MUCH as the locals would love to see The Grey Gatsby win today's £800,000 Juddmonte International, the richest race ever staged at York looks more likely to be taken back across the Irish Sea by Aidan O'Brien, courtesy of Australia.
Whereas Kevin Ryan placed The Grey Gatsby to win the French Derby after the Hambleton colt had clinched the Dante Stakes on this course in May, O'Brien pulled-off the English-Irish Derby double with Australia, who has always been a horse with a sky-high reputation at Ballydoyle.
Both at Epsom and at the Curragh, Australia looked a class act. Furthermore, he also looked a horse with an impressive range of gears which suggests that he will not cope with this drop back in trip but positively relish what promises to be more of a speed test. O'Brien has issued concerns about Australia's fitness coming back from a break, but it is surely doubtful that he'll fail in that department.
The trip will also certainly suit The Grey Gatsby, who was undone by testing ground in France on his latest start, but who is reported to be in great form by Ryan as he aims to keep this all-important prize in North Yorkshire.
Australia apart, it won't be easy. Mukhadram, winner of the Coral-Eclipse, has since run a blinder to finish third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, one place behind Telescope, who is also in this afternoon's field, and who ranks as a leading contender. The field is completed by Arod and Kingfisher, both of whom have a little bit to find to carry off this contest.
Australia is surely the horse to beat - even if the collective county support will be for The Grey Gatsby.
Kingston Hill, runner-up to Australia in the Derby at Epsom, will be a popular choice in the Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes.
Roger Varian's stable star, unbeaten last season which he ended with a Group 1 triumph in the Racing Post Trophy, finished fourth to Mukhadram in the Coral-Eclipse on his latest start. He will appreciate returning to a mile and a half as he aims to promote his St Leger claims under Ryan Moore.
Whatever Paul Hanagan's fate on Mukhadram in the feature event, the popular jockey has strong claims on Basateen in the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes. The Richard Hannon-trained colt, too green to do himself justice on his debut, made no mistake at Doncaster next time when he looked a high-class horse. He can cope with this step-up in class.
North Yorkshire trainers have a tremendous record on their prized local venue and the other three races on the card could well remain in the area.
Tim Easterby can get the ball rolling with See The Sun in the opening Symphony Group Handicap.
A course winner in mid-summer, the talented three-year-old has run two fine races in defeat since. He is in a deep race here, with an abundance of potential dangers, but he makes appeal as a sporting nap.
Brian Ellison saddles three runners in the Fine Equity Handicap and all three have chances. Preference is for Knightly Escapade, the bottom weight and the mount of Duran Fentiman.
The gelding requires waiting tactics and a finesse ride and Fentiman will doubtless be instructed to challenge late on the Knightly Escapade who was just worried out of a race over an identical distance on this course last month.
Richard Fahey may lift the closing StanJames.com Nursery Handicap with Izzthatright, the mount of Jack Garritty.
The juvenile absolutely trotted-up at Catterick last week and although this is a tougher race and he has a 6lb penalty to carry, Jack Garritty's mount promises to be in the mix.
1.55 See The Sun (NAP), 2.30 Basateen, 3.05 Kingston Hill, 3.40 Australia, 4.20 Knightly Escapade, 4.55 Izzthatright.
2.10 Doppler Effect, 2.45 Gambino, 3.20 Noodles Blue Boy, 3.55 Longshadow, 4.30 Busy Bimbo, 5.05 Longshadow, 5.35 Eilean Mor.
Today’s other meetings
Kempton, Lingfield and Southwell.
York, Bath, Ffos Las, Newton Abbot and Wolverhampton.