Racing: Zenno to lead the International charge

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The Independent Online

There is always something glorious about the Ebor meeting, the great sense that this is the one gathering of the year which counts for the folk in the Ridings. Most pertinently, the International Stakes, the highlight of today and the whole week, is exactly that. Only a racing anorak (a word from one of the few peoples not represented, the Eskimos) would be able to identify the last time a Group One British race was dominated by horses outside these islands.

The International has an appealing appearance for those who have become fatigued by the idea of all the leading races falling to the triumvirate of either Aidan O'Brien, Sir Michael Stoute or Godolphin. All three are once again represented, but, unusually, they dominate in number terms only. For once there are others who supply the quality.

To skim through the representatives of the regular suspects. O'Brien will saddle Ace, who, despite his name, has failed to finish in the No 1 position. He drops back in distance having demonstrably failed to handle 12 furlongs on this course in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Stoute's charge is Maraahel, the most fancied of the home forces which look more like a Home Guard. He needs to surpass anything he has achieved before. And then there is Doyen for Godolphin, a King George winner just over a year ago, but subsequently a lost soul.

The domestic team appear to have left the front door open and there are two rather imposing figures walking up the drive. Electrocutionist, who won the Gran Premio Di Milano, a Group One contest, last time, now competes in England having established his hegemony in Italy. Connections hope he can follow the passage of a Rakti or Falbrav and establish that Italian performance is not a risible chapter in the form book.

The key to the race may be that while Electrocutionist is perhaps best over a mile and half, then the horribly named Zenno Rob Roy possesses an optimum distance of 10 furlongs. Last year he was Japan's horse of the year and when you attain such a standing in the Orient attention becomes a persistent stalker. There will be plenty of expensive cameras around the place on the Knavesmire this afternoon.

The pin-up horse will be ridden by his nation's pin-up boy, Yutaka Take, and sent into competition by Kazuo Fujisawa in an attempt to become only the second Japanese-trained winner of a Group One race in Britain, following Agnes World in the 2000 July Cup.

Zenno Rob Roy (next best 3.05) was third in the Takarazuka Kinen on his return to action in June, but that was always designed as preparation for a European campaign. The public ground on the outskirts of York can now prove to be the land of the rising son.

The Geezer (2.30) has already won a St Leger trial in the Gordon Stakes and he goes in search of another today in the Great Voltigeur. The David Elsworth-trained colt will be bidding to enhance his claims for next month's Classic - for which he is a general 7-1 chance - with victory in the Group Two contest.

While the most difficult race to decipher, the Knavesmire Handicap, can result in a big-priced winner, Mick Easterby's course and distance winner TRUST RULE (nap 1.20), the obvious selection on the card appears to be Distinction (1.55) in the Lonsdale Stakes.

The massive six-year-old signs off here as he embarks on a mission to take on a topical enemy in the Melbourne Cup.

"We are looking for another good run from 'Big D' tomorrow," Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, said. "He's shown a liking for York, for as well as his great effort in the Ascot Gold Cup he has won a Listed race there."

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Trust Rule (York 1.20)

NB: Zenno Rob Roy (York 3.05)