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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Juddmonte International Star In The Making

Lord Glitters has not raced beyond nine furlongs in Britain. Picture: Racingfotos.com

David O’Meara believes his Royal Ascot hero Lord Glitters will not be betrayed by a lack of stamina when he contests the £1 million Juddmonte International Stakes over an extended mile-and-a-quarter at York on Wednesday, a race that forms part of the Middle Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

The six-year-old greywas not winning a Group 1 race out of turn when landing the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal Meeting in June and has since finished a close fifth in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

He will be racing beyond nine furlongs in Britain for the first time but O’Meara is encouraged about his stamina for several reasons, while also acknowledging that Crystal Ocean, the highest-rated horse in the world, will be a tough rival to beat.

O’Meara explained: “Harold Kirk was underbidder for Willie Mullins when we bought him [at the sales in France in 2017] and they clearly had hurdling in mind for him. It could be that we’ve been running him over the wrong trip all this time!

“He won over a mile and a quarter in France early in his career and he won the Strensall Stakes over nine furlongs at York last year, when he beat the subsequent Lockinge winner Mustashry. He also ran a blinder [behind Almond Eye] over that trip in the Dubai Turf and has never been stopping at the end of his races.

“There’s not a lot else to be running him in at this time and there’s fantastic prize money on offer, so why not have a go? We can always drop back in trip for the QEII [on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on October 19] later in the year.

“We are under no illusions it’s a tough race and he’s got quite a bit to find with the likes of Crystal Ocean, but he’s in great form and the fact he’s won at York is another tick in his box. The Sussex Stakes wasn’t run at an overly strong pace last time and he needs an end-to-end gallop in his races. There should be enough pace on Wednesday.”

There is a second grey in the nine-runner line-up in the shape of Thundering Blue, with his trainer, David Menuisier, hopeful he will “remind everyone he’s a very good horse”. The two-time York winner performed with distinction in a similarly hot renewal of the Juddmonte International last year when a fast-finishing third behind Roaring Lion and Poet’s Word but has failed to make much impact in his three races this season.

Menuisier says there have been mitigating circumstances and believes new jockey Jason Watson, last year’s champion apprentice, will help bring out the best in him. The pair got to know each other in a recent racecourse gallop at Newmarket.

“I don’t like to make excuses but we knew Thundering Blue would need his first couple of races to find full fitness because he’s lazy at home and will only do what he wants to do. He knows the gallops by heart and doesn’t really exert himself,” the trainer said.

“He ran in the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud last time and it was probably a mistake because it was a typical French race in that they went slow and in snatches. He likes a regular gallop when he can use his turn of foot, so I would draw a line through that.

“He’s more suited by Group 1 races against very strong opposition because they tend to go a fair clip and that’s when he can show his true colours. We know he loves York and he has never run a bad race there. The long straight gives him time to find his gears and he loves the challenge of passing horses one by one.”

Thundering Blue’s recent spin in Newmarket has also helped add an edge, Menuisier said: “I was very pleased with him, although it was more a case of a day out to help sharpen his brain than the work itself. He’s not an easy horse to ride because he’s very intelligent. You have to go his way and make him believe he is the boss.

“Jason [Watson] got to know him a little bit and I’m sure they will be a very good combination. Jason has nerves of steel and that’s what you want on these sort of horses. He knows to let him find his rhythm and then go his way.”

Thundering Blue is in his fourth season of racing and Menuisier said: “He’s been a fantastic companion, a good friend. He owes us nothing and anything else he achieves will be a bonus. We got to York with no pressure and to cheer the horse. Whatever happens, we will be proud of him.

“I would give anything in the world for him to win a Group 1 because he so deserves it – he’s beaten so many Group 1 winners in his career. I’m not delusional, and it may not be on Wednesday, but I don’t think he’s lost any of his ability and hopefully he will remind everyone he’s a very good horse.”

Crystal Ocean needs to issue no such reminders as he seeks to cement his standing as the best horse in the world.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old enhanced his reputation when narrowly missing out to Enable in a pulsating renewal of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes at Ascot last month, having previously been a decisive winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the same venue.

Crystal Ocean is a son of Sea The Stars, who won the Juddmonte International in 2009 during his outstanding career, and has won half of his 16 races. He has yet to finish outside of the first three in any contest and heads to the Knavesmire for the extended ten-furlong feature with an official rating of 127.

Regal Reality, his stablemate, whose best effort this campaign was when third in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown last month, will join him in the line-up. Stoute has already enjoyed a record six International triumphs, always with horses who have been beaten on their previous outing (see list below).

Aidan O’Brien seeks to equal Stoute’s haul and relies on Group 1 winners Japan and Circus Maximus. The former has won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp since finishing a close third in the Investec Derby at Epsom in June, while the latter won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June before chasing home Too Darn Hot in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

John Gosden was responsible for last year’s winner, Roaring Lion, and this time relies on the lightly-raced King Of Comedy, who steps up in trip after being beaten a neck by Circus Maximus at Royal Ascot, where he finished best of all. Gosden has already identified the QIPCO Champion Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day as Ascot on October 19 as being an ideal future target for his progressive Kingman colt.

Elarqam, trained by Mark Johnston, put up a career-best to win the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes last time in emphatic style and has been supplemented at a cost of £75,000. He is a son of Frankel, whose runaway win in the 2012 running of the Juddmonte International remains a cherished memory for racing fans.

Cheval Grand, the mount of Oisin Murphy, the leader in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship, will attempt to give Japan more to celebrate after the fabulous triumph of his compatriot, Deirdre, in the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood this month.

Deirdre, also ridden by Murphy, became only the second Japanese-trained horse to win a Group 1 race in Britain, and the first since Agnes World in the 2000 July Cup. Murphy will be hoping the ground is quicker than when Cheval Grand, the 2017 Japan Cup winner, finished seventh in the King George.

Ivy Heffernan
Ivy Heffernan, student of Economics at Buckingham University. Junior Analyst at HeffX and experienced marketing director.

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