York: Midday to face the boys
The country's best mare, Midday, is to take on the boys in next week's International at York rather than go for the softer option of a Yorkshire Oaks double against her own sex the following day.
Both she and her Sir Henry Cecil stablemate Twice Over will contest the 10-furlong feature, giving their owner Khalid Abdullah two chances of a first victory in the Group One prize, sponsored by his Juddmonte bloodstock brand for the past 22 years.
The bold plan was revealed after Midday sparkled in her work alongside fellow top-level winner Timepiece on the Newmarket gallops yesterday morning.
She and Twice Over exercised on the watered strip alongside the Rowley Mile racecourse, the mare under Shane Fetherstonhaugh, her regular rider at home, and Twice Over ridden by Ian Mongan, who will partner him at York next Wednesday.
“Midday will be left in the Yorkshire Oaks,” said Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe after the session, “but she is an intended runner in the Juddmonte. The plan is to run her and Twice Over. She won the Yorkshire Oaks last year and it's a wonderful race but obviously to win the Juddmonte would be important for us.”
The daughter of Oasis Dream has won six of her 12 outings in Group or Grade One company, most recently when she took an unprecedented third Nassau Stakes at Goodwood 11 days ago.
On her only try against colts at that level, in the Coronation Cup in June, she beat all bar St Nicholas Abbey.
Twice Over, winner of three Group Ones, produced one of his best performances as runner-up in last year's International, when he and his fellow Abdullah colour-bearer Byword were edged out by Rip Van Winkle, and returned to winning form in a lesser contest on the Knavesmire last month.
The initial entry of 20 is not due to undergo its first pruning until tomorrow, when the opening betting market will be formed, but one bookmaker, Paddy Power, indicated that Midday would be second choice behind the Ballydoyle raider Await The Dawn.
In the Yorkshire Oaks, Cecil will rely on the upwardly-mobile Vita Nova as he goes for a fifth success in the 12-furlong race, the second of the meeting's Group One events. The Galileo four-year-old would almost certainly have won the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock had not her saddle slipped sideways, forcing Tom Queally to ride the final furlong without irons.
“With a little cut in the ground she could run very well next week,” said Cecil.