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Ebor Festival: Declaration of content for Aiden O’Brien
DECLARATION OF WAR outflanked his rivals in a deadly assault to win the Juddmonte International Stakes – the richest race ever staged at York Racecourse.
Aidan O’Brien’s Royal Ascot winner was largely a footnote in the build-up to Knavesmire’s £750,000 Group 1 jewel as the pre-race focus featured on the supposed match between Al Kazeem and Toronado.
The former was bidding to become the first horse to win the treble of Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Eclipse and Juddmonte International in one season and Roger Charlton’s five-year-old hit the front with a quarter of a mile remaining.
For a moment, it looked like Declaration Of War (7-1) might have to settle for the minor placings he had occupied in the Eclipse, when two lengths behind Al Kazeem, and the Sussex, when Toronado was three lengths better.
But, despite appearances, Al Kazeem was struggling on the firm York ground and Declaration Of War, ridden by the trainer’s son Joseph, produced a smart manoeuvre to win by a length and a quarter.
Trading Leather, who set a strong gallop at the start of the ten-furlong contest, stayed on to finish second with Al Kazeem, the much fancied 11-8 favourite, only third. The miler Toronado, left in the race by trainer Richard Hannon despite suspicions he would struggle to get the extra two furlongs, was one of the first beaten and finished last.
“I thought James Doyle on Al Kazeem got first run on me,” said the winning rider. “That was probably my own fault.
“He’s a tough horse and he has a huge heart. We went a nice even gallop all the way and it was a very fair race. There were no excuses.
“The horse got on a roll from three furlongs down to two and he’s very hardy. He can go at whatever distance you want – a mile or a mile and a quarter – he has got all of these big races.”
Aidan O’Brien added: “He’s getting better through racing, not through training. He’s got an amazing constitution, he’s built like a big sprinter, he works with a lot of speed and travels very strongly. He’s an amazing horse.
“I said after Ascot that we could bring him back in distance rather than go forward but there weren’t the races for him. I kept putting him in the big races and he kept on improving.
“We were very happy with him coming here, after Goodwood, and we were very much of the opinion that he was better now than he’s ever been.”
Charlton said of Al Kazeem’s efforts: “He never really let himself down at any stage. James said the pace was reasonable but he would have liked to have pressed Trading Leather more to force an even quicker pace. He was never able to because he just wasn’t letting himself go.
“I think three Group 1 races on quick ground weren’t good for him, he was looking after himself today.
“James rode him in work in the week on good to soft ground and said he was a completely different horse. We’ll see how the horse is. It could be the Irish Champion Stakes next but he needs softer ground.”
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