Harbinger's star status vulnerable to Abdullah duo

Revenge may indeed be a dish best served cold but, even so, the International Stakes at York is shaping up as hot stuff. Harbinger – who emerged as one of the season's superstars with his 11-length romp in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last month – will put his new-found reputation to the test on the Knavesmire, ground allowing. Two of his chief rivals will be Byword and Twice Over, who carry the Khaled Abdullah colours of Derby hero Workforce, highest-profile among those vanquished at Ascot.

Byword and Twice Over are not only top-level winners in their own rights but are also specialists over the 10-furlong distance, whereas Harbinger has been competing this year over a minimum of a mile-and-a-half. In the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot four-year-old Byword, trained in France by Andre Fabre, came out half-a-length in front of five-year-old Twice Over, who then landed the Eclipse Stakes.

"Both are intended runners at York," Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe confirmed yesterday. "They are top-notch horses and we'd hope they could be good enough to beat Harbinger. We would not be running in the race if we did not think that was a possibility."

Kudos apart, the Saudi Arabian prince will be keen to make Tuesday week's prize his seventh Group 1 of the season, given it is sponsored by his Juddmonte breeding operation. Of his two contenders, the younger Byword is the higher-rated and least exposed. "I think he will have – and will need to have – improvement in him," Grimthorpe added.

Harbinger, trained by Sir Michael Stoute for one of the Highclere Racing syndicates, will need to be supplemented a week today, at a cost of £50,000 for the International. Although he has been introduced as even-money favourite, with Ballydoyle challenger Rip Van Winkle second-choice followed by the Abdullah duo, too-firm underfoot conditions would rule him out. "He's in great form and the plan is very much to run," Highclere spokesman Harry Herbert said, "but the ground must be right."

The Dansili four-year-old has made giant strides, figuratively and literally, this season since minor surgery to correct a breathing problem has allowed him to fulfil his innate athletic talent, with a four-from-four record culminating in his King George tour de force. A victory over the shorter middle distance is perceived as one that would enhance his value as a potential stallion but only two of the seven horses who have essayed the Ascot-York Group 1 double have succeeded: Duke Of Marmalade two years ago and Troy in 1979. The most notable failure was Brigadier Gerard, who suffered the sole defeat of his career when overturned by Roberto 38 years ago.

Thorough physical examinations produced no obvious reason for the lacklustre display at Ascot of Workforce and the seven-length Epsom winner is still on a softly-softly regime in Newmarket, with nothing yet pencilled in his diary. "He's been checked with a fine-tooth comb," Grimthorpe said, "and nothing significant has been revealed, so we're just going to have to let him tell us when he's ready to go back to the races. Realistically, the one remaining race for him in Europe is the Arc but we're not going to put a programme on him."

There remains the possibility that Workforce will stay in training next year and the same applies to another whose three-year-old career is now on hold, Derby favourite and fourth Jan Vermeer, whose trainer, Aidan O'Brien, held his hands up over the colt's unfulfilled season. "He's on the easy list," he said. "It all went a bit pear-shaped on him; he was a long time starting, then it was a bit quick to the Derby. I didn't do a good job on him and we might stop and start again as a four-year-old."

At a hearing yesterday at the British Horseracing Authority's London headquarters, O'Brien and one of his senior staff, Pat Keating, faced charges arising from events following Cape Blanco's Dante Stakes victory at York in May. The two men admitted breaching the rules by both refusing to have the colt, who had aggravated an injury in running, trotted in front of the racecourse vets and then not attending a subsequent enquiry.

But O'Brien denied he had brought racing into disrepute as a result of either charge. After legal submissions, the panel decided to pursue the enquiry and adjourned the hearing until a date yet to be set.

Turf account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Mufti (4.20 Newcastle) Not given a hard time after meeting trouble in running on his first outing for his current trainer and will improve for that experience and today's step up in trip.

Next best

Star Twilight (8.20 Yarmouth) Made a most encouraging start to her second season with a close third to a horse who has won five times since. Remains unexposed after a light career.

One to watch

Speedily-bred Codemaster (H Candy) A green second on his debut, looks a young sprinter with a future.

Where the money's going

Irish raider Dirar, a winner on the Flat at Ayr in June and third in last week's Galway Hurdle, is as short as 10-1 (with Ladbrokes) for the Ebor Handicap.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Sharp Eclipse (3.20 Newcastle)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL)

£30 - 40k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Operations Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the single governing and regul...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufa...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935