It must be going on 25 years since I was seduced into taking a piece of an English racehorse by Wolf Power's irresistible owner, Denham Rodwell. While Hot Touch would taste Group race glory in the Clairwood Gold Vase for us, his biggest moment was undoubtedly celebrated in one of the greatest duals ever witnessed up the torturous 1000 meters of the York straight. The race was the International Stakes and Hot Touch's bob-of-the-head conqueror was the eventual European champion sire, Caerleon, whose legacy to the bloodstock world rested on his mantle as the best stallion son of one of the sport's immortals, Nijinsky.
Rated the best race in the world by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities for the past three years, this afternoon's International Stakes has drawn one of the strongest fields in its distinguished history. For the first time since Golan lined up in the 2001 Irish Derby (Gr.1) against Galileo, the 2000 Guineas (Gr.1) and Derby (Gr.1) winners are set to meet following their respective victories, with Gleneagles (Galileo) due to take on Golden Horn (Cape Horn) for the first time. Of one thing we can be sure: there's no doubting the class of the two foes. The only questions to be settled are, is Gleneagles as good at ten furlongs as he is at 8, and is Golden Horn as effective at ten as he was at twelve? We'll know in a few hours from now.
There has been a touch of class about the way in which both colts have gone about their business in 2015, with Gleneagles proving much the best of their generation over a mile, in going on to take out the Irish 2000 Guineas (Gr.1) and St James Palace Stakes (Gr.1) since his first Classic success. Golden Horn, meanwhile, was peerless in the Derby in June and has since maintained his unbeaten record with a commanding score against his elders in the Eclipse Stakes (Gr.1) at Sandown last month. The Grey Gatsby (Mastercraftsman) was second to John Gosden's stable star that day, after his runner-up effort in the Prince Of Wales Stakes, and the dual Group One-winning four year old sets the standard for the older horses.
As if further intrigue was needed, also among the eight declared runners yesterday was the lightly raced three year old Time Test (Dubawi), who impressed when last seen taking out the Tercentenary Stakes (Gr.3) at Royal Ascot in June. The Cox Plate (Gr.1) nominee Cougar Mountain (Fastnet Rock), also features for trainer Aidan O' Brien following his Desmond Stakes (Gr.3) victory last week, while the Group Two winners Arabian Queen (Dubawi), third behind the excellent Legatissimo (Danehill Dancer) in the Nassau Stakes (Gr.1) most recently, is the only filly in the line up. Dick Doughtywylie (Oasis Dream) completes the field, supplemented by John Gosden as a pacemaker for Golden Horn.
The former David Payne-trained Australian entry, Criterion takes his place, following a 2 month break after Royal Ascot, where he finished sixth in the Prince Of Wales Stakes (Gr.1). Criterion's preparation continues to be overseen by David Hayes' son Ben, at John Gosden's yard, where he is a pupil assistant, and says Criterion has thrived in recent weeks "He's really well, he looks fantastic, and he's down to his racing weight of 509 kgs now, so he's ready to go". Hayes is realistic about Criterion's chances in the race, with Golden Horn ranked behind only American Pharoah (Pioneer Of The Nile) in the most recently updated World's Best Racehorse Rankings, and says a top three finish would rate as an excellent performance.
No racing fan can afford to sit by this afternoon; this could be one for the ages.
Golden Horn, Giants Castle Mountain, Gleneagles