Yorks premier meeting starts with a bang delivering its most important race on the first day of the Ebor festival.
Last year the question was would Frankel stay 10 f ? It was emphatically answered in a stunning performance when he brushed aside Farrah and the ill fated St Nicholas Abbey who surely would have been here but for sustaining that injury prior to the King George.
The loss of the Ballydoyle colt and the failure of Camelot to reproduce his three year old class means Declaration Of War is now top dog in the Aidan O’Brien yard.
The lowering of the Camelot colours this season came in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh when Al Kazeem easily beat him 1 3/4 L in May. The theory was that the Irish horse had not yet fired and the ill effects of the bout of colic he contracted last year were still lingering. Whilst no one was saying Al Kazeem was not deserving of his victory there was a belief order would be restored in the Prince Of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot. Camelot went off favourite with the Roger Charlton colt playing second fiddle in the market. There was little fire in the belly of Camelot and he trailed in fourth to Al Kazeem who had a neck to spare over Mukahadram and 3 1/2 L over The Fugue with a further 1/2 L back to Camelot.
Two nil to Roger Charlton’s team meant the Ballydoyle team would change strikers in the next match. Come Sandown and the Eclipse the Queen Anne winner Declaration Of War was tasked with taking on Al Kazeem. He failed by 2 L with Roger Charlton’s colt again asserting his superiority. Three Group 1’s in quick succession puts Al Kazeem as the most prolific of the top middle distance performers in training however his success has failed to put him on top in international ratings where his efforts have been awarded a mark of 124.
Ahead of him is Toronado given a mark of 126 for his Sussex Stakes display where he got the better of Dawn Approach by 1/2 L in a pulsating battle with Declaration Of War outclassed 3 L in third over the mile. At the two furlong marker the O’Brien colt looked to be travelling supremely well but as Dawn Approach injected a lethal burst of pace he was found wanting. Under another magnificent ride from Richard Hughes Toronado came with a late kick to nail Dawn Approach.
Toronado bypassed a rematch in the Prix Jacques Le Marois where Dawn Approach’s excretions looked to have caught up with him when trailing in a well beaten fifth behind Moonlight Cloud. The French race was one of the best so far this season and Declaration Of War arguably ran his best race of the season finishing fourth.
Jim Bolger sends Trading Leather who has already shown versatility over a range of distances. Second here in the Dante in the spring over this trip, third in the Irish Guineas over a mile, winner of the Irish Derby over a mile and a half.
In the King George he ran his best race when only finding Novellist (rated 128 for the win) too good going down 5 L to the German horse who is undoubtedly top drawer.
The lightly raced Hillstar was a further 3/4 L behind. It’s surprising Sir Michael Stoute has chosen to bring Hillstar back in trip at this stage of his career but that in itself is a statement of his belief in his charge. You’d worry inexperience may be a factor here.
All in all this looks as it should be, a cracker on paper. We won’t reach the heights of Frankle last year but we still in for a treat.
Al Kazeem rightly stands at the head of the market and as they round the bend and sweep into the straight you would expect James Doyle to kick Al Kazeem on saying to the others catch me if you can. Richard Hughes will tuck away Toranado hopping to slipstream the chasing pack to deliver the late kick. His fear will be that kick won’t be there come those last two furlongs.
Two riders will feel the 10 f will be their horses best trip. Joseph O’Brien and Kevin Manning can both tail along in the straight and if Al Kazeem remains one paced with oxygen depleting in the lungs of Toronado then Trading Leather and Declaration Of War could pounce. The O’Brien colt has more mileage up this year but is a hardy animal who can take his running. The Bolger colt is improving with every run and is in receipt of a three year old weight allowance.
That may well be key come the line at the Knavesmire.
Recommendation : Trading Leather 7/1 win