Thursday 27 April 2017

Midday and Twice Over set for York showdown

Thomas Kelly

THE Henry Cecil-trained Midday and Twice Over feature in a field of six for the Juddmonte International at York tomorrow.

Both runners will carry the colours of Juddmonte supremo Khalid Abdullah, who is bidding to win the 10-furlong Group One for the first time.

Cecil's stable jockey Tom Queally will partner six-time Group One-winning mare Midday, which is fresh from securing a third successive victory in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood as she attempts to secure her first victory at the highest level against the boys.

Twice Over, which has won the last two renewals of the Champion Stakes, was narrowly beaten in this contest 12 months ago, and was a course and distance winner in the York Stakes on his latest start. The six-year-old will be ridden for the first time by Ian Mongan.

Aidan O'Brien saddles three runners, with hugely impressive Hardwicke Stakes scorer Await The Dawn, the mount of Joseph O'Brien, aiming for his first British Group One success. Ballydoyle is also represented by Roderic O'Connor and Windsor Palace, while Jo Hughes' Zafisio looks set to be the rank outsider.

Seville, with Seamie Heffernan again in the saddle, will face seven rivals in a fascinating renewal of the Great Voltigeur Stakes.

The Galileo colt would not be winning out of turn if he were to strike on the Knavesmire, having already this season filled the runner-up spot in the Dante, the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris.

He is joined by fellow Ballydoyle inmate Regent Street, while Godolphin is represented by Saeed bin Suroor's Hunter's Light, the mount of Frankie Dettori, and the Mahmood Al Zarooni-trained Genius Beast.

Namibian, winner of the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot and the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, takes his chance for Mark Johnston.

No trainer has their horses in better form than Roger Charlton, who saddles Al Kazeem, while Michael Stoute's hugely promising Sea Moon and Thimaar from the John Gosden yard complete the field.

Olivier Peslier will take the plum ride on Snow Fairy in the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday. The four-year-old chased home Midday in the Knavesmire Group One 12 months ago and was again left chasing Cecil's star mare's shadow in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last month.

TERRIFIC

"We have decided to stick with her own sex, and Snow Fairy will head north in top form," the Newmarket trainer said yesterday. "She ran a terrific race against Midday in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and seems to have improved again judged on her work at home since.

"Obviously, it is a relief not having Midday standing in our way again, but there is still an Irish Oaks winner in the field in Blue Bunting, not to mention Crystal Capella and whatever Aidan (O'Brien) decides to send, so we are under no illusions."

Meanwhile, Graham Wylie is set to have runners with Willie Mullins in the forthcoming National Hunt season. The move comes after the four-year ban from the sport imposed on Wylie's principal trainer Howard Johnson, who subsequently announced his retirement.

The millionaire owner, who intends to drastically cut his string to just 20 horses, will have horses trained in Ireland for the first time, with the exciting Back In Focus among those to join Mullins in Co Carlow.

"I'm going down to 20 horses and I will only have two trainers. I'll have the best in Britain in Paul Nicholls and the best in Ireland in Willie Mullins," said Wylie.

"Paul will have 13 of the horses and Willie will train seven. Willie is going to have Back In Focus, Boston Bob, Felix Yonger, On His Own, Prince De Beauchene, Drive Time and Rupert Lamb.

"Paul has six horses already for me and the other seven are Tidal Bay, Tigre D'Aron, Zhakiera Spirit, Prospect Wells, Frankie Figg, Roger Beantown and Grandioso. All the rest of my horses will be going to the sales. I'm looking forward to the season."

Mullins said: "I'm delighted to have been considered and I'm hoping I have as much luck for Mr Wylie as Howard Johnson had for him. "Mr Wylie told me which horses were coming over and I recognise most of them. There seems to be some good quality there."

Quwetwo, Ascendant, Doeslessthanme, Double Expresso, Hold Fast and The Knoxs had already joined Nicholls prior to Johnson's suspension, and the Ditcheat handler may prepare the enigmatic Tidal Bay for a second tilt at the Grand National.

Irish Independent

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