Charlie Appleby is confident Ghaiyyath is the one to beat in a fascinating renewal of the Juddmonte International at York.
The son of Dubawi has long been considered a top-class performer by his trainer, but has not always been easy to predict, with a 14-length demolition job in a German Group One last September followed by a disappointing effort in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a month later.
However, he has brought a new level of consistency to his game so far in 2020 – bolting up in Dubai in February before breaking the track record in the rearranged Coronation Cup at Newmarket.
Ghaiyyath then managed to achieve what no other horse had in England for over three years when beating the wonder-mare Enable in the Eclipse at Sandown last month – and Appleby is delighted with his stable star ahead of his trip to the Knavesmire.
Appleby said: “All is good with Ghaiyyath. He’s been pretty faultless this season to date and York has always been one of our targets.
“We wanted to go to the Coronation Cup, then onto the Eclipse and then to the Juddmonte International – so far everything has gone according to plan.
“Hopefully we have conditions to suit. I know there is some rain forecast, but hopefully it isn’t going to arrive until after racing and if we get good ground on the opening day, we’ll be happy.
“On the evidence of this season, he is the one they’ve all got to beat. The Juddmonte International is always a great spectacle and it looks a very strong race, but I think they all have to come up to his level.
“You’ve always got to respect a Classic winner like Kameko, you’ve got the Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner in there (Lord North) and Magical is a multiple Group One winner, but we’re going there confident we have a very good horse in very good form.”
Ghaiyyath will come up against this year’s Classic crop for the first time at York as the three-year-olds were barred from running at Sandown this term due to programme changes following the coronavirus lockdown.
Andrew Balding’s 2000 Guineas winner Kameko appeared to not quite see out 12 furlongs when fourth in the Derby, but was back down at a mile last time out when enduring a troubled passage in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Connections have felt for some time 10 furlongs could be his optimum trip and now he gets the chance to prove it.
David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “We’re very much looking forward to it – it is hugely exciting.
“It’s the best race of the year so far, Kameko is our best horse and we’re going to give it our best shot.
“The feeling in the camp earlier in the year was that a mile and a quarter could be his optimum trip, but he has sharpened up quite a bit of late and got stronger.
“We have got to try and we’ll see how it works out on the day.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Magical ran at the Ebor meeting last year when chasing home her old adversary Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks. This time she drops to a trip over which she arguably has stronger form.
The Galileo mare was due to be retired at the end of last season, but the decision was reversed and she has already won the Pretty Polly and Tattersalls Gold Cup in 2020.
“We’ve been happy with Magical’s two runs this year. She’s been to the Curragh twice and won twice and everything has gone well since then,” said O’Brien.
“We’ve been very happy with her all the way through this year, really. She’s very comfortable at 12 furlongs, but she stays 10 furlongs really well.
“She wouldn’t be worried what the ground is, she’s fairly versatile.”
With Frankie Dettori remaining in France following a successful weekend due to quarantine restrictions, James Doyle is delighted to keep the ride on John Gosden’s impressive Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner Lord North in a race which is part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
The four-year-old has progressed from high-class handicapper to top-drawer performer in less than 12 month – displaying a sizzling turn of foot at Royal Ascot to leave his rivals trailing in his wake.
Doyle said: “It was pretty exceptional, his performance at Ascot. There was plenty of confidence behind him that day and I don’t think there was any fluke about it.
“He was up against Japan, Barney Roy and Addeybb, who are all solid Group One performers. He put them away quite convincingly and he’ll go to York a fresh horse.”
The leading jockey is well aware of Ghaiyyath’s ability, having ridden him on his first two career starts three years ago.
He added: “Ghaiyyath wears his heart on his sleeve and the twice we’ve seen him this season, he’s been pretty spectacular. I think his style of running certainly suits York and he seems to be pretty solid now.
“It’s been a while since I sat on him, but he’s a beast of a horse who can pour it on.
“You’ve got Magical in there, who is a wonderful mare, and obviously the Guineas winner. I’m sure it will be a great race.”
The field is completed by another filly, Mark Johnston’s Rose Of Kildare, surprise winner of the rearranged Musidora Stakes last time out.