Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
It feels like only yesterday that the legend of Frankel lived on with a performance of exceptional quality, yet one year on from that memorable renewal of the Juddmonte International, York is spoiled once more with an embarrassment of equine riches.
This year the York showpiece seems Al Kazeem bid to enhance his end season claims against his toughest opponent yet. Roger Charlton has not once shied away from a battle with his star colt, and the declaration of Toronado in this race has done nothing to alter that stance. Undefeated in 2013, with all bar one of his runs since a comeback from injury coming at the highest level, Al Kazeem will need to be at his very best to halt the continual progress of Richard Hannon's colt.
Victories in the Coral-Eclipse, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Prince of Wales's Stakes have marked Al Kazeem down a vision of consistency at the highest level this season and hopes are high that the son of Dubawi can continue to provide his owner and breeder John Deer with further Group 1 glory after turning down the opportunity to sell his star to race in Australia last season.
The Sussex Stakes finally saw Toronado complete the task which had been outstanding on his radar since early May, to turn away the consistent Dawn Approach for victory, and hopes have always been high that the son of High Chaparral may improve even further for the step up in distance. Toronado once been thought of as a colt with strong Derby credentials, but whilst those dreams were not realised there is both hope and time for the colt to develop into a powerful force in the middle distance ranks.
Victory on Wednesday would fast track his presence amongst the middle distance elite and surely prompt a rethink over end season targets with stablemate Olympic Glory waiting in the wings for the mile division baton to be passed on.
Declaration of War enters the Juddmonte International with a reputation to repair after the son of War Front has seemingly been found wanting when challenged by the top equines in Europe. The winner of the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, Declaration of War has threatened to run a huge race in his last two starts, most notably cantering alongside Dawn Approach in the Sussex Stakes as if he were about to bound clear for an upset victory, and the chances of Declaration of War cannot be under-rated. Short of top class for consistency, it would be no surprise to see Declaration of War finally come through with a phenomenal performance and catch many off guard.
Trading Leather and Hillstar both enter this race with creditable performances under their girths from the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a race won in style by the German-trained Novellist. Trading Leather has provided the Classic division with a much needed sense of consistency this season, whilst Sir Michael Stoute's Hillstar continues to progress in the nature that you'd expect from a Stoute-trained colt whom has been given the opportunity to blossom in
his own time.
Wednesday figures to provide Stoute with the answers to many outstanding questions as both Hillstar and Telescope pit their wits against the very best at York on Wednesday, with the latter facing up against his Classic rivals in the Great Voltigeur Stakes for the first time a fortnight after being defeated at the track over two furlongs shorter.
James Toller's Rewarded, a consistent performer in lower grades and one that has formed a strong partnership with Kirsty Milzareck, rounds out the field of six.