ALL THE BEST HORSES AT YORK
The World’s Best Racehorse Rankings – sponsored by Longines – are published periodically by the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities. The most recent version, which saw the light of day on August 4th, has Crystal Ocean at the top of the lists, followed a point behind by Enable (who is actually rated the better since she would be entitled to claim the fillies’ and mares’ sex allowance). Both are engaged at this week’s York meeting which runs from Wednesday, August 21st to Saturday, August 24th, kicking off at 1:55 p.m. local (6:25 p.m. in India) on the first three days and five minutes earlier on Saturday.
As if the prospect of seeing the two finest Thoroughbreds of 2019 in action was not enough, there will be four others, from the top fifteen in the world, on display to provide racegoers and punters with plenty of thrills until the grand finale, the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap, upped in value this year to £1,000,000! This quartet includes champion sprinter Battaash, his likely successor at the head of the sprinting ranks, Ten Sovereigns, champion stayer Stradivarius and the leading four-year-old filly Magical (supplemented at the cost of £75,000).
Due to the timings of the declarations, it will be possible to fully dissect only the feature of the meeting, the Gr.1 International Stakes (10 fur., 56 yards, 3:35 p.m. BST on Wednesday), being run for the 48th time, which has come to be known as the “Juddmonte International” due to that racing and breeding nursery’s continued sponsorship since 1989. Juddmonte’s very own Enable (by Nathaniel) misses the event as connections do not wish to drop her in distance from the mile and a half of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes she last contested.
So she tackles the Gr.1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks (12 fur., 3:35 p.m. BST on Thursday) where she faces a strong challenge from the afore-mentioned Magical (by Galileo), whom she has beaten on three previous occasions. Although Enable is very short odds-on to repeat for the John Gosden/Frankie Dettori team in what is scheduled to be her last race in England (the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France is also on her agenda), any trouble in running here might just result in a surprise, though one doubts it.
Returning to the feature, one fully expects Crystal Ocean (by Sea The Stars) to prevail. Ridden to within a neck of Enable by James Doyle last time out, Sir Michael Stoute’s ward will have the same rider on board here and the pair is available at around “Evens”. Opposing him is the four-year-old Elarqam (by Frankel), from the flying Mark Johnston stable – the Shadwell star has been supplemented in view of his scintillating form in 2019, and Jim Crowley will be his pilot.
In receipt of seven pounds apiece from the above-named are three improving sophomores. King Of Comedy (by Kingman) came within a neck of downing Coolmore’s Circus Maximus (by Galileo) in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the progressive type from Gosden’s Clarehaven Stables now has Frankie Dettori – who has 13 Group 1s to his credit in 2019, an astonishing tally for a 48-year-old – astride.
Meanwhile Circus Maximus, sporting the famous Niarchos silks, re-opposes here with Donnacha O’Brien in charge, while being accompanied to the starting gate by better-fancied stablemate Japan (by Galileo), who almost won the Investec Derby back in June in a blanket finish. One hardly needs to add that the Coolmore pair resides at Ballydoyle Stables, Cashel, in Co. Tipperary in Ireland presided over by Aidan O’Brien. Incidentally, Ryan Moore, who will ride Japan, has only a single Pattern Race win for O’Brien in the last fortnight during which they have joined forces but missed the target on a number of occasions at diverse locations such as Deauville, Arlington Park and The Curragh. It’s only fair to say that they have been having a rather quiet time of late, particularly by their own exalted standards.
One that might break the ice for Ballydoyle is Constantinople (by Galileo), a contender in the Gr.2 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes (12 fur., 3:05 p.m. on Wednesday), which has drawn a small field of just five. Never out of 1-2 this year, he might turn out to be better than Juddmonte’s unbeaten Logician (by Frankel), the current favourite, who has yet to take on Graded Stakes company. Ryan Moore will have to ensure that Constantinople does not race in wayward fashion.
Moving on to Thursday, Stradivarius (by Sea The Stars), who has not tasted defeat since October 2017 due to his own indomitable attitude, not to mention the ministrations of M/s. Gosden & Dettori, is odds-on to take the 2 miles & 56 yards Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup (Gr.2, 2:25 p.m.). That would enable him to earn the £1,000,000 bonus for stayers for the second year in a row.
Beaten only a neck by Stradivarius in the Gr.1 Qatar Goodwood Cup last month, Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee (by Farrh) is at a rather generous-looking 5 to 1 here. When Dermot Weld sends a runner across the Irish Sea, you can be sure it has a chance and thus one must factor in Moyglare Stud’s Falcon Eight (by Galileo), to be partnered by Oisin Murphy, who currently tops the jockeys’ table in Britain.
The only all-aged Gr.1 sprint over 5 fur. in England is the Gr.1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (3:35 p.m. on Friday), which is the scene for what could be a ferocious contest. Four of the last ten renewals have gone to rank outsiders, including one at 100 to 1! The enigmatic Battaash (by Dark Angel) has been generally in a good mood in his three starts at the age of five, displaying ample courage under pressure, but he does not seem to care for York. Thus he could well be upended by Ten Sovereigns (by No Nay Never), fresh off a victory in the Gr.1 Darley July Cup (6 fur.) at Newmarket in July. Though the latter is widely favoured to score here, he has yet to prove he has the necessary zip for a scurry.
A win for Ten Sovereigns would provide some consolation to the Coolmore partners for the relatively dry run they have endured in the last couple of months or so. It’s not just a two-horse race, though, as Mab’s Cross (by Dutch Art) is a specialist at the trip. Her owners have opted to replace regular rider Paul Mulrennan with Gerald Mosse, perhaps because her next target is the 1000m. Gr.1 Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp in October, a race she won last year with the Frenchman in the saddle. Fans of outsiders need look no further than the 50 to 1 Copper Knight (by Sir Prancealot), with David Allan up.
Finally, we come to the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap (1 mile, 5 fur., 188 yards, 3:40 p.m. on Saturday), whose gross value has been doubled from the £500,000 on offer last year! Not surprisingly it has drawn 56 acceptors at the five-day stage, including a Gr.1-calibre runner in Salouen (by Canford Cliffs). This far out it’s hard to make a case for anything other than King’s Advice (by Frankel), who’s scored 8 wins from 9 starts this year! Mark Johnston’s pupil is clearly a quick learner, rising in the official ratings from 71 in March to 113 once he was relocated to Middleham Moor from elsewhere.