Wednesday’s Juddmonte International (G1) at York, the biggest event during the British track’s four-day “Ebor Festival,” is likely to have a bearing on two Breeders’ Cup races. A “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs , the about 1 5/16-mile prize also marks the European return of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) contender Thunder Snow.
The Godolphin runner is often remembered stateside for bucking in the slop in the opening strides of the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1), and having to be pulled up, but he re-asserted his dirt ability with a resounding victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 31.
Freshened since that 5 3/4-length romp at Meydan, Thunder Snow is using the Juddmonte International as a launching pad to a fall campaign on the American dirt. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor has circled the September 29 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, on the way to Churchill Downs.
Thunder Snow is an outsider in the eight-horse field at York, not only on account of his lack of recency, but primarily because he’s meeting several of Europe’s turf stars.
Poet’s Word ranks as the deserving favorite after capturing both premier prizes in his division this summer. After flooring the odds-on Cracksman in the June 20 Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot, Poet’s Word came right back to win a thriller in the July 28 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) over the same course. Both offered free berths to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, so we might well see the Sir Michael Stoute charge at Churchill Downs.
The main dangers to Poet’s Word are three-year-olds Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Saxon Warrior had Roaring Lion’s number in their first two meetings, denying him in last fall’s Racing Post Trophy (G1) and leaving him back in fifth in the 2000 Guineas (G1) on May 5. But when the distances increased beyond a mile, Roaring Lion turned the tables. Third in the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Derby (G1), in which Saxon Warrior suffered his first loss in fourth, Roaring Lion just outdueled his rival when both cut back to 1 1/4 miles in the July 7 Eclipse (G1) versus older horses.
Saxon Warrior was wheeling back on just a week’s rest for the Eclipse. After his Epsom disappointment, he had been given another chance over 1 1/2 miles in the June 30 Irish Derby (G1). He again failed to deliver and wound up third to Latrobe, trained by Aidan’s son Joseph O’Brien. Saxon Warrior looked more like his old self in the Eclipse, and with the benefit of better spacing between races going into the Juddmonte, might he gain revenge on Roaring Lion?
Roaring Lion’s trainer, John Gosden, has another contender in Without Parole. Bred and raced by Justify’s breeders, John Gunther and daughter Tanya, he stayed unbeaten through the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot. Without Parole flopped next time when trying older milers in the Sussex (G1), tiring after setting the pace in a race that did not unfold to suit him. Now he stretches out beyond a mile for the first time in hopes of emulating his sire Frankel, a stunning winner of the 2012 Juddmonte.
Bin Suroor is also double-handed, with Benbatl joining Thunder Snow in the line-up. Victorious in the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, Benbatl was expected to put up a bold effort in the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot, but clunked up in 10th as the favorite. He rebounded in Munich’s Grosser Dallmayr Preis – Bayerisches Zuchtrennen (G1) July 29, and like Thunder Snow, is eyeing a big-race target further afield. Benbatl is under consideration for a trip to Australia’s championship race, the Cox Plate (G1), where he would run smack dab into the streaking record-setter Winx.
Rounding out the Juddmonte field is class climber Thundering Blue. After plying his trade in the handicap ranks, he landed his stakes debut in the July 28 York (G2) at this track and distance.
You can watch and wager on the Juddmonte International on TwinSpires.com. Post time for the race, carded as the 4TH at York, is 10:35 a.m. (EDT).