Wednesday marks the first day of the York Ebor festival in England. Highlighting the six-race card is the Juddmonte International (Eng-I), a 10-furlong contest for 3yos and up.
A field of six will go to the post, led by the dual-group I winning tandem of Midday and Twice Over. Trained by Sir Henry Cecil, both runners are owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, who is seeking to capture this race for the first time. (Formerly known as the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup, Juddmonte Farm took over the sponsorship in 1989)
Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) winner Midday is seeking to become the first distaff winner of the International since In the Groove captured the race in 1990. The daughter of Oasis Dream enters the race off of an impressive two-length victory in the Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) at Glorious Goodwood July 30. Prior to that race she was second twice, in the Pretty Polly Stakes (Ire-I) and the Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I). Regular rider Tom Queally will be aboard.
Stablemate Twice Over has recently rounded back into form, after putting in some rather dull performances since his try in this year’s Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). After three lackluster efforts in group I company, Cecil dropped Twice Over back into a group II race. Twice Over rewarded his connections with a superb 1 ¼-length victory in the Sky Bet York Stakes (Eng-II) July 23. Young Ian Mongan will have the mount.
Aidan O’Brien, in the midst of a major ‘hot streak’, sends out three runners in the race, led by Await The Dawn. The 3-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway has won five of his six lifetime starts, by a combined 21 ¾-lengths. In his last race, the Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot, Await The Dawn rolled to an easy three-length win. That victory stirred talks of a shot at the Breeders’ Cup…not in the Turf, but in the Classic, where he would seek to go one better than his sire, who came up a neck short to the mighty Tiznow.
There was some speculation as to who would ride not only Await The Dawn but most of the Ballydoyle horses in England, due to Ryan Moore’s shoulder injury. It came as somewhat of a surprise that O’Brien has named his 18-year-old son, Joseph, as the jockey. While the younger O’Brien has tasted group I success this season (riding Roderic O’Connor to victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas), it was thought that Seamie Heffernan, Colm O’Donoghue, or Jamie Spencer might get the mount.
Of the two other Ballydoyle horses entered in the race, Roderic O’Connor would probably be considered the more serious contender. Already a dual group I winner, the son of Galileo seems to be much more suited to going a mile rather than stretching out past that. Colm O’Donoghue will ride.
The field is rounded out by Windsor Palace, entered as a pacemaker for the Ballydoyle team, and Zafisio, a group I winner in France as a juvenile. Now a 5-year-old, the son of Efisio has suffered various setbacks, and will be making his first start in nearly a year.
Goldikova Falls Short (Again) in Jacques Le Marois
For the second straight year, Goldikova had to settle for second in the Prix Jacques Le Marois (Fr-I; hey, I know that’s not the full name of the race—but you try typing/spelling the full moniker. Trust me--it’s better for everyone if I just shorten it).
Last year, she was upset by British classic winner Makfi. This time around she ran into the buzz saw named Immortal Verse, runaway winner of the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot. Immortal Verse, a daughter of Pivotal, now has won two group I races, and certainly has a bright future ahead of her. Trainer Robert Collet has indicated that the bay filly may next appear in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I), where she would meet the mighty Frankel. She should not be overlooked there; her sharp turn of foot and sweeping last-to-first moves just might cause a bit of heartburn for Frankel’s connections.
I would also look forward to seeing her in the Breeders’ Cup Mile…if not this year, certainly in 2012. Immortal Verse hails from the immediate family of Last Tycoon, winner of the inaugural Mile in 1984. Like Last Tycoon, Immortal Verse just may very well be overlooked by the bettors, too.
Returning to Goldikova, the 6-year-old mare lost nothing in defeat. Goldi was carrying seven more pounds than Immortal Verse, had an outside post position, and was stuck on the outside the entire race. She also had to deal with course conditions that weren’t to her liking. (Softened by overnight rain, the course was officially listed as “good to soft”; the emphasis being on the “soft”) It also probably didn’t help that she was making just a two-week turnaround. This may not affected her as a 3 and 4-year-old, but it probably wasn’t to her benefit this time.
Look for her to rest and regroup, and reappear next on Oct. 2 in the Prix De La Foret (Fr-I), an event she won last year on her way to defending her title in the Breeders’ Cup.