CRYSTAL OCEAN – the world’s best racehorse on this summer’s ratings – heads 12 confirmations for next Wednesday’s £1m Juddmonte International Stakes at York, the opening day highlight of the Ebor festival.
Sir Michael Stoute’s stable star landed his first Group One at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes – one of 12 Group One successes this year for Frankie Dettori – and since then has been involved in one of the great races of modern times.
He went toe-to-toe with Enable, the second-ranked horse in the global standings, in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with James Doyle’s mount narrowly coming off second-best to the Dettori-inspired mare after an unforgettable battle up the home straight.
Stoute, who will be aiming for a seventh win in the 10-furlong showpiece, has also left in Regal Reality.
Leading the opposition is set to be Aidan O’Brien’s Japan, who has attracted strong ante-post support in recent days.
A setback in the spring meant the Galileo colt did not reappear until the Dante Stakes in May, where he finished fourth before a close third in the Derby.
Going on from Epsom, O’Brien’s charge has won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in clear-cut fashion together with the Grand Prix de Paris.
O’Brien said: “Japan has been coming along lovely and there has never been pressure put on him.
“He is ready to go and he could run in York and then could turn up at Leopardstown (Irish Champion Stakes).”
O’Brien can also call on Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, together with Magical and Circus Maximus.
As expected, Middleham trainer Mark Johnston’s Elarqam, an impressive winner of the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes over course and distance last time out, has been supplemented at a cost of £75,000.
John Gosden has left in the aforementioned Enable, although it is expected she will run over a mile and a half the following day in the Yorkshire Oaks, and King Of Comedy.
The latter was narrowly denied in his first top-level success when a fast-finishing second to Circus Maximus in the St James’s Palace Stakes over a mile.
Cheval Grand will be aiming to emulate his compatriot Deirdre, who won at Goodwood for Japan. His connections will be hoping the ground is quicker than when he was seventh in the King George.
North Yorkshire trainer David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters – winner of the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot – and the David Menuisier-trained Thundering Blue, third last year, have also stood their ground.
Broome heads a team of six from Aidan O’Brien among a total of 11 horses left in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes, the Juddmonte’s chief supporting race.
The colt could try to boost his prospects for the William Hill St Leger and get his career back on track after being beaten in both the English and Irish Derby when well-fancied by connections.
The other members of O’Brien’s party are Barbados, Cape Of Good Hope, Constantinople, Il Paradiso and Norway.
The home contingent is led by Mark Johnston’s Nayef Road, who staked a big claim for the Leger when winning the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.