The Juddmonte International Stakes has helped cement the reputation of many great champions and next week the unbeaten Baaeed will be the headline act as he seeks to keep his flawless record intact.
The four-year-old colt will be stepping up to a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time after successive wins in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Lockinge, Queen Anne and Sussex.
Sound familiar? It was a decade ago that the mighty Frankel trod the same path before asked to show us the range of his powers at York. And what followed thrilled racing fans the world over.
Frankel has been one of a dozen winning favourites so far this century with Arabian Queen, returned at 50-1, being the one shock winner during this time. She defeated the 4-9 favourite Golden Horn in 2015 and there was more theatre afterwards when David Elsworth shunned the media – because he felt they had ignored him (and his filly) in the build-up.
There is no danger of Baaeed being overlooked over the coming days.
In its early years, the International was known as the “graveyard for champions” with five odds-on favourites being beaten in the first six renewals. But that was in the 1970s, when it sometimes rained in the summer, and the tagline no longer fits. Fifteen of the past 22 winners have been returned at 3-1 or shorter.
There have been many memorable renewals. Here are six of the best.
Trainer: Vincent O’Brien. Jockey: Braulio Baeza
The late Joe Mercer spoke To Nick Lightfoot about Brigadier Gerard in 2017, recalling the York race and the aftermath
The inaugural running of the race was expected to be a lap of honour for the outstanding Brigadier Gerard, who had already established himself as one of the greats by reeling off 15 successive wins – most of them at the highest level.
But this was the solitary day he came up short, unable to get to grips with Roberto, the Derby winner, who made all the running at a frantic pace under Braulio Baeza. The American jockey had been flown in for the ride – his first in Britain - when Lester Piggott, Roberto’s regular rider, deserted him for Rheingold, the narrow Derby runner-up who had subsequently won in France. It was a rare lapse by The Long Fellow, who would have needed binoculars to view the finish.
Baeza asked Roberto to set fast fractions and the colt never wavered, galloping on relentlessly to win by three lengths in a course record time. Brigadier Gerard was also inside the old record time, but simply could not get to grips with his year younger rival. The pair officially pulled ten lengths clear, but it looked much further.
Afterwards, Brigadier Gerard was found to be off colour, as the late Joe Mercer told Nick Lightfoot in an intervew in 2017. Roberto subsequently disappointed but Brigadier Gerard would sign off his career by retaining his titles in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champions Stakes.
Trainer: Sir Henry Cecil. Jockey: Gary Stevens
Ask any racing fan to recall Sir Henry Cecil’s four International winners and it will be long odds-on that Frankel is swiftly recalled. But the other trio will no doubt have slipped a few minds.
Not that they were too shabby. The brilliant Wollow (1976) was a superb winner of the fifth edition, while Twice Over (2011) had previously delivered two victories in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.
And then there was Royal Anthem, who was electrifying under Gary Stevens in 1999. Runner-up in the Coronation Cup and Hardwicke Stakes in his previous two starts, he went off 3-1 joint-favourite with Greek Dance in a competitive field of 12.
Well, it looked competitive on paper but proved anything but the case. Royal Anthem sauntered through the race and glided eight lengths clear after hitting the front three out. It was a performance of utter dominance and afterwards the handicapper elevated his rating from 125 to 134.
Royal Anthem was unable to produce such brilliance on his next start in the Irish Champion Stakes but then beat all bar Daylami in the Breeders’ Cup Turf before signing off his career with a Group One success in America.
Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor. Jockey: Frankie Dettori
Winner of the Dante and runner-up in the Derby the previous year, when trained by John Dunlop, Sakhee began the 2001 campaign for Saeed Bin Suroor with something to prove having missed the second half of the 2000 with a knee injury.
The colt had been off for a year before winning in a Listed race on his return at Newbury and then, just ten days later, was thrown back into the deep end at York. Would he recoil, or rise to the challenge presented by seven smart rivals?
The answer was emphatic. Sakhee moved powerfully from the outset and when Frankie Dettori invited him to stamp his authority on proceedings, three furlongs from home, the response was immediate.
The Bahri colt powered to a seven-length success over Grandera, who would himself subsequently be switched to Bin Suroor and win three Group One races the following year.
Sakhee did not have to wait that long to strike again at the highest level. He lined up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on his next start and was a magnificent six-length winner.
Trainer: John Oxx. Jockey: Mick Kinane
Sea The Stars carried all before him in 2009, but not without Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore throwing everything that was in the Bayydoyle locker at him.
That year, O’Brien took on Sea The Stars with 19 runners and all returned home having been beaten. The Derby, in particular, must have hurt as O’Brien was responsible for the second, third, fourth and fifth. Fame And Glory, Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman, each high-class performers in their own right, were among those who tried at least once to master him.
The conspiracy theorists were in full voice before the 2009 International with the four runners consisting of Sea The Stars and a trio trained by O’Brien. Team tactics were sure to be employed, they ventured, with a chain of thought that “no-hopers” Set Sail and Georgebernardshaw were merely in the race to bother the favourite and help Mastercraftsman.
But it was a clean fight, and a swift knockout ensued. Mick Kinane casually tracked Mastercraftsman and then, after momentarily looking in trouble, clicked into turbo to nose ahead inside the final furlong and win by a length in a record time.
It was a typically cool, clinical performance by horse and jockey. And similar was to follow in the Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Trainer: Sir Henry Cecil. Jockey: Tom Queally
Enjoy the full story of Frankel's York triumph
How many times have we all watched this race? It’s mesmerising. You simply cannot take your eyes off it. Pure equine perfection.
One night late last week, Racing TV gave the closing stages another spin on their Twitter feed after mentioning Frankel in an earlier post about him having sired a century of Stakes’ winners. It quickly got a lot of happy reflection and another 100,000 views.
Frankel’s first dozen racecourse appearances had been majestic, other than that messy, rather scrambled St James’s Palace success. There’s no need to dwell on that.
The International was his first venture beyond a mile but his starting price of 1-10 reflected that few thought it would provide much of an obstacle.
On the contrary, Frankel relished the extra yardage. And it simply gave his bulging fan club even more time to indulge in his majesty. The manner in which he coasted to the front and then cruised clear was something to savour. He was simply on a different plane.
The brilliant Farhh, who he also used as a punchbag on other occasions, was a seven-length runner-up, with four-time Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey in third and dual Champion Stakes winner Twice Over, seeking to retain his title, another six lengths back in fourth. Now, let me see it again.
Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Jockey: William Buick
It was such a shame racegoers didn’t get the chance to see Ghaiyyath strut his stuff in 2020 when the global pandemic meant racecourses were virtually empty.
A grand stamp of a horse, he came of age this summer and developed into the best horse in the world for Charlie Appleby and William Buick.
Before lining up at York, he had won in Dubai, galloped his rivals into submission in the Coronation Cup (in a course record time at Newmarket) and then fended off Enable in the Coral-Eclipse.
Even more was going to be required on the Knavesmire. Kamkeo, the 2000 Guineas winner, was in receipt of 7lb, and then there was Lord North, a superb winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on his previous start, to repel, not to mention plus multiple Group One winner Magical.
We knew that the zestful Ghaiyyath would bowl along at the head of affairs, but would he be able to stay there? Bit by bit, he took his rivals out of their comfort zones and a furlong out it was clear he had burnt them all off. At the line, he was three lengths clear of Magical.
It was awarded the Longines World’s Best Horserace accolade early the following year.
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