Awesome Australia soars to top of the tree at York
If dual Derby winner Australia came to York with a few questions still to answer, his riposte was emphatic when he beat his French Derby counterpart The Grey Gatsby by a comfortable two lengths in yesterday's fascinating Juddmonte International.
The 8/13 favourite, kept at the back of the six runners early on while the Eclipse winner Mukhadram threw his chance away by arguing with Kingfisher about which should lead, travelled well throughout and, switched to the outside up the straight, surged to the front two out.
Richard Hughes, on The Grey Gatsby, had it in his mind he would let Australia go first then chase him - a logic he might have second thoughts about - but whatever he had done there was no beating the winner and Kevin Ryan's handsome grey ran every bit as well as he did at Chantilly. Telescope was a respectful two-and -a-half lengths further back in third. If Kingman has sealed the mile championship by the middle of August, Australia must have very nearly wrapped up the colt's middle-distance title yesterday.
Aidan O'Brien had expressed a worry about the colt's weight before the race - some 15-20kg heavier than he was at Epsom - but in the paddock the son of Galileo and Ouija Board looked all the better for it. "My heart starts thumping at 4am every morning," said O'Brien afterwards, "and this horse is probably the reason. He was really only ready for a racecourse gallop [after his break] but the prize money, the track, the prestige and the way they do it at York, we had to come here. If he was going to get beat, it was the trainer's fault."
O'Brien, who seems likely to stick with his original plan to take in the Irish Champion Stakes now, added: "His weight rose alarmingly in the last three weeks, but the lads were very happy with him. He was a lot of kilos up on his Derby weight. But when Joseph got up on him he said in the spring it had been like riding a two-year-old, today it was like sitting up on a five-year-old."
Fasting was clearly worth the effort for Joseph O'Brien, who rode on a postage stamp and had a dry mouth as he spoke to the media having ridden at 8st 12lbs for the first time in two years. "He thrived with his racing," he said. "He was a bit fresh for the first half but he's a brilliant horse." (© Daily Telegraph)