York’s Ebor meeting gets underway on Wednesday and the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes is the undoubted highlight on the first of the four-day extravaganza.
Run over a distance of 1m2f and 56 yards and open to horses aged three and over, it was won last year by the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ulysses. Stoute has trained the winner six times, one more than Aidan O’Brien.
We look at the runners for the 2018 renewal of the £602,544 to-the-winner contest:
Jim Crowley was aboard the winner last year and he has another decent chance to gain a top-level success as he teams up with the Godolphin-owned four-year-old, who has won six of his 13 career starts.
Winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan in May, he disappointed upon his return to Britain, training in 10th of 15 in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot where he could not go the pace over an inadequate mile, but bounced back in style to land a German Group 1 over 1m2f last month.
He has always been held in the highest esteem by his trainer and has been highly tried, including when fifth in the Derby last year. He would appear to hold place claims at current odds of 12/1 with GentingBet in what appears to be a strong renewal, despite the defections of Cracksman and Enable.
Many of the trainer’s runners improve with age and Poet’s Word is a fine example. Three of his seven career wins (from 16 starts) have come as a five-year-old, two of them at the top level. He downed Cracksman over 1m2f in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and despite having a hard race, defeated Crystal Ocean by a neck in the King George over 1m4f last time.
Stoute believes he is trip-versatile and as long as he gets a genuine gallop and does not get caught a little too far back as he did when running down his stablemate at Ascot last time, he rates a worthy favourite and currently heads the market at 7/4 with GentingBet.
Owner Clive Washbourn has stumped up £75,000 to supplement the five-year-old, following his Group 2 York Stakes success here last month, where he beat Brorocco by a neck.
There is no doubt he is improving – as his five wins in an 18-start career have come since July last year and his record on the Kmavesmire reads: 121, so his liking for the track is in his favour.
A strict form reading of his latest success means he should be scrapping for the place money at best as his current GentingBet odds of 33/1 underline.
The most prolific winner at the top level, having landed the Criterium International, Prix Jean Prat and Dubai World Cup is having his first run since March. That Dubai World Cup success came on the dirt over 1m2f but he got the run of the race on that occasion and was accorded a soft lead on the front in cruising to a five-and-a-half length win.
He is a tough performer, as his efforts in the best races over 1m as a three-year-old confirmed, and while he may be a little ring-rusty as he starts his campaign geared towards the Breeders’ Cup, he has abundant class and his odds of 14/1 with GentingBet may seem a little generous to some.
The least experienced in the field with only five runs under his belt and an interesting participant, given that he drops back in trip, having landed a maiden and then a weak-looking Irish Derby at 1m4f.
The son of Camelot looked to be heading towards the St Leger, rather than going back in distance, and with stamina his forte, the three-year-old may well make a bid for glory form the front. His GentingBet odds of 16/1 probably reflect his chance.
Heads the three-year-old challenge after improving for the step up in trip from 1m to win the Dante here (1m2½f), before finishing a fair third in the Derby (1m4f), and scoring in the Group 1 Eclipse (1m2f) at Sandown, where he held the re-opposing Saxon Warrior by a neck.
He copes with all ground conditions and will no doubt be doing his best work near the finish under Frankie Dettori. He is currently a 5/2 chance with GentingBet
It is hard to gauge where we put Saxon Warrior in the pantheon of three-year-olds. Unbeaten as a juvenile, he signed off last season with victory in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy (1m) at Doncaster and was thought of as a potential Triple Crown winner when scoring in the 2,000 Guineas.
However, he failed to cope with the eccentricities of the Epsom track in the Derby when an odds-on fourth to Masar and has subsequently suffered two narrow defeats in both the Irish Derby and the Eclipse, the latter when hardly having any time to recover from his exertions at the Curragh.
The ‘nearly’ horse is still a class act and, with more of a break between races this time, could well bounce back and gain a third Group 1 success. His GentingBet odds of 4/1 to give his trainer a sixth win in the race are not to be sniffed at.
Very much the Gosden second-string, he took his unbeaten record to four when beating Gustav Klimt in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on lightening quick ground.
However, the form of that race has not been franked by the runner-up subsequently and the Frankel three-year-old also suffered a poor defeat when trailing home seventh of eight to Lightning Spear in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
It is questionable that he will stay this trip, which he is trying for the first time and while his GentingBet odds of 12/1 would appear generous, he still has plenty to prove.
TRENDS TO NOTE
Age – 12 of the last 16 winners were aged 4 or over
Price – 6 of the last 10 winners headed the betting market
Last Run – 12 of the last 16 winners had finished first or second last time out
Course Form – 13 of the last 16 winners had NOT run at York before
Previous Flat Form – 13 of the last 16 winners had won over at least 1m2f or further before
Group Wins – 14 of the last 16 winners had already won at Group 1 level
Check out the latest odds for the Juddmonte International Stakes and all the other meetings on Wednesday, which include Carlisle, Brighton, Worcester and Kempton Park.