Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn going toe-to-toe with the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner Gleaneagles in the Juddmonte International Stakes on Wednesday is pure box-office. It’s like Pacquiao v Mayweather for racing fans.
It’s the first time in 23 years that the Classic winners will clash in this contest and it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s the biggest race of the season so far.
The stakes are very, very, high and I know that both Frankie Dettori and Joseph O’Brien will hate it if they lose – as much for the horse’s sake – as their own.
Dual Guineas winner Gleaneagles (below) is stepping up to 10 furlongs for the first time – but Ballydoyle’s record in this race is remarkable. I won it twice for them on Duke of Marmalade in 2008 (although the race was switched to Newmarket) and Rip van Winkle in 2010.
Aidan & Joseph are looking for a hat-trick of wins here after Declaration of War (2013) and Australia (2014).
Gleneagles is unbeaten in his last five starts (would be six except he was disqualified in France) and Golden Horn is unbeaten in all his five races.
It’s going to be a damaging defeat for whoever loses and the legacy that they leave behind as racehorses.
Will Gleneagles stay 10f? The way he races gives him every chance as he settles well. He’s not a free-running, hard-pulling type. The Ballydoyle colt will look to have one crack at Golden Horn inside the final furlong and use his speed to chin the favourite.
While there are stamina doubts until he proves it on the track there’s also the argument that Gleneagles could improve for the step up in trip. We won’t know for certain until the race is run.
But if I had to pick the winner, I’d go for Golden Horn as he has the form in the book over 10f.
Frankie Dettori has no stamina worries so he’ll be able to ride confidently. John Gosden’s runner was brilliant in the Dante (1m 2f) at York before scorching home in the Epsom Derby over 1m 4f. He was brilliant again in the Coral Eclipse over 1m 2f.
There’s going to be plenty of pace so the trip will take some getting. It shouldn’t just be a sprint to the line. Golden Horn has ”been there, done that” over this course and distance and Gleneagles has to match that – and then beat it – to win on Wednesday.
Any rain can get into the ground quick at York but it’s a brilliant, fair track so there should be no sob stories. Both the leading players are genuine good to firm ground performers and hopefully neither will have any excuses.
Will any of the others figure? Kevin Ryan’s four-year-old The Grey Gatsby is a very, very, good yardstick. He beat Australia in the Irish Champion Stakes (10f) a year ago and was second to Golden Horn in the Coral Eclipse earlier this summer.
But I’d be hoping that the two principals will beat him by about three lengths as they duel it out inside the final furlong.
Roger Charlton’s Time Test is on the up but this is by far his toughest test. He could be the third-best three-year-old of his generation but has it all to prove in this contest. The rest look to be running the minor places at best.
I originally thought that Storm the Stars was a Leger horse but I was a little bit disappointed with his run in France when third to Erupt. Maybe he needs the 1m 6f trip of the St Leger to bring out the best of him.
It looks wide open and Balios is out again (just behind Storm the Stars in 5th at Longchamp) despite connections feeling he was destined to have a quiet enough season and be kept for next year.
Aidan O’Brien’s Bondi Beach is tricky but he’s not a bad horse and is currently 9/2 to win this race. He won The Curragh Cup over 1m 6f and that’s usually a good race. He could be a late developer and a bit of value at the prices in a wide-open contest.