Ebor Festival: Knavesmire could prove ideal stage for Barney Roy in Juddmonte International showdown

Barney Roy ridden by jockey James Doyle (centre) comes home to win the St James's Palace Stakes. Picture: John Walton/PA
Barney Roy ridden by jockey James Doyle (centre) comes home to win the St James's Palace Stakes. Picture: John Walton/PA
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JAMES DOYLE hopes York will play to the strengths of Barney Roy in tomorrow’s £1m Juddmonte International, the opening-day highlight of the 2017 Ebor festival.

The richest race to be staged in Yorkshire has attracted seven runners with Doyle’s mount taking on former adversaries Churchill and Ulysses.

Jockey James Doyle celebrates winning the St James's Palace Stakes with Barney Roy. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA.

Jockey James Doyle celebrates winning the St James's Palace Stakes with Barney Roy. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA.

Though Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill won Newmarket’s Qipco 2000 Guineas, the Richard Hannon-trained Barney Roy reversed the form in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Barney Roy was then beaten a short-head by Sir Michael Stoute’s older, and more experienced, Ulysses in Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse. All three are contenders to be this season’s middle distance champion and Doyle believes Sandown’s tight configuration did not help Barney Roy find his long stride.

He is more hopeful, however, that York’s long home straight up Knavesmire will suit a colt who runs in the royal blue colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation

Reflecting on the Sandown race, Doyle said: “He ran a fantastic race, but my worry beforehand – him being an inexperienced horse on that track – was probably about right.

Sandown is a very tough track, especially against older horses. York will be much more to his liking and you will see a better performance from him.

James Doyle

“Sandown is a very tough track, especially against older horses. York will be much more to his liking and you will see a better performance from him.”

If Barney Roy prevails, he will be the first horse to win both the St James’s Palace and the International since the incomparable Frankel prevailed at York five years ago.

However, Hannon is more than hopeful. “He hit a few of the undulations at Newmarket and Sandown,” he said.

“I think York will suit him immensely because it’s flat and will give him plenty of time for him to get going with his long stride.”

Describing the colt as “probably the best I’ve trained”, he added: “I’d love it if he was the type to go and win by four lengths, but he’s not that sort of guy. He always makes it look like he’s struggling, but the quicker they go, the quicker he goes. He keeps finding.”

The unknown is the dual Guineas winner Churchill who is racing for the first time since being well beaten by Barney Roy. Though the Aidan O’Brien-trained champion is stepping up in distance to 10 furlongs for the first time, the reports from the Ballydoyle stable suggest the Classic hero is working very well.

Here is a sub-plot – both O’Brien and Stoute, who is responsible for Ulysses, will be taking the International for a record sixth time if they win.

O’Brien also runs the consistent Cliffs Of Moher while the septet also comprises John Gosden’s Shutter Speed, Clive Cox’s former Royal Ascot victor My Dream Boat and Decorated Knight whose jockey, Andrea Atzeni, was victorious 12 months ago on the now retired Postponed.

Malton trainer Brian Ellison faces an anxious wait to see if Seamour can line up in Saturday’s Betfred Ebor. Four horses need to come out for his stayer to make the 20-runner cut.

Though the Philip Martin-owned Seamour holds an entry for a support race at York tomorrow, connections favour the Ebor.

“We’ll probably wait,” said Ellison whose Moyenne Corniche prevailed in 2011.

The Yorkshire horses guaranteed a run include Lord Yeats for the in-form Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe; Mark Johnston’s admirable Soldier In Action and the venerable Clever Cookie for Peter Niven.