With the British Flat racing season well past the midway stage of 2014 the York Ebor Festival, featuring the top class Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, is drawing nearer, this year promising to feature the outstanding three-year-old middle-distance colt Australia, trained by Aidan O’Brein, writes Elliot Slater.
The International is always one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the year, a clash between the best three-year-old’s and older horses in training, often attracting the cream of the crop from not only Britain and Ireland, but also from France, and occasionally from even further afield. If Australia does indeed take his chance in the 10 furlong contest he will be expected by most experts to start at odds-on on Betfair, despite the strength of the opposition that could include such as Mukhadram, Noble Mission, Trading Leather, and The Grey Gatsby.
Australia, a son of Galileo, proved himself a smart performer last term when landing two of his three races as a juvenile, including a Group 3 success at Leopardstown in September that made plenty of good judges sit up and take notice, marking him down as a potential Derby winner. The Ballydoyle-based colt did little wrong on his seasonal reappearance when running over an inadequate mile in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, staying on strongly under pressure inside the final furlong under Joseph O’Brien to finish a close third behind the surprise winner Night of Thunder and the outstanding three-year-old miler of this season, Kingman.
His 2000 Guineas run unsurprisingly hinted at much better to come over a longer trip and Australia duly started a warm favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom on June 7, never giving his backers a moment’s concern as he glided around Tattenham Corner before coasting into the lead a furlong from home, eventually going on to beat the gallant Kingston Hill with plenty in hand by a length-and-a-quarter,
His subsequent victory in the Irish Derby was little more than an exercise canter when Kingston Hill was a late withdrawal leaving O’Brien’s star to beat two inferior stable companions without turning a hair. It won’t be that easy at York, and with the likes of Eclipse Stakes winner Mukhadram, subsequently an excellent third in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot behind the brilliant Taghrooda, the much improved Noble Mission (a Group 1 winner this term), and the impressive French Derby winner, Kevin Ryan’s locally trained The Grey Gatsby amongst his potential rivals, any flaws in Australia’s ability to perform at the highest level over just 10 furlongs could well be exposed.
For his part, Aidan O’Brien appears to have few concerns on that score, pointing out that his charge had the pace to go very close over a mile in the 2000 Guineas and is one of the classiest thoroughbreds he has ever handled.
It all points to Australia in the Juddmonte International at York on August 20, a race that looks well worth waiting for.