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Juddmonte International preview

This week I'm delighted to see a few new contributors on the blog, the first of which is James Constantine, @racingfurlong. He debuts with his assessment of the best race of Ebor Festival - the Juddmonte International. Welcome aboard!

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Juddmonte International

The Juddmonte International Stakes is a melting pot of talent pitching the three year olds against their older counterparts in the four and five age brackets. Once the scene of an imperious victory for the resoundingly brilliant Frankel, this year’s renewal presents a far harder betting proposition.

One such factor that niggles away at the most confident of punters is the various weights and ratings that seem to blow the field wide apart. This is best seen in comparing bottom of the handicap Rewarded with the next up in the handicap, Hillstar. Rewarded is rated 12lbs inferior to Hillstar but has to carry an ugly 8lbs extra than her younger counterpart. This leaves rewarded requiring 20lbs of improvement just to get competitive. Whilst not disgraced against decent opposition, the weightings cripple the chances of the Queally mount and you can understand a price of 150/1.

Hillstar, a three year old colt representing Sir Michael Stoute, has been performing to the highest level having recently gotten ahead of Cirrus Des Aigles by three lengths in France. Whilst Hillstar undoubtedly possesses heaps of talent, he will do well to get involved in this contest. With tactics likely to play a big part in this small field, he may only be able to rely on stamina in his bid to land the International Stakes.

I see no reason why Hillstar should reverse the form with Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather in this field. Having been weighted the same in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Trading Leather prevailed, albeit by ½ a length. Both horses aged three should keep progressing and they are almost the unknown quantity along with Toronado in how much and more importantly, how quickly they can mature. A mark of 120 is one in which Trading Leather can be competitive off and I’d like to see him press on and stake a claim in this.

On the same mark but 8lbs higher, the last of our four year olds, Declaration of War makes the step up to 10 furlongs. A mightily impressive winner of the Queen Anne Stakes, Aidan O’Brien’s horse was subsequently well held by top of the market Al Kazeem and I have strong doubts that 10 furlongs is the formers best distance. Whilst running well in Deauville finishing just behind Intello, Declaration of War is not a horse I’d want to be backing in this.

So with six runners, the each way value has already been sucked out of the market and so I am reviewing for a win bet. None of the outsiders make great appeal to me and so I would have to back a duel between the two highest rated horses in the race.

I’ve always backed Toronado against Dawn Approach and felt that he was unlucky not to be 2-1 up in their own personal series. At a mile, there is no doubting Toronado as a superstar, but this step up to 10 furlongs is a bit of a cheeky wild card thrown in by the Hannon and Hughes partnership. One feels they are trying to avoid Olympic Glory and Toronado pitching up against each other and with Toronado the likelier to make the step up in trip, it is he who takes on Al Kazeem. Richard Hughes certainly believes Toronado will get the trip and I have no reason to doubt him as he has been right on Toronado even in all of his defeats.

However, they are taking on a horse effectively going for the six-timer. Al Kazeem has been nothing short of rampant in his races and should make a bold attempt for victory in this. It is perhaps one of the last times we shall see this horse as his owners believe he will have nothing left to prove. You cannot blame them for preferring a safer, less stressful stud career for their superstar. I am slightly concerned that the bookmakers have tried to take him on somewhat, easing him out from 4/5 to a general 11/10.

Prediction

I analyse races and then follow the money. So the betting tomorrow morning will tell all in this fascinating contest. I believe that Toronado and Al Kazeem will battle it out for first and second with the others unable to land a decisive blow. For win purposes though, I like the daring attitude of Hughes and Hannon, the reckless bravado that has pursued them into trying Toronado over this trip.

Toronado is versatile and he settles better every time. At the age of 3, he still has plenty of improvement inside himself and if nothing can snatch a victory from Al Kazeem, it will be this colt. At a price of 15/8 is far more attractive than the skinny 11/10 on Al Kazeem and so he shall carry my cash to victory, I hope.

1st: Toronado 15/8
2nd: Al Kazeem 11/10
3rd: Trading Leather 7/1

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