Juddmonte International Stakes (G1)

Churchill beating Barney Roy in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. Picture courtesy of Alan Crowhurst and Getty Images.

It’s always a mouth-watering prospect.

This year even with only seven runners the Juddmonte International which always asks questions, asks the primary one, will Churchill get the trip of 10f? If he does will he be good enough to see off the opposition?

Let’s deal with the opposition first.

Barney Roy already has the scalp of Churchill. He overturned his Guineas run when second to Churchill by comprehensively beating him when they met over a mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was then stepped up in trip to this distance in the Coral Eclipse last month when Ulysses sprang somewhat of a surprise to beat him a nose. Another stride would have seen Barney Roy come out on top. You can see why Richard Hannon says he’s the best he’s trained.

Sir Michael Stoute is a master with older horses and in Ulysses he has an animal who accentuates his ability perfectly. He mightn’t be noted for great patience with the media but with horses he has that in abundance. As a three-year old Ulysses offered promise but he couldn’t hit the notes required to sing at top-level. The win in the Eclipse saw him capture his first Group 1 and now his trainer who has won this five times in the past, asks him to win another. If he does he’ll follow in the footsteps of Shardari in 1986, Ezzoud in 1993 and Notnocato in 2006 who were all four-year old’s when they won it for Sir Michael. Ezzoud returned to defend it in 1994 as five year old and Singspiel also won it as a five year old in 1997.

Decorated Knight has benefited from the move from Roger to Roger. Formerly with Roger Varian he moved to Roger Charlton at the beginning of last year. He’s already contested five Group 1’s this year winning two of them. At Meydan in March he took the Jebel Hatta, the prep for the Dubai Turf. He fell short on bad ground in the main event in the Middle East but bounced back in May to take the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland. A second to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s was followed by a sixth in the Eclipse.

Shutter Speed is the only filly in the field after her trainer decided to keep Enable, the best three old around, for the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday. John Gosden’s three-year old benefits from the weight for age allowance as well as the sex allowance and being the least experienced she’ll certainly need both if she is to prevail. This will only be her fifth start. She won her first three but was 1 1/2L off Senga in the Prix de Diane in June. Senga didn’t frank the form when getting beaten at Deauville last week.

My Dream Boat will be the outsider in the field but let’s not forget he beat Found, last years Arc winner, in 2016’s Prince of Wales’s. He has not hit those heights since.

Cliffs Of Moher is nearly the forgotten horse in the line up. This year’s Derby runner-up went off favourite in the Eclipse on the back of his Epsom exploits but could only manage fourth at Sandown. You could say that was a disappointment or alternatively view it as a super performance considering he nearly came down after three furlongs.

The Eclipse form is strong, Eminent fifth at Sandown has come out and won the Prix Guliiaume d’Ornano at Deauville last week. That’s a boost for the Derby form also and on balance gives Cliffs Of Moher the edge at this distance where he deserves another chance.

Is he good enough to beat Churchill?

Churchill was champion two-year old year and is a dual Guineas winner this year yet he has something to prove. He must turn around the lacklustre run at Royal Ascot and handle the step up in trip.

That’s the question. There’s no doubt Aidan O’Brien holds both his colts in high esteem but it’s evident listening to him it’s Churchill who is the apple of his eye. His may well be matched for speed by Barney Roy but what about his stamina. There’s no question on that score for Cliffs Of Moher but is he good enough to beat both Ulysses and Barney Roy over this trip?

So many questions but back to the primary one. Will Churchill get the trip? He finished strongly at Newmarket and the Curragh suggesting he will.

If he does he wins.

Recommendations: Churchill 10/3 win

                                          Churchill, Cliffs Of Moher RFC

 

 

 

 

The Desmond Stakes (G3)

Custom Cut leaves the ring for last year’s Desmond Stakes

The evenings are drawing in and the last of the summer cider will be drunk tonight at Leopardstown.

The feature is an interesting renewal of the Desmond Stakes.

David O’Meara sends Custom Cut back for another crack at a track where he has been very successful. This will be his ninth visit to the course where he’s won three times, twice at G3 level including on his last visit when he took the Amesthyst Stakes over this distance here in May and once at G2 level when he won the Boomerang Stakes again over a mile in 2015.

He’s accompanied on the trip from England by Morando who’s looking for a fifth win from his seventh start. Roger Varian’s four old didn’t get a run as a juvenile but as a three-year old he managed three successive wins. He returned to the racecourse to win a listed race over a mile at Windsor on the 1st July.

True Valour at Naas earlier in the season

The home team is headed by three in the shape of True Valour, Sea Wolf and Alexios Komnenos who fought out the Celebration Stakes at the Curragh also on the 1st July. A 1/2 L and a neck separated them. Of the three the one with the most capacity to improve is the latter as Fossy Stacks runner was only having his third run of his life. Last year he won a maiden beating Inca Gold first time out and then only went down a battling neck to Churchill in the Tyros Stakes.

Diamond Fields at Naas in May

The other Stack runner Diamond Fields also processes some nice form having taken the scalp of Alice Springs in the Gladness Stakes at Naas at the start of the season. She then found the going too quick on her return to the same track over the May bank holiday weekend when running last to Rehana in the Athashi Stakes. We haven’t seen her since.

Flight Risk, Music Box and Intricately make up the field. The former is trained by Jim Bolger who after a cold spell had a double at Gowran Park yesterday. Flight Risk is hard to win with but like Custom Cut her last visit to the track was a winning one when she took the Ballycourus Stakes over 7 f here in June.

