Monday 19 March 2018

Australia team expect trip to suit

Aidan O'Brien pitches Australia into all-aged company for the first time on the Knavesmire on Wednesday
Aidan O'Brien pitches Australia into all-aged company for the first time on the Knavesmire on Wednesday

Australia tries what connections feel could be his ideal distance of a mile and quarter for the first time in the Juddmonte International at York on Wednesday.

A son of Galileo out of the brilliant race mare Ouija Board, Australia has shown he can mix it at the top level over a mile and a mile and a half so far this season.

His close-up third behind Night Of Thunder and the brilliant Kingman in the 2000 Guineas reads well given a mile was always likely to be on the sharp side for him and he did what he was bred to do by winning the Epsom Derby before a similarly dominant display in the Irish equivalent.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien pitches his stable star into all-aged company for the first time on the Knavesmire and is keeping his fingers crossed he is fit enough having been off the track since the end of June.

O'Brien said: "Australia had a break after the Curragh and everything has gone well with him since then.

"Obviously, he is a good bit heavier than he was in the Derbys and I suppose that just makes you a little bit more anxious. So, really, he is just ready to go away and obviously we would imagine that he would come on a lot from the run.

"We always felt this was his trip. He is a very strong traveller - he has a high cruising pace."

Australia is joined in the six-strong field by fellow Ballydoyle runner Kingfisher, who has made the pace for his esteemed stable companion at both Epsom and the Curragh, even managing to keep going for second in the Irish Derby.

"Kingfisher is in good form. He will be very happy to roll along if nothing else does. He ran in the two Derbys with him (Australia) and is a very tough, sound and genuine horse that doesn't mind bowling along," said O'Brien.

"He is obviously running on his merits - he is a Dee Stakes winner, so he is a very legitimate horse. But like I said, he doesn't mind bowling along - he'd be very happy just to roll along, nice and sensible. And I think that will be good for everybody if that is the case.

"Maybe somebody else will be happy to do it. But he is happy to do it if nobody is. It will just be, hopefully, a nicely-run race."

Mukhadram ran an excellent race in defeat when third in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and trainer William Haggas believes his stable star has perhaps not received the recognition he deserves.

He said: "Mukhadram ran a great race at Ascot. He is a tough, genuine horse and I think is he is a little underrated.

"We hope it doesn't get soft but he's in great form and goes there in great shape.

"I feel it's my job to get him there in the best condition I can and I am very happy with him."

Mukhadram carries the colours of owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and his racing manager, Angus Gold, believes the five-year-old is perhaps better suited by the mile and a quarter he faces than the mile and a half he raced over at Ascot.

"William is thrilled with him. He's a fabulous horse to have because he's so consistent. He's tough and genuine and loves his racing," Gold told At The Races.

"Physically he was always going to make a better older horse and on his pedigree as well he was always going to get better. That's exactly what he's done.

"Mentally he's very good. He's very professional about it. He enjoys his work.

"Hopefully he'll give a very good account of himself.

"Dane (O'Neill) said he thought it (mile and a half) stretched him. On pedigree he should have stayed, but you never really know until you try and he's a horse who travels very strongly and has a kick.

"Maybe a mile and a half just stretches him that little bit."

Asked about plans for the rest of the year, Gold said: "Sheikh Hamdan has said let's deal with York first, see how he runs there and then make a plan.

"The Champion Stakes would be a fabulous race to win if he was good enough for that, but he's got options like the Cox Plate or if he wanted to try the Breeders' Cup, so we'll see."

Sheikh Hamdan's retained rider Paul Hanagan gets back aboard Mukhadram at York having sided with Taghrooda in the King George, a decision which proved correct as the Epsom Oaks heroine secured a brilliant victory.

"It was very hard to get off him as he'd given me a great day in the Eclipse, probably the hardest decision I'd ever had to make, but I'm lucky to have to make decisions like that," Hanagan told Racing UK.

"It was probably only a Classic winner that I could get off him for. I'd finished second in the Dubai World Cup on him and I was so proud of him in the King George and Dane gave him a peach of a ride.

"He'll appreciate coming back in trip.

"The Eclipse was a great moment, I was so pleased for the horse and William as he's not been the easiest to train.

"I'm really looking forward to him, he's got course and distance form and it's his track, a big, long galloping straight."

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Telescope was one place ahead of Mukhadram when runner-up in the King George, having previously come of age with a brilliant victory in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Harry Herbert, racing manager for the owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, is hoping the four-year-old can strike at the top level before the end of the year.

He said: "I think Ryan (Moore) felt that he (Telescope) just possibly wasn't quite as good (in the King George) as he'd been at Royal Ascot - as far as the feel that he gave Ryan.

"It was a muggy day and he just got a little warm beforehand. I don't know whether that affected him but it's interesting to hear what a jockey says.

"Potentially I think we all think there could be more to come from the horse, but that was still a wonderful performance. Now that he is fully fit and on the right ground we are seeing the real Telescope, which is exciting.

"It's hugely exciting for everyone involved. We just hope and pray he can win a Group One before the season is out.

"If he happened to win the International, we might say the Irish Champion and you wouldn't rule out the Arc."

The Grey Gatsby won the Dante Stakes over Wednesday's course and distance before claiming the French Derby for trainer Kevin Ryan.

He failed to fire in last month's Grand Prix de Paris but is expected to bounce back on the sounder surface he is set to encounter at York.

Moore has ridden The Grey Gatsby on his last three starts but as he is committed to riding Telescope, champion jockey Richard Hughes has been given the call-up by Ryan.

He said: "It's lovely to get a good ride like that. He acts on the track, Kevin's horses are running well. I'm delighted."

The field is completed by Peter Chapple-Hyam's pride and joy Arod.

The Teofilo colt has ground to make up on Australia having finished fourth in the Epsom Derby, but he is also expected to be more effective over this shorter trip.

Press Association

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