O'BRIEN HAPPY WITH GLENEAGLES
Aidan O’Brien is pleased with where he is at with Gleneagles ahead of his attempt to further cement his position as the best miler of his generation in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
The three-year-old has conquered all before him on his two starts this season, with victories in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas.
O Brien, who is chasing a record-breaking seventh success in the race but his first since 2009, feels his latest stable star is in good order as he faces five rivals in his quest to complete a hat-trick of victories at the top level this year.
O’Brien said: “We’re happy with him since the Curragh and everything has gone well.
“We were a bit worried about the ground at the Curragh and hopefully we’ll get good fast ground at Ascot.
“Joseph (O’Brien) rides him every day and seems very happy with him.
“Since the first day when he was fourth in a maiden at Leopardstown, every other day he’s been very straightforward.
“He’s relaxed now and doesn’t do much when he gets to the front. He travels well and quickens well and is a lovely horse.”
The sternest opposition for Gleneagles looks set to come from the Andre Fabre-trained French 2000 Guineas winner Make Believe, who was supplemented at a cost of £35,000.
Although tasting defeat, and losing his unbeaten status, when finishing second in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte, the son of Makfi bounced back when making all to defeat subsequent French Derby hero New Bay in the French Classic at Longchamp last month.
Fabre said: “Make Believe has done well since making all the running in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, though I have not done much work with him as he is quite a light horse. But I am very happy with his condition.
“Fast ground would not be a real concern for him as Ascot always does a good job with the ground and it was pretty fast when he won the Poulains, but a drop of rain would be welcome.
“He does not need to lead, he could come from behind, too – we will just see how the race develops and I will leave that to his jockey, Olivier Peslier.
“I see Make Believe as a real miler and I expect him to remain at this distance for the rest of the season.
“I was very impressed with Gleneagles in the 2000 Guineas; impressed with his confirmation, with his action and with his attitude. He looks something special and will be difficult to beat.”
Consort is pitched in at Group One level on just his third career start, having been impressive on his comeback in the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown, a race where little went right.
Although the son of Lope De Vega is taking a huge step up in class, connections of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained grey are excited about his chances.
Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, said: “The interesting thing about Consort is he is physically changing all the time. He has come out of the race at Sandown and looks a different horse.
“His work coming into this has been really good. He was quite a lazy worker last year, but this year he is really beginning to sparkle on the gallops. His last piece of work was highly impressive and that is what made Sir Michael decide to have a crack at the St James’s Palace Stakes.
“He is bred to go at least a mile and a quarter, but he has got a good turn of foot and does not lack speed.
“With Ryan Moore riding Gleneagles, Sir Michael wanted Frankie Dettori on board. He is riding at the top of his game at the moment, he is exuding confidence and there is no better man for the big occasion.
“I am a massive fan of Gleneagles and it is a privilege to have a horse capable of competing against him. It will be a big task for Consort, but he goes into the race as a fresh and improving horse and it will be great for the owners to see just what sort of horse they have got.”
Hugo Palmer is of the opinion Aktabantay will give a bold show, despite the race being his first outing of the season.
Having landed the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown, the son of Oasis Dream was forced to miss his intended final outing of the campaign in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after sustaining a foot injury.
Palmer said in his Stan James blog: “He looks fantastic, he hasn’t let me down once this year in any of his work. Since we got him back on track he’s had a faultless preparation which is what you need for these big races. And he goes there, I believe, absolutely at the peak of his powers.
“When he last lined up in a race against Gleneagles, it was in the seven-furlong Jean-Luc Lagardere in Paris and we got an unlucky run of things. William Buick said afterwards that some of the decisions he made about his position during the race weren’t his best decisions and he was a fast-finishing two and three-quarter lengths behind Gleneagles and Territories that day.
“Those horses clearly have improved but I’m certain that we’ve improved as well and we’ve got to give it a go. He goes there in good heart.
“It’s the only opportunity the horse will have to run in a Group One over a mile against his own generation in this country.”
Roger Varian sends out last year’s Dewhurst Stakes winner Belardo as he seeks to build on an encouraging fourth in the Irish Guineas last time out.
The sextet of runners is completed by the Charlie Appleby-trained Latharnach, who finished second behind Tupi on his seasonal debut in the King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket.