Photo: Steven Cargill
Dan Munn is not the only one geeked up for Wednesday’s Juddmonte International. The showdown at York looks to be one of the races of the year, and with my favorite international horse, Toronado, testing uncharted territories, the English race has my full attention. I must say it’s nice to have this much anticipation for a race that will be run Wednesday morning for all of us here in the States, and it’s the main players that have me so excited to see them put the hooves to the turf.
Toronado has been called the best horse top jockey, Richard Hughes, has ever ridden. High praise indeed by a rider not far removed from the brilliance of Canford Cliffs. The High Chaparral colt took a big step in justifying that lofty bit of praise when he soared to victory late in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. In defeating star miler Dawn Approach that day, in thrilling fashion, the powerhouse colt avenged his only two defeats. While a fourth place finish in the English Two Thousand Guineas was a disappointing way to have his perfect record ruined, his narrow defeat in the St. James’s Palace was proof to yours truly that he was for real. Getting pushed sideways at a key point in the Royal Ascot affair was more than enough for me to believe he was best in that one, so it came to no surprise when the Richard Hannon trained star kicked it into high gear late to sweep to his first group 1 victory last time.
As much as I like Toronado, I realize the International will be anything but easy. A winner of 5-of-7 lifetime, he is only a three-year-old. While he did beat older in the Sussex, the competition gets even tougher on Wednesday. Considering his pedigree, I expect ten furlongs plus to be well within his scope, but as of now, he has never been farther than a mile. While proven top class at that distance, it is asking plenty for his first try at 1 ¼ miles plus to come against horses of the quality he will see at York. He will need to be every bit the special type I believe him to be to win on Wednesday.
If Toronado is to get the job done in this major test, he will have done at the expense of the most consistent ten furlong horse in the world this year, Al Kazeem. A 5-year-old son of Dubawi, Al Kazeem missed most of last year after looking like a good thing in winning last May. Returning to the races early this year, Al Kazeem has been perfect in 2013. So perfect if fact that he has scored in three consecutive group 1 races, the Tattersall’s Gold Cup, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and the Coral-Eclipse Stakes. All of which came at a distance of at least ten furlongs. Al Kazeem is the deserving early favorite of the Juddmonte International
If the top two aren’t enough, perhaps Trading Leather strikes your fancy. An always promising son of Teofilo, Trading Leather has taken things up a notch since stretching out to twelve furlongs in his latest pair. An impressive win in the Irish Derby was validated with a strong run in his first try against older. He didn’t threaten the highly regarded Novellist that day, but his second place finish in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes demonstrated his ability and form.
The classy field is rounded out by two more colts of high quality in Declaration of War and Hillstar, while Rewarded looks like the only outsider. I like Toronado … who do you like?