Mouthwatering International Clash in Store at York

Mishriff | PA Media

York's Ebor Festival kicks off today with an opening card headed by an enticing renewal of the £1-million G1 Juddmonte International over an extended 10 furlongs at the Knavesmire venue.

With Ballydoyle's intended number one St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) sidelined due to a late setback, Aidan O'Brien has rerouted this term's G1 Prince of Wales's S. winner and G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S. third Love (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) to take his place in the day one feature. Last term's G1 1000 Guineas, G1 Epsom Oaks and G1 Yorkshire Oaks heroine was initially targetting Sunday's G1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville, but will fill the supersub role in a contest for the ages.

“It's four or five days earlier than we'd planned for her–the plan was to go for the Romanet on Sunday–but when St Mark's came out we decided we'd let her run here instead,” the trainer explained. “The King George was a little bit of a mess and we thought it would be an strongly run race, but it probably wasn't. The pace wasn't very fast for her, she likes an even pace and her racing tempo is much higher than they went. She still ran very well and Ryan [Moore] was very happy with her run. We saw all the things that went wrong for her, but she came out of the race well and, ideally, she wants an end-to-end gallop to see the best of her.

“She's in good form and the ground is important to her as she's such a beautiful mover, but we wouldn't like to run her on soft ground. She has a big, long stride and gallops with her head out. Usually, those type of horses can't quicken instantly as they need a big rhythm into the last four of five furlongs to see them at their best.”

Coolmore's homebred 4-year-old faces no easy task with several in opposition holding valid claims. Chief among them is Prince A A Faisal's King George runner-up Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}), who finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of her in that 12-furlong test having previously run third to St Mark's Basilica in Sandown's G1 Coral-Eclipse. Last term's G1 Prix du Jockey Club hero had previously plundered monster pots in the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup and Mar. 27 G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, and having conceded 11 pounds to the Classic generation at Ascot, is now tasked with a more amenable seven-pound weight-for-age pull.

“One horse isn't going to make a horse race and, even without St Mark's Basilica, it's still a very strong field and we have a lot of good opposition to take on,” said big-race jockey David Egan. “I was really pleased with how he progressed from the Eclipse to the King George and I thought the King George run was a fantastic run, finishing behind an absolute monster in Adayar, giving him so much weight.

“We don't need to give the 3-year-olds as much weight here and I think dropping my lad back to a mile-and-a-quarter will only play to his strengths. If Mishriff can improve as much as he did from the Eclipse to the King George, he's going to be hard to beat.”

Jeff Smith's Arabian Queen (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) caused a 50-1 shock when becoming the first to lower the colours of Golden Horn (GB) (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) in the 2015 edition of this event and is represented by G1 Cheveley Park S., G1 Coronation S. and G1 Nassau S. heroine Alcohol Free (Ire) (No Nay Never) this time around.

“She came out of Goodwood really well, I'll speak to Jeff and Andrew [Balding], but the key is to try to relax and follow for as long as possible,” said rider Oisin Murphy. “This is a completely different test and I have massive respect for Mishriff and Love.

“The Juddmonte International is often the highest-rated race in the world, this is a good renewal and I'm looking forward to it. I was fortunate to win it on a world champion 3-year-old in Roaring Lion and it would be nice to win it again. The owner is a brilliant sportsman and I'm sure he's very excited, as am I.”

Newmarket conditioner William Haggas is doubly represented and sends forth G2 King Edward VII S. victor Alenquer (Fr) (Adlerflug {Ger}) and G3 Hampton Court S. scorer Mohaafeth (Ire) (Frankel {GB}). Both are coming back off their first defeats of the campaign, with Alenquer returning off a third in the July 14 G1 Grand Prix de Paris and Mohaafeth lining up off a third in the July 24 G2 York S. at this venue.

“The pacemaker went too slow and Jim [Crowley] was too far back,” Haggas said of the latter's latest run. “It was a mess, and you can put a line through it. Angus [Gold] felt that if you ignore that run and concentrated on the good bits he was well worth his chance here. The trip is fine and the ground should be okay too. He's got a bit to find, but he's useful.”

Turning to Alenquer, the trainer added, “The owners felt that as he had already won a Group 2 there was no point running in another one. They want to test him against the best, and he's very well. He's improving and you can put a line through his latest run at Longchamp as he was way too far back and never got into it at all. I don't think he's the soft or heavy ground horse that some have him down as, but he might just want a bit further. He's not a bad horse. It's an ambitious route for both horses, but they'll both run a good race. Whether they are good enough is another matter.”

Jim Bolger's G1 Futurity Trophy winner Mac Swiney (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) finished off the board in both G1 Epsom Derby and G1 Irish Derby after annexing the Curragh's May 22 G1 Irish 2000 Guineas and tries this intermediate distance for first time since running fourth in the May 9 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on seasonal return. Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's Listed Wolferton S. winner Juan Elcano (GB) (Frankel (GB), who finished one place ahead of the reopposing Mohaafeth when second in the G2 York S., completes the field.


Great Voltigeur a Classic Pointer

Elsewhere on the card, Godolphin's G2 Queen's Vase victor Kemari (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) will seek to dent the G1 St Leger aspirations of most of his seven rivals in the G2 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur S. and will bid to record a second renewal for Charlie Appleby. He is accompanied by stablemate and fellow gelding Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), who backed up a win in Newmarket's July 8 G3 Bahrain Trophy with a free-running sixth in the July 29 G3 Gordon S. at Goodwood.

Aidan O'Brien outstrips the Appleby representation by one and has nominated a trio of G1 St Leger entries for this £150,000 contest. It is headed by last term's G2 Beresford S. winner High Definition (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who is on a retrieval mission after running third here in the May 13 G2 Dante S. and coming back off a compromised effort when 10th of 11 in the June 26 G1 Irish Derby.

