Race of the year? Maybe not, with Gleneagles predictably pulled out after the rains came, but the Juddmonte International at York produced instead the shock of the year as Arabian Queen beat the hitherto undefeated Derby winner Golden Horn.
Hardly anybody gave anything outside the supposed big four – Golden Horn, Gleneagles, Time Test and The Grey Gatsby – a prayer in all the pre-race build-up but, as Arabian Queen’s owner, Jeff Smith, said later: “Always beware the improving filly!”
So, though Arabian Queen looked likely to run home an honourable second as Golden Horn took a slight lead inside the last furlong with the others beaten off, the daughter of Dubawi and her rider Silvestre de Sousa were by no means done with and, to the astonishment of a packed house simply waiting for coronation formalities to be completed, rallied to wrest back the huge first prize by a neck.
John Gosden, Golden Horn’s trainer, blamed the defeat on a combination of freshness following a midsummer break and ground softer than ideal, while Frankie Dettori added: “He pulled very hard and couldn’t skip away like he normally does.”
Arabian Queen is trained by the Newmarket veteran David Elsworth, who also won this contest 25 years ago with In The Groove, although at that time he was far better known for his association with the chaser Desert Orchid.
At 50-1, the biggest-priced winner of the International, Arabian Queen came into the race a stone and a half below Golden Horn on official ratings, but Smith has his own ideas about that.
“Everybody has been focusing on the three-year-old colts this year, but I believe the fillies are better,” he said. “It’s just that there haven’t been any form lines until now. They’ve never met.”
De Sousa has been so successful on the bread-and-butter circuit this season that he already has the jockeys’ championship wrapped up, barring mishaps, with almost two months still to run, but the Brazilian’s a man for the big occasion, too.
“I was doing my own fractions and not looking at the pacemaker [Dick Doughtywylie],” he said. “Arabian Queen isn’t very big, but she has a big heart and when Golden Horn got a little bit ahead of me she just battled back.”
With the going officially good to soft after Tuesday’s rainfall, it was always long odds against Gleneagles lining up. Also taken out of the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood because of similar ground concerns, the dual 2,000 Guineas winner is running out of race options. Trainer Aidan O’Brien said the plan now was to run him in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on 12 September, so connections are clearly still keen to test him over 10 furlongs.
Storm The Stars, placed in both the Derby and the Irish Derby, cemented his position at the head of the market for next month’s St Leger with a hard-fought victory over Bondi Beach in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, although he needed to survive a stewards’ inquiry for causing interference; jockey Pat Cosgrave received a three-day ban for careless riding.
To say Storm The Stars is a difficult individual is something of an understatement. “If he were human he would have green hair, a ring in his nose and studs in his eyebrows,” said his trainer, William Haggas, who also won the Acomb Stakes with Recorder. “But he’s so tough. In fact, his biggest problem is he always gives himself a hard race.”
Covert can break cover in rerun of Irish Oaks
Some afternoon television repeats are infinitely more entertaining than others and armchair racing fans will not mind one bit watching Covert Love, Jack Naylor and Curvy – first, second and third in the Irish Oaks last month – in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Jack Naylor finished the strongest at the Curragh, while a change of headgear may extract a little more from Curvy, but Covert Love is the filly with the most progressive profile, having won her last four races in increasingly stronger company.
Hugo Palmer’s first Classic success, Covert Love has been supplemented for £35,000 to try to become the Newmarket trainer’s first home Group One winner and it looks money well spent.
Lumiere could not have been more impressive at Newmarket’s July meeting, but she beat nothing of note and her tall reputation – she is favourite for next year’s 1,000 Guineas – is based more on jaw-dropping work on Mark Johnston’s Middleham gallops.
Easton Angel was runner-up to Acapulco, hot favourite for Friday’s Nunthorpe Stakes, in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot and Michael Dods’ filly makes more appeal in the Lowther Stakes at around three times her rival’s odds.