The clash of Classic winners Gleneagles and Golden Horn in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes was on Friday in the lap of the weather gods with Leopardstown doing everything to beat the elements by switching the time of the Group 1 showdown so it can be run on fresh ground.
Rain is expected to hit Leopardstown on Friday afternoon, with some heavy bursts expected overnight before clearing the area in the early hours of Saturday, after which Aidan O’Brien will assess whether the ground is quick enough to run his dual Guineas winner Gleneagles.
Golden Horn’s chances of taking part are less uncertain and only if the ground turns soft will trainer John Gosden walk the track and make a call on the participation of his Derby winner.
The forecast on Thursday prompted the decision to move the Irish Champion from race seven to race five on Saturday’s Leopardstown card, a decision which means the contest will be run 65 minutes earlier at 5.45pm instead of its orginal scheduled off-time of 6.50pm, on the virgin outside track.
Gleneagles on the drift
O’Brien said on Thursday: “The plan is to run Gleneagles, Highland Reel and Found in the big race but there is rain forecast and we’ll have to see what effect it will have on the ground and review things if we have to.
“The track couldn’t do any more [than move the race forward] so we’ll just have to wait to see what happens with the weather.”
Gleneagles, who last night drifted out to a top price 5-1, will be tackling a mile and a quarter for the first time and Joseph O’Brien, who will ride the four-time Group 1 winner, said: “I’m very hopeful, without being confident, Gleneagles will get the trip. He relaxes, travels and has lots of speed.
“We never thought he would end up going a mile and a quarter this year but that’s the way things have worked out – our hands were forced a little bit. Fast ground would be ideal for him.”
Horn and Eagle all set
Golden Horn is the general 2-1 favourite and Gosden, speaking at Doncaster on Thursday, said: “The forecast is a concern but we are very keen to run. If it is good or good to soft ground we will run. If it goes very soft I will have to walk the track and make a decision.”
There appears to be no such concerns for Free Eagle, a top-priced 3-1 to add another Group 1 to his Prince of Wales’s Stakes win at Royal Ascot. Trainer Dermot Weld said: “Free Eagle is in very good form and it’s always been the plan to run him on Saturday regardless of when the race will be run.”
The ground at Leopardstown on Thursday was good to firm, firm in places, on the outside track and good to firm on the inside track over which the first four races on the card will be run.