THE Group 1 Juddmonte International takes place at York on Wednesday and it’s set to be a thriller.
Poet’s Word heads the betting but he is challenged by seven other top-class contenders.
1. Benbatl – Saeed bin Suroor/Jim Crowley (10-1)
Benbatl bounced back to form when winning a Group 1 contest in Germany last time out.
That form still leaves him with plenty to find here but he did flourish in Meydan earlier this year.
This looks his optimum trip so it’s worth forgiving his disappointing Royal Ascot run.
Saeed bin Suroor on Benbatl
“Benbatl has really improved physically this year. The key for him is that it has got to be good ground, really.
“He doesn’t like fast ground or soft. He is doing well.”
2. Poet’s Word – Sir Michael Stoute/James Doyle (13-8)
Poet’s Word comes into the race as the favourite, and rightly so.
He was impressive when winning the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and backed that up when swooping late to win the King George.
This is his preferred trip and he will prove hard to beat.
Sir Michael Stoute on Poet’s Word
“His work has been very satisfactory. He seems in good shape and we’re looking forward to bringing him up to York.
“He has won Group Ones at both distances so he seems to be an all-rounder.
“He is a very sound horse with a good mind. So he is an easy horse to train and the owner has let me bring him along quietly, which has suited him.”
3. Thundering Blue – David Menuisier/Fran Berry (33-1)
The big outsider of the field, Thundering Blue was supplemented for the race at a cost of £75,000 after his win over course and distance in a Group 2 contest last month.
He does save his best for this field but he still has plenty to find on ratings with the rest of his rivals.
4. Thunder Snow – Saeed bun Suroor/Christophe Soumillon (16-1)
Thunder Snow could be the surprise package in the field. He has not been seen since winning the Dubai World Cup in impressive fashion back in March.
He switches back to turf today and could find more improvement.
The concern would be that this is a stepping stone to other targets later in the season and he seems to show his best form on the dirt.
Saeed bin Suroor on Thunder Snow
“Thunder Snow’s last race was the Dubai World Cup and we made a decision with Sheikh Mohammed just to give him a break – because he’d had four races in Dubai.
“Since the horse came to Newmarket he’s doing well and working nicely. The horse is improving all the time and now he’s fit, but he’ll need the race and will improve for it.
“He needs the race before we take him to America. The target to start with is the Group 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup over a mile and a quarter at Belmont Park on September 29.
“After that we’ll take him to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Churchill Downs.
“Whatever happens in the Juddmonte will make him fit and ready for the future.
“I know he has won two Group 1 in France on turf, but on the dirt his action is much better.”
5. Latrobe – Joseph O’Brien/Wayne Lordan (16-1)
A surprise winner of the Irish Derby, Latrobe faces an entirely different task on Wednesday.
He drops back down in trip which may not be a positive and O’Brien will use this race as a guide to where they aim him for the rest of the season.
He is likely to find one or two too good.
Joseph O’Brien on Latrobe
“He’s in good form and after York we’ll make a plan for the rest of the season.
“The plan at the moment is York and then sit down and regroup after that.
“He has a number of different options for the rest of the year and we’ll know if our trip is 10 or 12 furlongs and then we’ll be able to make a plan for the rest of the season.”
6. Roaring Lion – John Gosden/Oisin Murphy (11-4)
Roaring Lion looks to be the closest challenger to favourite Poet’s Word following his win in the Coral-Eclipse when last seen
He just held off the challenge of Saxon Warrior that day – who renews the rivalry – but he could be best judged on his Dante win here.
He blew away his rivals over this course and distance that day and if putting in a performance like that will be right up there.
Oisin Murphy on Roaring Lion
“The weight for age is kind and Roaring Lion is really well in himself. He’s been working well and John’s very happy with him, so I’m excited.
“He’s a gorgeous horse, a joy to sit on, and obviously an exceptional animal. On ratings and everything his win in the Coral-Eclipse would have been a career best, but I think he has more to give.”
7. Saxon Warrior – Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore (5-1)
Billed as a potential Triple Crown horse, Saxon Warrior has lost his way a bit in recent runs.
After his brilliant Guineas win he failed to stay in the Derby and disappointed behind Latrobe when everything went his way in the Irish Derby.
His best performance came when running Roaring Lion very close in the Coral-Eclipse, but the form of O’Brien’s yard has to be a worry.
8. Without Parole – John Gosden/Frankie Dettori (14-1)
Looked a potential star when winning his first four starts and put a big performance in when winning at Royal Ascot.
However, that form has taken plenty of knocks and might not be up to scratch here.
He also needs to bounce back from his Goodwood flop.
Frankie Dettori on Without Parole
“I am really looking forward to riding Without Parole in the Juddmonte.
“I always thought that a mile and a quarter would be his best trip – it was a bit of a non-event in the Sussex Stakes.
“This looks a very strong race and it’s the first time he runs at this trip, taking on these types of horses. That said, I won’t be surprised if he runs a big race.”