The Juddmonte International Stakes has attracted 13 highly-talented middle-distance performers, including Eclipse Stakes winner Hawkbill (9/2), but it’s probably fair to say that most eyes will be on hot 13/8 favourite Postponed (3.40pm Wednesday at York on CH4 TV).
Roger Varian’s (pictured) five-year-old easily won the Coronation Cup over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Epsom when last seen in June, but was forced to miss the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Ascot with respiratory illness. His trainer reports him in peak form, despite the bug that is still affecting his yard, but the son of Dubawi returns from a 74-day break over a distance at which he has never won at the top level, so he will need to be.
Hawkbill has improved with every start this season, culminating with a gutsy, half-length defeat of subsequent Sussex Stakes winner The Gurkha in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown last month. Charlie Appleby’s three-year-old has already officially improved by 24lb since making his seasonal debut at Newmarket in April, so is clearly one to take seriously. The main problem with him is that he has done all his winning on turf on good to soft and soft going, so the prevailing good to firm going is an unknown.
Highland Reel (6/1) has 4¼ lengths to find with Postponed on their running in the Dubai Sheema Classic over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Meydan in March. But he has since won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Ascot and may well be suited by dropping back in distance a couple of furlongs to 1m 2f. He ran one of his best races when allowed to dictate the pace in the Secretariat Stakes over this trip at Arlington Park, America, last August and could be dangerous once again, particularly if allowed an uncontested lead. He is fully effective on fast ground.
It is difficult to find one capable of beating all three of the fancied horses but, if there is to be a surprise, The Grey Gatsby (14/1) could be the one to cause it. Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old has not won since just getting the better of Australia in the Irish Champion Stakes on his final start as a three-year-old. But he has run creditably in defeat on all eight starts since, including seven at Group 1 level, and deserves a change of luck. His 2½-length defeat by subsequent Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket last month was less disappointing than it appeared at the time and he should run his race.