IT is a measure of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival’s growing prestige that Aidan O’Brien’s dual Derby winner Australia will attempt to emulate Frankel and Sea The Stars, two of Flat racing’s all time greats, by winning today’s Juddmonte International.
Despite O’Brien’s caution – his Ballydoyle stable star has not run since landing the Irish Derby at the end of June and is dropping back in trip to 10 furlongs – Australia would not be lining up in York if he wasn’t in peak condition. The colt’s future stud value depends on having multiple Group One victories to his name.
It is also significant that the trainer’s 21-year-old son Joseph will try to make the 8st 12lb weight.
This personal struggle is indicative of how much Australia means to him – and his father – after winning the Epsom Derby and then taking the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.
“Australia had a break after the Curragh and everything has gone well with him since then. He has done very well and is just ready to start back again,” said O’Brien senior whose previous wins in the Juddmonte came courtesy of Giant’s Causeway (2000), Duke Of Marmalade (2008), Rip Van Winkle (2010) and Declaration of war 12 months ago.
“I suppose, because he has done so well, we are a little bit worried about his fitness. But really, when you give a horse a break – especially a three-year-old – going into the autumn, you want him to do well. He did well, he did very well.
“Obviously, he is a good bit heavier than he was in the Derbys and I suppose that just makes you a little bit more anxious. So, really, he is just ready to go away and obviously we would imagine that he would come on a lot from the run.”
Yorkshire hopes rest with The Grey Gatsby, who won the Betfred Dante Stakes over today’s course and distance before claiming the French Derby for Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan.
He failed to fire in last month’s Grand Prix de Paris but is expected to bounce back on the sounder surface he is set to encounter at York.
Ryan said: “He has been great since his Longchamp run and is very fresh and well. The ground in France was bottomless, which he hated, though he still ran a good race. He won his maiden at York, he was second in the Acomb at York and he won the Dante at York so the Knavesmire will be no problem for him.
“He’s proven at this mile and a quarter, although at some point I envisage stepping him back up to a mile and a half. He’s only a three-year-old and is developing all the time.
“It’s going to be a fantastic race, although I have to say that all Group One races are great races. We will try to treat it as just another day.”
Champion jockey Richard Hughes takes over in the saddle because The Grey Gatsby’s jockey Ryan Moore is required to ride Telescope for his boss Sir Michael Stoute.
Telescope was a creditable second to Oaks heroine Taghrooda in the King George and Harry Herbert, racing manager for the owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, hopes the four-year-old can strike at the top level.
“Potentially I think we all think there could be more to come from the horse, but that was still a wonderful performance. Now that he is fully fit and on the right ground we are seeing the real Telescope, which is exciting,” he said.
“We just hope and pray he can win a Group One before the season is out. If he happened to win the International, we might say the Irish Champion and you wouldn’t rule out the Arc.”