JIM Bolger relishes springing surprises and jump jockey AP McCoy’s early mentor and inspiration will not be sending Trading Leather to York to make up the numbers in today’s six-runner £750,000 Juddmonte International.
New Approach was only entered in the 2008 Epsom Derby, a race that he won, after an abrupt change of heart by the meticulous Irish trainer while only Bolger could have foreseen the champion’s son Dawn Approach being able to win Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes this June just 17 days after finishing stone last in the Epsom blue riband.
Second to Libertarian in May’s Dante Stakes at York, Trading Leather then surprised many by winning the Irish Derby when the leading fancies – including Epsom victor Ruler Of The World – failed to fire on The Curragh.
Bolger’s under-the-radar stable star was then runner-up in Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Flat racing’s midsummer highlight, while today’s favourite Al Kazeem was enjoying a deserved rest after three Grade One wins.
“He’s very well since the King George, I’m very happy with him and he’s ready to go,” said Bolger as he drops Trading Leather back in trip to the Dante distance of 10 furlongs.
“We’ve no choice but to take on Al Kazeem so we’ll give it our best shot. After York he’ll go to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes.”
The big unknown is Richard Hannon’s Toronado – the top miler now steps up in trip to 10 furlongs for the first time after finally beating the aforementioned Dawn Approach in a vintage Sussex Stakes.
The question is the horse’s stamina and whether his three clashes this summer with Dawn Approach have left their mark.
It is possible; Jim Oxx’s Sea The Stars completed the Sussex Stakes and International double in 2009 before the never-to-be-forgotten Frankel made light of the task 12 months ago in a career-defining performance.
That said, only 13 three-year-old horses – Toronado’s age – have won the International in 41 renewals despite receiving an eight pound age-for-weight allowance from their older opponents.
As well as Toronado, this year’s younger brigade include Sir Michael Stoute’s Hillstar, who won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot before finishing third to German raider Novellist and Trading Leather in the King George.
“We’ve probably got about 12lb to find with the likes of Al Kazeem and Toronado and Aidan O’Brien’s Declaration Of War, but hopefully he can still be improving and he will take his chance and we will see how we go,” said his jockey Ryan Moore. “He’s going the right way. Hopefully he can find a bit more imporovement.”
In contrast to the impetuous Bolger, Stoute has a reputation for caution and his assessment of today’s race was more upbeat than usual.
“This is really tough, this Juddmonte, but we are going to put our hat in the ring and give it a shot,” he said. “He certainly gets a mile and a half as he proved in the King Edward and the King George, but I think the mile, two and a half furlongs at York will be extremely suitable.”