It had been labelled as the horse race of the season when Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien declared that his star three year old miler Gleneagles would participate in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York on August 19th in which Derby winner Golden Horn was also scheduled to be running. The John Gosden trained horse had won the Epsom Derby over a one and a half mile distance and has triumphed in the Eclipse at a distance two furlongs shorter but this clash between the two unbeaten horses over an extended 1m2f on the York Knavesmire course was eagerly anticipated by the racing public. Yet the outcome of the race was far different than expected.
Arabian Queen was the victor at 50-1 after repulsing the challenge of Golden Horn to win by a neck with Northern trained The Grey Gatsby occupying third position. The winner had won comfortably at Epsom on her seasonal appearance over 1m2f but had been beaten in three subsequence races. She had been inconvenienced by a slow pace when running over the same distance at Goodwood in late July but the International Stakes at York proved to be a true test of stamina for a filly probably capable of racing over longer trips.
Wednesday’s winning jockey Silvestre De Sousa assumed the lead with two furlongs remaining but despite being briefly overtaken by clear favourite Golden Horn, the filly asserted her superiority close to the finishing post to end the unbeaten record of the Derby victor.
There were ominous signs during the parading of the horses in front of the grandstand prior to the race as Golden Horn seemed too eager and refused to settle. Jockey Frankie Dettori was clearly struggling to restrain the horse and moved slowly to the start as he attempted to preserve the colt’s energy. Although the horse confirmed form with third horse The Grey Gatsby, it was evident that Golden Horn was running on empty close to the finish as a direct result of his antics prior to the race.
And what happened to Gleneagles? A decent crowd had arrived at York to witness an expected special race only for O’Brien to announce just 10 minutes before the first race of the day that his horse would be a non-runner. He cited the unfavourable ground which was no worse than good to soft in a few places but generally a good racing surface. O’Brien also claimed that his horse needs faster ground but as autumn approaches, there will be a fewer opportunities for Gleneagles on favourable condition. The colt has now been withdrawn from two recent races but this untimely announcement was not well received by many of the spectators at York who had paid considerable amounts of money at the turnstiles.
Not that connections of Arabian Queen will be concerned as her next target is identified with a move to 1m 4f considered as the filly continues to improve.