Poet’s Word and Roaring Lion are on course to clash in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York next week
The pair dominate the betting for the mile and a quarter showpiece in eight days time after sparkling this summer but are not frightening away the opposition because on Tuesday afternoon Aidan O’Brien indicated Saxon Warrior, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner, is on course to run, while his son, Joseph, suggested Latrobe, the Irish Derby winner, would also line up.
Poet’s Word landed an epic QIPCO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last month, having previously won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“Poet’s Word is a very consistent, brave, sound horse,” Stoute said. James Doyle, who partnered him, added: “They went a hell of a pace all the way. I could see Cracksman even after going a furlong was under pressure to hold his pitch. I thought, ‘I am going easy,’ and from Swinley Bottom to the home turn I was travelling all over him.
“It was just a case of hanging on and in the back of my mind I knew this horse stays a mile and a half, so I still wanted to press the button early enough. He is so tough and fair play to everyone at Sir Michael’s.”
Even better was to follow in the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot the following month.
Crystal Ocean, his stablemate, was marginally preferred to him in the betting and the pair dominated a thrilling finish – Poet’s Word collaring him inside the final furlong and prevailing by a neck to give his trainer a record sixth win in the race.
Doyle said: “He’s a star, there were questions over his best trip, what’s his best trip now? Winning the King George over a mile and a half – he’s so versatile.
“I left him a bit of a task, they went quick and I didn’t want to start chasing a position. It looks great, but if I’d been beaten a neck I’d have been really frustrated.”
In between, Roaring Lion got the better of QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Saeed Suhail, who owns Poet’s Word, said: “Poet’s Word worked very well on Sunday morning. He worked on the all-weather, which he has done most of his work on.
“He just had a nice breeze and that was good. Michael was very happy with him and he is on schedule to run at York. A mile and a quarter, a mile and a half – it’s the same for him.”
Stoute won the Juddmonte International with Ulysses last season and also claimed the race with Notnowcato (2006), Singspiel (1997), Ezzoud (1993 and 1994) and Shardari (1986).
Roaring Lion also worked over the weekend and Oisin Murphy, his regular rider, told At The Races: “Rab [Havlin] rode him on Saturday, just in an exercise gallop, and he was really pleased. He said the horse is in super order.
“He gave me a super ride in the Dante and the track seems to suit a horse like him, so hopefully he stays healthy and we go there with a chance. I’m just lucky to get the leg up on him.”
“Roaring Lion is growing up a lot and he’s still improving, and he stayed straight as an arrow today,” John Gosden, his trainer, said after the Derby. “Take nothing from the winner, we were following him, but he outstayed us. Our horse really is a mile and a quarter horse.”
David Redvers, Racing and Bloodstock Manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “He does us proud, my heart is still a flutter. To see a horse travel that well in a field like that, we always had a doubt that this would be a step too far and in this ground and it has been proven thus. We’re goíng to have a fun summer though.”
That “fun summer” continued at Sandown, although Roaring Lion’s connections had to suffer a lengthy stewards’ enquiry before he was confirmed the winner. He hung right late on but nobody had any doubt the best horse had won.
The Juddmonte International Stakes, the last middle-distance QIPCO British Champions Series race before the QIPCO Champion Stakes provides the glittering climax to the category on QIPCO British Champions Day, is a race with a short but glorious history.
The event, run at York over 1 miles, 2 furlongs and 88 yards (2,090 metres), first appeared in 1972. But what an appearance! American-bred Roberto, a Derby winner and named after baseball star Roberto Clemente, became the first – and last – horse to beat Brigadier Gerard.
There have been other notable highlights in this Group 1 race for three-year-olds or older – Troy, the 1979 Derby winner, Commanche Run, the 1984 St Leger winner, two-time winner Halling and Giant’s Causeway, rated Europe’s top horse in 2000.
And then, of course, there was Sea The Stars, who took the race in 2009 – the same year he won an incredible six Group 1 races within six months, including the 2000 Guineas, Investec Derby and Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.
Frankel captured the race in 2012 as he recorded his 13th success from as many starts with a seven-length demolition of his rivals. Derby winner Australia, won it two years later.
If you’re looking for the best quiz question concerning the Juddmonte International Stakes, then try this one – what is the family name of the jockey who has entered the winner’s enclosure six times? Answer – Dettori, with six wins (although only the last five of those went to Frankie. The first went to his father Gianfranco in 1976. That would have been a tad early for Frankie, who was five years old at the time).