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Rip Van Winkle winning the Juddmonte International Stakes (Gr1)
(Photo : Bleacher Report / Footage: Racing UK)
JUDDMONTE INTERNATIONAL STAKES (Gr1)
York, 17 August 2010
The drama came late in yesterday’s Juddmonte International Stakes (Gr1), with Rip Van Winkle (Ire) (Galileo) swooping on the sponsor’s pair of Twice Over (GB) (Observatory) and Byword (GB) (Peintre Celebre) in the shade of the post in a pulsating renewal of the York feature.
Sent off the 7-4 favorite on the back of a second in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes (Gr1) last time out on 28 July, Susan Magnier’s four-year-old was game in the chase as Twice Over finally got the better of Byword in the final furlong, with Johnny Murtagh delivering the knock-out blow in the final two strides. A half-length separated the first two, with 3/4 of a length back to Byword. “I love this horse,” Murtagh said. “He didn’t show his true worth in last year’s Guineas and Derby, but he showed when he won his two Group 1’s last year what a champion he was. He didn’t run his race in America, but I think he’s a great horse, and he comes through anything and always seems to pull it out when it matters.”
Rip Van Winkle was always held in the highest esteem at Ballydoyle, and the natural speed and ability he displayed from his early days on the gallops helped him garner Leopardstown’s Tyros Stakes (Gr3) and run an eye-catching race just out of the placings in the Dewhurst Stakes (Gr1) during his juvenile campaign.
As Sea the Stars (Ire) was flashing his boundless talent at Newmarket and Epsom, Rip Van Winkle was lurking behind, and it was the Tsui goliath who was again in control in their first major face-off in Sandown’s Eclipse in July. Despite fine efforts in defeat, Rip Van Winkle’s well-documented foot problems cast a lengthy shadow and arose again at the 11th hour prior to his first top-level success in the Sussex last July. He backed up that imperious performance with another Group 1 in Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in September, but was notably below-par when trailing behind Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr1) at Santa Anita in November. All reports prior to his comeback in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes (Gr1) suggested a lack of fireworks, and that was the case as he faded out of contention to be sixth there on 15 June, but in making Canford Cliffs (Ire) stretch in the latest renewal of the Sussex, he had signaled a return to the big league.
Keen at York early off the steady-building tempo, the bay eventually settled in a wide sixth and was on the heels of Byword as his rider Maxime Guyon tried to steal a march in early stretch. Rip Van Winkle seemed flat-footed as Tom Queally and Twice Over appeared a bigger threat to Byword, he needed time to find his stride, but, when the surge came, it was enough to deny the gallant runner-up a hard-earned victory. “Aidan had a plan to take it a bit slower with him this year and there are a lot of big races coming up at the end of the year, so we want to have him fresh and well,” Murtagh explained. “I probably went too fast on him at Ascot and I was very happy with him last time, but today my one worry was the pace of the race, and he overcame it. He’s such a brilliant mover and covers so much ground that over a mile you can use that to kill horses, but no horse can keep running that hard and fast all season, so it was nice to give him a little chance today. He only had to run for a furlong and a half, so I think he’ll improve again as he was still a bit rusty today. When they kick, he doesn’t have instant acceleration, but when he gets into top gear he hits the line really well and was always going to get there. I was trying to give him as easy a race as possible to win and not punish him, but he stuck his head down and battled really well.” Aidan O’Brien added, “They didn’t go very fast and we were just getting him to relax and switched off today - that was the important thing. He seems in a real good place now and on an upward curve.”
Connections are looking at a return to a mile for a repeat bid in Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr1) on 25 September, followed by a tilt at either the BC Mile or Classic, both at Churchill on 6 November.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News