THE Grey Gatsby will fly the flag for Yorkshire in tomorrow’s £800,000 Juddmonte International – the most valuable horse race to have been staged in this county – when he puts his Classic credentials on the line against Aidan O’Brien’s all-conquering Australia.
This 10-furlong race, which has attracted a select six-runner field, will help to determine this year’s champion middle-distance horse – The Grey Gatsby has won the Dante and French Derby while Australia has the Epsom and Irish Derbies to his name.
The jockey bookings are also fascinating – twice champion jockey Richard Hughes partners The Grey Gatsby for the first time because regular rider Ryan Moore is committed to Sir Michael Stoute’s King George second Telescope while Joseph O’Brien will try to make the 8st 12lb for Australia, who is trained by his father Aidan.
It will not be easy – the pencil-thin 21-year-old is 6ft tall and last made 8st 12lb in 2012.
However, O’Brien senior says his son desperately wants to retain the ride on the Ballydoyle standard-bearer.
Even if O’Brien puts up one or two pounds overweight, Australia will still be widely expected to prevail on Knavesmire against a field that also includes stablemate Kingfisher, the William Haggas-trained Eclipse winner Mukhadram and Peter Chapple-Hyam’s improving Arod for Qatar Racing.
However, The Grey Gatsby’s trainer, Kevin Ryan, is hopeful that York will play to the strengths of his runner who won his maiden at the track last summer before finishing second in the Acomb Stakes at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival 12 months ago.
After winning the Betfred Dante in May, The Grey Gatsby took the French Derby before finishing down the field in the Group one Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris – the heavy ground at Longchamp did not help the colt’s cause.
“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,” said Ryan yesterday.
“He won his maiden at York, he was second in the Acomb at York and he won the Dante at York so 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.”
Hughes has only ridden one winner for Ryan in the past five years but his horsemanship – and tactical experience – made him an obvious choice to replace Moore.
There is also the added intrigue that Moore is the man who stands in the way of Hughes and a third successive jockeys’ title.
The only time that The Grey Gatsby and Australia have clashed previously was in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.
This was the race when Night Of Thunder was a shock winner as horse of the year Kingman suffered the only defeat of his scintillating career to date with Australia a close third and The Grey Gatsby in 10th.
Meanwhile, Epsom Derby second Kingston Hill will put his Ladbrokes St Leger credentials on the line in the Neptune Investment Great Voltigeur Stakes tomorrow.
The winner of last season’s Racing Post Trophy on Town Moor, the biggest threat to Kingston Hill is likely to come from the progressive Hartnell who is trained at Middleham by Mark Johnston.