Al Kazeem has a new challenge to face as well as history to overcome when he goes for a fourth successive Group One win in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York today.
Roger Charlton’s five-year-old bids to become the first horse to add the Knavesmire showpiece to his CV after wins in both the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Coral-Eclipse.
While Al Kazeem goes to Yorkshire in great form, Charlton wishes there was more cut in the ground to aid his stable star in his quest. He said: “I’ve been delighted with Al Kazeem. He looks great and his work has been great.
“This is a different challenge for him – he is taking on the best miler in Europe [Toronado] on a new track at York. He is also bidding to become the first horse to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Eclipse and Juddmonte International in the same season, it’s not going to be easy but he owes us nothing. I would be happier if the ground was good, good to soft in places, but has won on fast ground three times this season – he handles it but I feel he is a better horse on softer ground.”
Declaration Of War was beaten two lengths in second place by Al Kazeem in the Eclipse but the four-year-old’s trainer Aidan O’Brien is much happier than Charlton with the ground.
“Declaration Of War is in good form. Obviously, he has not done much since Deauville, but what he has done we’ve been happy with,” said the Ballydoyle handler. “He loves fast ground and is a very hardy horse – he seems to be going the right way.”
The last Irish-trained winner to lift this great prize was O’Brien’s Rip Van Winkle in 2010. There is a second raider from Ireland in the shape of Jim Bolger’s Irish Derby hero Trading Leather.
“He’s very well since the King George, I’m very happy with him and he’s ready to go,” Bolger told Irish Horseracing TV. “He’s probably the best staying three-year-old around. We’ve no choice but to take on Al Kazeem, so we’ll give it our best shot.”
Trading Leather was second to Novellist in the King George at Ascot and, just three-quarters of a length back in third, was Hillstar and Sir Michael Stoute’s charge re-opposes.
The Grey Gatsby looks to have a big chance in the Pinsent Masons LLP Acomb Stakes. Trained by Kevin Ryan, he won his debut on the Knavesmire and looks odds-on to improve for an extra furlong in the Group 3.
The Grey Gatsby ran very green last month but, when the penny dropped close to home, the colt quickened up impressively to beat Clive Brittain’s Brazos, who had the benefit of a previous run and has subsequently come out and won. The pair meet again but it is hard to see Brazos turning the tables.
Another highlight is the Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes, which may fall to Secret Number.
Homeric is in great heart at present and a 2lb rise may not stop his progress for Ed Dunlop in the Lanstone Building Conservation Stakes. And Les Gar Gan may have been let in lightly for the BetVictor.com Stakes after a debut win at Ayr.