“This will be a nice start back for him and we're looking forward to it,” the trainer said. “I suppose the year has been a bit of a mess for him and everything we've tried to do has gone wrong. He barely made it to the Dante and then we were going to run him in the [G1 Epsom] Derby, but didn't, and that probably broke his rhythm a bit by that happening. We then had to wait for the Curragh and he cut a heel in the race. He nearly went down, which lost his confidence, but we think, and hope, he should leave that run well behind him.

“He looks like a horse that would get a mile-and-a-half well as he was coming home very well in the Dante. He had a break after The Curragh, he's ready to start again and will improve. He's a big, powerful horse and I'd say there is no doubt he is still out of the top drawer. He will be a horse to look forward to next year and we think he has the class to be a top middle-distance horse yet.”

O'Brien has also nominated G1 Grand Prix de Paris fourth The Mediterranean (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and G3 Gordon S. runner-up Sir Lucan (Ire) (Camelot {GB}). “Sir Lucan had a very good run at Goodwood. It was his first run back after a break and Frankie [Dettori] rode him patiently. He came from the back and just got beat and has come out of that race well,” he added.

The Gordon S. reunion also features Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's G1 Epsom Derby fifth Third Realm (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) and Ahmad Al Shaikh's G1 Epsom Derby eighth Youth Spirit (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) representing Roger Varian and Andrew Balding, respectively.


Quintet of Acomb Contenders

The first pattern race of the week, the £100,000 G3 Tattersalls Acomb S., is a competitive affair albeit with just five contenders set for the seven-furlong test.

Dr. Ali Ridha's Dubawi Legend (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) makes his eagerly awaited return after earning 'TDN Rising Star' status with a five-length rout over this trip at Doncaster last month.

“We're obviously hopeful and he's a horse we've always held in high regard,” said trainer Hugo Palmer. “I'd have been disappointed if he hadn't won the way he did at Doncaster, we were hoping he would do something like that first time and he didn't disappoint. It's a race that is typical of the conditions of the Acomb and it's going to be a question of which maiden winner in the second half of July was the better one.

“His work on watered ground in Newmarket has been very pleasing and I would have thought anywhere between firm and good-to-soft and he'll be fine. It's just the second run of his life and two or three of the others have got more experience, but he hasn't missed a beat since Doncaster and goes there in great nick. Hopefully, he can run a big race.”

Godolphin's Newmarket maiden winner Noble Truth (Fr) (Kingman {GB}) ran third to subsequent G2 July S. victor Lusail (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) in his June 19 debut and sports headgear once more for his third start here.

“Noble Truth progressed from his first start to win his maiden and has done well physically since,” said trainer Charlie Appleby. “This will tell us the level we will be campaigning him at for the rest of the season.”

Opposition also includes Shadwell's 'TDN Rising Star' Ehraz (GB) (Showcasing {GB}), who encountered a race-fit Noble Truth when running on for a two-length second in his July 9 debut tackling seven furlongs at Newmarket.

“He ran very well first time at Newmarket and was impressive at Ascot,” commented racing manager Angus Gold. “He's done everything right so far, [trainer] Richard [Hannon] is very happy with the horse and he's giving him all the right signs at home.

“Obviously, it's a trappy little contest, but I think they feel Ehraz is above average on his home work and, all being well, he's a nice horse in the making. Like always, you've got to see them go and do it on the track.”

The line-up is completed by unbeaten Goodwood maiden scorer Imperial Fighter (Ire) (The Gurkha {Ire}) representing Andrew Balding, and Mark Johnston trainee Royal Patronage (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who return's off a five-length score at Epsom last month.


Yorkshire Oaks Field Takes Shape

Thursday's G1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks has attracted a select field of seven with a mouthwatering clash of the generations in store on day two of York's Ebor Festival.

Coolmore's Snowfall (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) is set to go postward at short odds and bids to provide trainer Aidan O'Brien with a sixth renewal of the £400,000 contest. She has drawn stall three for her attempt at emulating the G1 Epsom Oaks, G1 Irish Oaks and G1 Yorkshire Oaks treble of Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) and returns to the scene of her May 12 G3 Musidora S. triumph. O'Brien will also oversee outsiders Divinely (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and La Joconde (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), who will break in tandem from boxes five and six.

Rivals also include Christopher Wright's G1 Prix de Royallieu and G1 British Champions Fillies & Mares heroine Wonderful Tonight (Fr) (Le Havre {Ire}), who is drawn alongside the likely favourite in gate two.

“Obviously I'm hoping there's a bit more rain, but if the ground is good we'll give it a go,” revealed David Menuisier. “I've been in Deauville for four or five days and I've found that the ground is pretty chopped up. The weather forecast is not that positive for downpours and I'm sure the ground will be better in York than it is in Deauville.”

The trainer had initially booked Olivier Peslier to partner this term's G2 Hardwicke S. and G2 Lillie Langtry S. victrix, but the rider has undergone knee surgery and William Buick continues in the plate.

“William has been riding her and Olivier just had a little operation to get a chip removed in his knee,” he added. “Olivier is sidelined for a week to 10 days and I'm delighted to have William on board on Thursday.”

Kirsten Rausing's Albaflora (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}), the only other 4-year-old in the contest, renews rivalry with Wonderful Tonight in her third visit to the Knavesmire and the Ralph Beckett trainee is allocated stall seven. Lordship Stud's Loving Dream (GB) (Gleneagles {Ire}) and Shadwell's Eshaada (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) cross swords once more, having finished first and second in Royal Ascot's June 17 G2 Ribblesdale S., and will exit gates four and one, respectively.

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