You might say Music Box is well exposed at this stage as this will be her 12th start of the current campaign however like many of Aidan’s she keeps improving from race to race. Her last three run’s are testament to her toughness. She found Drumfad Bay too good at Killarney and Only Mine too good at Naas but last time out she turned over the form with Drumfad Bay when taking a listed race at Galway.

Intricately won the Moyglare Stakes last year, the premier two-year old fillies race in Ireland. She hasn’t won since but she has been to all the best dances. She’s the only one in the field to have operated almost exclusively at G1 level. She might have been well beaten at the Breeders Cup last year at Santa Anita and again in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket but her run in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial at the start of the season was very good as was her run in the Irish 1000 Guineas where she was only 5 L off Winter. She’s since disputed the Pretty Polly and Irish Oaks where her stamina might have been stretched too far and the step back to a mile here will most likely suit.

This is an open and intriguing event.

There are proven older performers, the likes of Custom Cut, Sea Wolf and Flight Risk, the lightly raced four year old Morando. Then are are the three-year olds in receipt of a weight for age allowance with the fillies benefitting 3 lbs more than the males.

If the younger generation are to come out on top then you could argue both Music Box and Intricately have already had their opportunities. That leaves the three-year old males, True Valour and Alexios Komnenos. Of the two a chance is taken with the latter. He might be the least experienced but on the back of a 1/2 L defeat by Churchill and a very encouraging seasonal debut he offers the most potential.

Recommendation: Alexios Komnenos 13/2 win

 

 

 

 

 

The Sussex Stakes (G1)

Aidan and Donnacha in conversation with Lancaster Bomber being led away after his maiden win at Leopardstown last August.

 

Nine go to post with Ribchester and Churchill providing the duel in the downs. Ribchester heads the market as an even money shot with Churchill priced up at 2/1.

It’s a fair reflection that the rest of the field trade at 9/1 or better.

Ribchester has gone from strength to strength since running third in this last year. He went to Deauville after that and won the Jacques Le Marois. This year he’s won with authoritative performances the Lockinge and The Queen Anne. His trainer say’s he’s matured and now settle’s in his races. In the Lockinge he led from the front and in The Queen Anne he came from off the pace. He’s a very good four-year old and a win here will see stamp him as the best miler around today.

Churchill looked to be heading to take that mantel before blotting his copybook in the St James’s Palace Stakes last time out at Royal Ascot. Up to that point he’d built on a quality juvenile career where he’d won the National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes before adding both the Guineas and Irish Guineas to his CV in this his classic year. He hasn’t been flashy, he had been reliable always doing enough to see off his rivals. Then at Ascot he ran flat as a pancake never picking up to challenge the leaders trailing in a well beaten forth.

Aidan O’Brien has never been able to identify what happened, nothing came back to suggest there was anything wrong with him. All that can be said was it was just an off day, nothing more. He now meets his elders for the first time and does so with a valuable 7 lbs weight for age allowance, the same as his stable companion Lancaster Bomber who finished in front of him for the first time at Ascot.

He can’t afford to have an off day, today he must produce his best day if he is to beat Ribchester. The depth of his form say’s he can do it.

With three to be placed Lancaster Bomber can again outrun his odds and run into a place.

Recommendation : Churchill 2/1 win

                                         Lancaster Bomber 28/1 ew

 

The July Cup (Group 1)

Caravaggio wins the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Picture courtesy of Getty Images and Mike Hewitt.

Caravaggio is a ball of speed.

Rumors suggest he’s clocked 47 miles per hour over 2 furlongs on the gallops at Ballydoyle. Aidan O’Brien has confirmed he’s the quickest they’ve had ever at home and today against the older brigade he put’s his unbeaten record on the line. Should he win he will extend that run to seven.

Should he win in the style he’s capable of it will be no surprise if it’s his last run.

Coolmore will surely be very tempted to retire him to fill the hole left in their stallion rooster by the untimely death of his father Scat Daddy. His value of a stallion will far exceed any winnings he might pick up in the future on the racecourse.

As fans it will be our loss. The three year old middle distance division might look a bit muddled this year, that’s something that can’t be said about the sprinters.

Harry Angel’s connections won’t be complaining should Caravaggio be called ashore after this. They’ve a seriously good sprinter on their hands and without Caravaggio around he’ll shine brightly. All that said he was flattered to be only 3/4 L behind Caravaggio at Ascot. The other three year old in the field is Intelligence Cross who will set the fractions for the favourite.

The older brigade is headed by Limato who put in his best display when winning this last year as a four old. Since then he’s won the Prix de la Foret over 7 F at Chantilly however he was beaten over the minimum 5 f trip in the Nunthorpe at York last year and failed to see out the mile at the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita. This year the yielding ground beat him at Meydan on his comeback and he was then a fair third in the Diamond Jubilee when The Tin Man and Tasleet got the better of him. Both reoppose here.

That was a big turnaround for The Tin Man as Tasleet had 6 1/4 L to spare over him on their previous meeting in the Duke Of York Stakes at York in May. His trainer James Fanshawe says he doesn’t do that well in the spring. He likes summer and also the autumn as he showed when he won the Champions Sprint at Ascot last year when he beat Growl and Brando. Both the latter two will have to put in career best’s to be involved here. The same can be said of Mr Lupton and Intisaab.

Michael Tabor part owner of Caravaggio said when discussing his chances that Aidan O’Brien doesn’t say it for the sake of it, he really thinks Caravaggio is something special. An opinion that is backed up by the clock on the run at Ascot. He feels he’s every bit as good as Ballydoyle’s great sprinters of the past Stravinsky and Mozart who both won this as three year old’s.

It might be the last time we’ll see him, the performance could be that special.

Recommendation: Caravaggio 11/10 win