Hard to look past big two in star-studded International
In what may well become officially the best race in the world this year, Derby and Eclipse winner Golden Horn faces a stern test when he puts his unbeaten record on the line in today's Juddmonte International Stakes at York.
For convenience's sake it is being billed as a match between two domestic Classic-winning colts, Golden Horn and Gleneagles, to determine bragging rights as champion three-year-old of 2015, but there is strength and depth to this field.
Last year's locally-trained French Derby winner, The Grey Gatsby, is a benchmark for the older generation while Time Test, another unbeaten three-year-old, possesses untapped potential.
Australian raider Criterion, a mile-and-a-quarter specialist, should not be lightly dismissed either, particularly since he has had more time to acclimatise to the northern hemisphere since Royal Ascot, where he ran a solid fifth.
However, even in a race once noted for shock results starting in the very first running in 1972 when Roberto inflicted the only defeat suffered by Brigadier Gerard in an 18-race career, it would be a major surprise were one of the two main protagonists not to prevail.
It is ironic to think, too, that the last time we flocked to York back in May for the Dante, the Derby was beginning to look like a very moderate vintage until Golden Horn stepped up to the plate.
Anthony Oppenheimer's home-bred, by Cape Cross, which he sent into training with John Gosden at Newmarket after he failed to reach his reserve of 190,000 guineas as a yearling, has done nothing but improve ever since he won that race.
He also proved his versatility when making all for the first time in his life in the Eclipse - dishing out three-length drubbing to The Grey Gatsby, albeit after a protracted battle.
Golden Horn has a pacemaker today in Dick Doughtywylie to ensure a decent gallop and help him examine the one possible chink in Gleneagles, his stamina, as he steps up to a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time.
However, being a son of Galileo, Aidan O'Brien colt's staying ability should not be in doubt.
Golden Horn, the mount of Frankie Dettori, has a momentary 'turbo lag' as he showed briefly three out in the Derby and, again, in the Eclipse, but when he picks up he is hard to resist.
Gleneagles is the standout three-year-old miler of the season and, in his favour, he only does enough to win his races.
While Dettori insists he has not got to the bottom of Golden Horn yet, the same can be said of Gleneagles, which is reunited with Joseph O'Brien for the first time in public this season.
Having lost his position as first jockey to his father in favour of the now injured Ryan Moore, O'Brien will be under more scrutiny than ever as he attempts to pare his tall frame down to 8st 12lbs.
He is unlikely to have had a square meal for days and, having some insider knowledge of riding at low weights, I know his mouth will be so dry it makes talking difficult.
However, fasting should not impair his strength in a race that should only take half a dozen seconds over two minutes to run.
If there is to be a surprise it must surely come from Roger Charlton's Time Test, which he trains for the race sponsor, Khalid Abdullah. He is, however, no social runner.
The colt was just about the most impressive winner at Royal Ascot this year winning the Tercentenary, a Group Three, in a very smart time.
It must be said, however, that his two closest rivals that day - Peacock and Mustadeem, - have hardly advertised the form. One has not run and the other has finished plum last on both subsequent starts.
Charlton is under no illusions about the task facing his lightly-raced colt by Dubawi.
"He could run a stonker and finish third, beaten two lengths," he admitted. "He is in great shape, he has a great turn of foot and I was under no pressure from the owner to run here, I wanted to run here, but we are the underdog." (© Daily Telegraph, London)