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MAKING THE GRADE

A lot of top quality action has been and gone, but as we head into the York Ebor Meeting next week there is a lot more still to come. Here, we look back at the standout performers from the season so far and what may lie ahead.

TOP OF THE CLASS

Al Kazeem

For some reason he hasn't quite grabbed hold of the public's attention as some major names have in the past, but what a revelation Roger Charlton's Al Kazeem has been this season.

A winner on his debut in a Group Two back in May, he followed that up with nothing more than a likeable effort in a Sandown Group Three (which worked out well since) and then Charlton raised the stakes.

At the Curragh he upset the long odds-on favourite Camelot to win the Tattersalls Gold Cup, which was followed up with a tough performance at Royal Ascot when reeling in Mukhadram, before completing the Group One hat-trick in the Coral-Eclipse.

For this writer at least, Al Kazeem has been the horse of the year so far and once he gets the go ahead for the Juddmonte International next week, he'll get to enhance his reputation further.

Dawn Approach

Some will look at his copybook now and see a significant blot on the most recent page as he failed to put his best foot forward while on tour in France last weekend.

Trainer Jim Bolger has since revealed he was under the weather and we should have no doubt that caused his below-par effort. He'll be wrapped in cotton wool for a few weeks and then primed for the QEII in October. You don't become a bad horse overnight and although not mentioned in tonight's column, the same can be said about War Command.

But Dawn Approach will bounce back. He is a multiple Group One winner and not by fluke and those who disregard him in the autumn could learn an expensive lesson.

toronado

Richard Hannon's leading three-year-old has earned the highest rating of any horse mentioned on these pages tonight with the British handicapper rating him a pound higher (126) than the Irish handicapper has Dawn Approach (125).

Despite that, their fascinating duels this season stand at 2-1 to Dawn Approach and it would be a massive shame if we did not get to witness a fourth clash this season.

Toronado has been left in next week's Juddmonte International at York and that would be an intriguing clash with Al Kazeem if it goes ahead, but while the Toronado camp may have got the better of one tough nut in Dawn Approach this month, they may not be as keen to go straight back into battle with another in Al Kazeem so soon.

Either way, he has certainly lived up to the high regard Hannon and Richard Hughes have always held him and wherever he goes next the spotlight will be shining bright.

Sole Power

Another on this list that we are due to see at York next week, Sole Power will return to the Knavesmire in an attempt to win a second Nunthorpe Stakes having won the race as a 100/1 shot back in 2010.

He was a non-runner in 2011 and didn't run up to scratch last year, but once again Eddie Lynam's sprinter proved he is undoubtedly Ireland's leading player in this sphere when he won the King's Stand at Royal Ascot this season.

Over six furlongs in the July Cup, he lost nothing in defeat when fifth, but now he's back over five furlongs, expect him to show his true colours this day week.

HONOURS GRADE

Trading Leather

The Irish Derby hero may have had to settle for second place on his sole start since when the German raider Novellist claimed the King George at Ascot at the end of last month, but Bolger's charge is set for a busy end of season campaign that is likely to take in both the Irish and English Champion Stakes.

His form this season has been rock solid considering how he was purposely campaigned by Bolger, and while he is still to convince the handicappers, I would be amazed if he ended his three-year-old season without another win at the very top level.

Ruler Of The World

Yes, Ruler Of The World was very disappointing at the Curragh in the Irish Derby and yes, that old chestnut of questioning the quality of this year's three-year-olds has reared its head again, but Ruler Of The World boasts a record of three wins from four and he remains a force to be reckoned with when taking on the older horses in the coming months.

The Irish Derby was probably a bridge too far for a horse who only made his racecourse debut in April, but after a break, expect to see a different horse return. He could be a prime candidate for Paris in October.

FLYING UP THE RANKS

Brendan Brackan

To some, seeing a Galway handicap winner in this article may be a surprise, and none would be more surprised than Brendan Brackan's trainer Ger Lyons, but it will be interesting to see how Lyons places him between now and their trip to Dubai at the beginning of 2014.

The Galway Mile winner earned a rating of 117 for that win, which left Lyons bemused as all the eight horses rated above him are all Group One or Group Two winners.

galileo rock

David Wachman's Galileo Rock has only won a maiden, but this year he has been placed in a Derby Trial and two Derbys and with the Doncaster St Leger the most likely target, it would be a huge shame if he doesn't get the big race victory his consistency deserves. He too has got a break since the Irish Derby and whatever happens this year, he has the makings of being a top class long-distance horse.

Slade Power

If Sole Power is a rare high class Irish sprinter, well then it's his stable companion Slade Power who could keep him company at the top of that pedestal as the four-year-old continue to go from strength to strength for Eddie Lynam.

Last Sunday's Curragh win in the Group Three Phoenix Stakes further proved his worth over six furlongs.


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