The Ballydoyle game plan could not be more transparent. However remote the prospect of inflicting a first defeat on the great Frankel, Aidan O'Brien and his patrons have plainly decided to go for the jugular at York tomorrow.
The champion finally ventures beyond a mile in the Juddmonte International Stakes, and the presence of two Ballydoyle pacemakers – among eight rivals daring to stand their ground at the final declaration stage – guarantees him as searching a test as possible over the long straight on the Knavesmire.
St Nicholas Abbey is an established Group One operator at a mile and a half and his twin escorts, Robin Hood and Windsor Palace, will be pouring it on to bring his stamina into play. Eddie Ahern will duly have an important role in giving a sensible lead to the favourite on his own long-serving pacemaker, Bullet Train.
Nathaniel, who had obvious claims to a podium finish, was the only one to drop out yesterday. Having campaigned him very boldly this summer, connections have decided not to push their luck and will keep Nathaniel for the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown next month.
Likely rivals there include Imperial Monarch, for Ballydoyle, and possibly the remarkable Snow Fairy, who made an astounding comeback from injury at Deauville on Sunday. Unraced since damaging a tendon in Japan last November, she won her sixth Group One prize in the Prix Jean Romanet – prompting deserved tributes from her trainer yesterday.
"It was a truly sensational day," Ed Dunlop said. "She has now won five Group Ones in five different countries, at three, four and five [years old].
"She's a truly phenomenal racehorse and we're very lucky to have her. There were plenty of reasons for thinking it could all go wrong, but Ryan Moore has been very helpful in her preparation. She had three racecourse gallops ridden by him and even he was fairly emotional."
Farhh, Frankel's most recent victim at Goodwood last month, has been declared again tomorrow but retains the option of the Betfair Celebration Mile back at Goodwood on Saturday, should connections decide conditions are unsuitable at York. An intriguing entry at Goodwood is Declaration Of War, unbeaten as a juvenile in France and since transferred to O'Brien.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Watt Broderick (4.15 Brighton) Few miles on the clock and progressing well for his new yard. Was set plenty to do when second last time.
Three Bards (3.05 Yarmouth) Impressive at Newmarket before failure in better field than this at Haydock.Reuse content