Hot Harb is one to beat
Revenge may indeed be a dish best served cold but, even so, the International Stakes at York is shaping up as hot stuff.
Harbinger — who emerged as one of the season's superstars with his 11-length romp in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last month — will put his new-found reputation to the test on the Knavesmire, ground allowing.
Two of his chief rivals will be Byword and Twice Over, who carry the Khaled Abdullah colours of Derby hero Workforce, highest-profile among those vanquished at Ascot.
Byword and Twice Over are not only top-level winners in their own rights but are also specialists over the 10-furlong distance, whereas Harbinger has been competing this year over a minimum of a mile-and-a-half. In the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot four-year-old Byword, trained in France by Andre Fabre, came out half-a-length in front of five-year-old Twice Over, who then landed the Eclipse Stakes.
“Both are intended runners at York,” Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe confirmed yesterday. “They are top-notch horses and we'd hope they could be good enough to beat Harbinger. We would not be running in the race if we did not think that was a possibility.”
Kudos apart, the Saudi Arabian prince will be keen to make Tuesday week's prize his seventh Group 1 of the season, given it is sponsored by his Juddmonte breeding operation. Of his two contenders, the younger Byword is the higher-rated.
“I think he will have — and will need to have — improvement in him,” Grimthorpe added.
Meanwhile, a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing into whether trainer Aidan O'Brien breached the Rules of Racing following the running of Cape Blanco in the Dante at York in May has been adjourned.
The Ballydoyle handler was charged with encouraging or causing his employee Pat Keating to refuse to comply with two instructions given by the stewards following the colt's victory over subsequent Derby winner Workforce.