I feel like saying this about nearly all the major races this season, but seriously: the Juddmonte International probably is the race of the year!
Seven runners – one could say “only” seven runners – although, this is a select group of top-class equine athletes: not a single horse is rated lower than 110.
Still, only one horse can win the big prize. The two least likely in my view are Juan Elcano and Alenquer. The latter clearly is a classy individual with potential upside now dropped to what should be his optimum trip. But he’s only posted a career-best 96 topspeed rating so far, seems to rely on cut in the ground and is the lowest rated individual here – for a good reason, I firmly believe.
Juan Elcano’s performance in the York Stakes over course and distance, when a close runner-up in a thrilling finish behind Bangkok, is certainly not to be taken lightly. However, I feel he was slightly flattered due to the slow pace and his prominent racing position throughout. With that in mind, he’s not quite Group 1 standard and hard to fancy.
Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney is an interesting horse. His career-highest topspeed rating is not good enough to feature here, but the brilliant juvenile he was, he has proven to have trained on as a three-year-old and the Juddmonte trip could turn out be the ideal test for him. He has to bounce back, though, which isn’t impossible given the magician trainer Jim Bolger is.
The three-year-old filly Alcohol Free has been sensational this year. She has improved dramatically. Her latest victory, a dominant win in the Sussex Stakes, has only enhanced her reputation. At Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes she ran to a 106 topspeed rating, which gives her a prime chance today….. if she stays the trip.
It’s a big “if”, I think. To my eyes the mile looks the maximum for her. Add to that the small question mark around the faster ground and I struggle to see her getting home as strongly as she did over a mile on soft going.
The most intriguing contender today is Mohaafeth. He appeared to be potentially high-class on a number of occasions earlier this year. Connections took their time with him, increasing the difficulty of the test step by step.
Mohaafeth passed his assignments with flying colours, but stumbled for the first time in the York Stakes when upped to Group 2 level three weeks ago. This was perhaps less so his fault than that of race tactics as his pace maker completely failed to do his job. The race turned into a muddling affair which saw Mohaafeth at a major disadvantage given his retrained racing position.
It was hugely impressive, though, the way he made up ground rapidly in the home straight when it was most costly to buy it. A furlong out he seemed to fly home for a breathtaking victory, just to pay for subsequent sub 11 second furlongs in the end. for a half a lengths beaten third place behind Bangkok. In my view Mohaafeth’s credentials have only been enhanced by that performance, nonetheless.
The “super filly” Love drops down in trip after a gutsy third place in the King George, where things didn’t quite work out for her, although in any case, the winner Adayar was too good. Nonetheless, that was a top class race and Love ran to a 109 tospeed rating that day, close enough to her career-highest 110 TS rating, which suggests she is as good as ever.
That was her first defeat in five starts but she lost little in defeat. The Juddmonte trip could be perfect for her, with ground and track no worries whatsoever. She will be a key player today.
The same goes for top-rated Mishriff. Runner-up in the King George, which was a career-best performance, he improved nicely from a fine comeback run in the Coral Eclipse earlier this year.
He’s the favourite today, and has been consistent in the high level of his performances over the last two seasons. Ground and trip are no worries, though I feel, perhaps the Juddmonte trip with a little bit of juice in the ground would be the perfect scenario as opposed to the expected faster surface today. Nonetheless, the strengths and depth of his performances franked by form and ratings gives him a prime chance to land a third Group 1 victory.
Mishriff is the right and fair favourite. Top rated and top form in the book, His price is drifting this morning toward odds that could turn tasty. He’s the one beat. Love will run her usual strong race and she represents a safe bet around 10/3 to get as good a run for the money as it gets.
The “X-Factor” is Mohaafeth. He has plenty to find on the ratings but has shown serious talent this year and can improve again – which he has to, though. He’d be a much shorter price today if he’d had won the York Stakes, hence, given credible excuses for not getting over the line there, I feel he is a strong price at 7/1.