WEDNESDAY sees the 44threnewal and highlight of the York race meeting, the Gr1 Juddmonte International Stakes, to be run over 2,092m on the first day of the four-day Ebor Festival. The race was originally conceived by a former Clerk of the York Racecourse, Major Leslie Petchin, in 1972, but he was forced to resign following ill health and never got to see the inaugural running of the race, writes LISA BARRETT.

First sponsored by the cigarette company Benson & Hedges, and named the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, it remained so until the company ended its sponsorship in 1985. It was then named the Matchmaker International after the betting agency which took over its sponsorship until 1989, when Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Stud Farm stepped in as a sponsor, renaming it the Juddmonte International.

The inaugural race was won by Roberto, who was fresh off a victory in the Epsom Derby of the same year. The race became a battle between the two greats, Roberto and Brigadier Gerard. In the end, Roberto prevailed, handing the brave Brigadier his only defeat in 18 races.

Over the years, the race has seen many great winners, from the mares Dahlia and Triptych to the influential stallions Halling (1995 & 1996); Singspiel (1997); the “iron horse” Giant’s Causeway (2000); Sakhee & Nayeef (2001 & 2002 respectively); the outstanding Duke Of Marmalade who now stands in South Africa at Gaynor Rupert’s Drakenstein Stud in the Western Cape (2008) and Sea The Stars (2009) the hot sire and half-brother of the great Galileo.

Frankel, winning the 2012 Juddmonte.
Frankel, winning the 2012 Juddmonte.

There is one horse though whose name has become synonymous with the Juddmonte over the years, the “poster boy” and Timeform’s highest rated horse of all time – Frankel, who won the 2012 renewal.

The Juddmonte was the first race in which Frankel ran over a distance of more than a mile, and many wondered whether the extra trip would be too much for the champion colt. Starting at odds of 1/10, Frankel barely broke a sweat as he won by an easy 7 lengths over Farhh and St. Nicholas Abbey. If you look at footage of the race, you can see that jockey Tom Queally barely applied any pressure to Frankel as he took off like a rocket in the home straight.

New “boys” on the Coolmore stallion roster, Declaration of War and Australia, have also won the race in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and the Juddmonte is now considered a test of the strength and ability of a potential stallion at stud.

This year’s renewal promises to be a cracker of a race, as Postponed, the Gr1 winning son of Dubawi aims for his first Gr1 victory over a mile. Kept out of the King George Stakes with a chest infection, the Roger Varian trained colt will be looking to add to his unbeaten tally of three victories, including a brilliant run in the Coronation Cup at Royal Ascot.

Postponed will face some stiff competition from numerous other Gr1 horses in the race, including the multiple Gr1 winning son of Galileo, Highland Reel,  Irish Champion Stakes victor and perennially Group placed The Grey Gatsby, along with Coral Eclipse winner Hawkbill, who is one of two three-year-olds in this year’s race, along with John Gosden’s Wings Of Desire, and the up and coming Galileo colt, the Group placed Sir Isaac Newton.

Top trainers Sir Michael Stoute and Aidan O’ Brien each have five runners entered and there will be fierce competition between the two to better their five winners apiece in the race. Highland Reel looks like O’Brien’s best in the race, based on his run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes earlier last month. Sir Michael’s best entry looks to be Exosphere, who although only rated at 33-1, loves the harder ground forecast for the meeting tomorrow.

Although Exosphere has failed to repeat his form of his victory in the Gr2 Jockey Club Stakes, he is a horse that can never be underestimated and is somewhat of an unknown for the race. The outsider with the best chance could be the Gr1 Prince Of Wales Stakes winning colt, My Dream Boat.

Whoever the winner turns out to be, one thing you can be certain of: The race will once again live up to its hype as one of the premier mile plus races of the season, and once again a champion will be born.

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