Excelebration may be making an everlasting impression under the care of Aidan O'Brien as Frankel's permanent bridesmaid yet few will know that he started out life rapidly progressing under the exceptional care of Marco Botti. Botti eased the son of Exceed and Excel through the lower level conditions races as a two year old before allowing his colt to explode on the scene to six and seven length victories in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes and Group 2 German 2000 Guineas respectively.
One year on, Botti has been noted as a young, talented trainer on the way up and many are attempting to capitalise on his training ability with horses of untapped potential shipping in from all over Europe. Joshua Tree - the 2010 Canadian International Stakes winner - remains one of the leading lights of Botti's yard, yet the talented duo of Jakkalberry and Crackerjack King (below) have been entrusted to Botti after dominating the Italian racing circuit for many years between them.
Previously under the care of Botti's father, Stefano, Crackerjack King, a four year old son of Sharmardal, won every race he competed in in Italy including his final start under the care of Stefano Botti in the Group 1 Premio Presidente Della Repubblica at Capannelle, in which he readily accounted for Luca Cumani's Arlington Million shipper, Afsare. Entering the Coral-Eclipse in July, Crackerjack King was highly fancied to readily account for the likes of Nathaniel and Farhh but failed to capitalise on an encouraging position turning into the home straight, eventually tiring to a well beaten fifth-place.
Jakkalberry has been with Marco Botti for much longer having spent most of the winter in Dubai with his new British-based trainer. An impressive third-placed finisher in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy behind Fox Hunt and Opinion Poll on his first start at Meydan, Jakkalberry improved from that late-rattling finish with a further third-placed finish in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, readily accounting for the likes of Mahbooba, Cavalryman and Treasure Beach in the process. Jakkalberry couldn't get to the likes of Cirrus des Aigles or St Nicholas Abbey that day but he enters the American St Leger with a leading chance and he might just prove too good for this field. Australia calls before the end of the year for this six year old son of Storming Home. Readily accounted for by Crackerjack King in the Group 1 Premio Presidente Della Repubblica at Capannelle, Afsare is the opposite to John Gosden's Colombian in that he has improved towards the middle part of the season. Victory in a Listed contest at Sandown was quickly followed up by a narrow defeat in the Group 2 York Stakes behind Sri Putra. This is Cumani's first raid on Arlington since that of Summit Surge in 2010. Afsare figures to be a much more attractive proposition than that of Summit Surge and looks to be a genuine contender for victory over his European counterparts - Crackerjack King, yet again, may be the only one strong enough to beat him. The final Italian based raid goes by the name of Mirco Demuro, a charismatic jockey with the 2011 Dubai World Cup to his name, Micro partners the German raider Kapitale who was last seen a game third to Quiza Quiza Quiza in the Group 1 Lydia Tesio at Capannelle. Kapitale may come into this as an outsider but count Demuro out at your peril. There wouldn't be a European raid without a branch from Newmarket but this year's raiding party, aside from that of Botti and Cumani, looks significantly weak to that you'd expect. Fourth in last year's renewal of the Arlington Million and victorious in the Group 1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine, things haven't gone to plan for Michael Bell's Wigmore Hall this year. Encouraging performances in the Dubai Duty Free and the Chester Huxley Stakes have been largely overshadowed by unimpressive runs in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot and a lacklustre performance in the Duke of York Stakes last time out. Similarly, Mikael Magnusson's American St Leger raider, Bridge of Gold, has been equally disappointing this year with a last place in the Ascot Gold Cup preceded by a second-from-last effort in the Braveheart Handicap on the comeback from missing a huge chunk of European racing since the John Porter Stakes in April 2011. The best hope from Newmarket's non-Italian assault looks to come from David Simcock's beautiful five year old daughter of Noverre, I'm A Dreamer. Defeated by an agonising margin in last year's E P Taylor Stakes, I'm A Dreamer has been held at bay by John Gosden's Izzi Top for most of the season but a fourth-placed finish in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown does much to inspire confidence in her ability to flourish in the Beverly D Stakes. This looks a great opportunity for Simcock's mare to gain more black type.
Finally, France sends a solitary runner in the shape of Alain de Royer-Dupre's Bayrir. Second in the Secretariat Stakes with Ziyarid last year, Royer-Dupre and Christophe Lemaire return to that race in a bid to go one better. First in the Prix Ridgway in June, Bayrir backed up that success with a fantastic late run eclipsing his rivals in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte last time out, beating Cogito - who targets the Travers Stakes with Brian Meehan, Starboard and Fractional in the process. France may have gone home with the silver medal in 2011 but Bayrir looks primed for gold.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)