when hitting the front a furlong or so out, but she was unable to hold the late surge of Raydara and surrendered her advantage almost in the shadow of the post.
A quality filly, Lucida is in the right hands to land a big pot before retiring to Winter quarters.