Postponed seeks to expand resume in Juddmonte International

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

August 15th, 2016

Postponed, a world-class performer over 1 1/2 miles, would add to his considerable reputation if he successfully shortens up to about 1 5/16 miles in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International (G1). The marquee attraction on opening day of York’s Ebor Festival, the Juddmonte is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). And unlike some international races on the Breeders’ Cup Challenge list, it figures to surface serious prospects for Santa Anita.

Trainer Roger Varian has already mentioned Postponed as a 2016 Breeders’ Cup candidate. The son of Dubawi entertained last year’s Turf, only to skip Keeneland due to a dirty scope. More recently, he missed his title defense in the July 23 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) with a respiratory infection.

On the racecourse, however, Postponed has been unstoppable in five straight, dating back to last summer. He kicked off his five-year-old campaign in March with brilliant wins in the Dubai City of Gold (G2) and Sheema Classic (G1). In his British return in the June 4 Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom, he extended his streak with a 4 1/2-length drubbing of reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf queen Found.

Varian believes that Postponed is ready to expand his portfolio in the Juddmonte, and he’s enlisted the help of a pacemaker in King Bolete (who adds blinkers to concentrate his mind on the job). Given Postponed’s improvement over the past year, he may well establish his trip versatility. But earlier in his career, he shaped as if needing 1 1/2 miles. For original trainer Luca Cumani, he placed third in the 1 1/4-mile Tercentenary (G3) as a sophomore at Royal Ascot, and later jumped up to dominate the 1 1/2-mile Great Voltigeur (G2) here at York in 2014. A similar pattern held at the beginning of 2015, when he placed in the Gordon Richards (G3) and Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) in the vicinity of this trip. Postponed turned the corner with his hard-fought success in the 1 1/2-mile King George, added the Prix Foy (G2), and then suddenly switched from Cumani to Varian.

The Juddmonte has attracted a quality field befitting its status. Aidan O’Brien sends out Highland Reel, fresh off his front-running coup in the King George, and progressive Sir Isaac Newton, who reverts to his optimal trip after his King George fourth. Although Highland Reel has found his zone at 1 1/2 miles of late, recall how he demolished the 2015 Secretariat (G1) over Arlington’s 1 1/4 miles.

High-class sophomores Wings of Desire and Hawkbill, who’ve already established their credibility in tackling elders in midsummer showpieces, do so again here with the help of an eight-pound weight concession. The John Gosden-trained Wings of Desire, a fine second to Highland Reel in the King George after his fourth in the Epsom Derby (G1), returns to the course-and-distance of his career high in the Dante (G2) – where he beat Deauville. Godolphin’s Hawkbill has run up a six-race winning streak for Charlie Appleby, capped by the Eclipse (G1) over The Gurkha and Time Test.

Veteran The Grey Gatsby, who could conclude his productive career in the Breeders’ Cup, likewise excels at about 1 1/4 miles. Runner-up to Australia in the 2014 Juddmonte, The Grey Gatsby famously upended the blueblood in the Irish Champion (G1). His other major wins have come over this course and distance in the 2014 Dante and in Chantilly’s Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1) in record time. Unsuited by the soft going when fourth in his June 15 comeback in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot, the gray was a terrific second to controlling speed Big Orange in the Princess of Wales’s (G2) over further at Newmarket. Back down in trip, and at his “home” track, Gatsby promises to run up to his best for Yorkshire-based trainer Kevin Ryan. He also gets a rider change to Danny Tudhope, who just guided Mondialiste to victory in the Arlington Million (G1).

Mutakayyef, who might have gone to the Million himself, is instead staying closer to home for his Group 1 debut. An underachiever for some time, the Sheikh Hamdan runner collected a string of stakes placings, including a near-miss to Mondialiste in last August’s Strensall (G3) over this course. But since being gelded over the winter, Mutakayyef is perfect in two starts. The William Haggas charge resumed with his first stakes victory in the Ganton at York, and looked like a different animal when pulling away in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2) last out.

French raider Dariyan, third to Highland Reel and Flintshire in last December’s Hong Kong Vase (G1), was also twice beaten by Postponed in Dubai. The Aga Khan homebred was no match for Japan’s A Shin Hikari in the May 24 Prix d’Ispahan (G1) at Chantilly either. But he’s unbeaten around Saint-Cloud, where he scored a Group 1 breakthrough in the May 1 Prix Ganay (G1) at about this distance. York may be similarly congenial to the Alain de Royer-Dupre pupil.

My Dream Boat, also up the track behind A Shin Hikari, rebounded with a 16-1 upset of Found in the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot. The soft ground was no obstacle to him, as it was to his better-fancied rivals, and he’s still got something to prove at this level. His ensuing fifth to Hawkbill in the Eclipse did little to alter that perspective, but to be fair, it was tough to make up ground on the forwardly placed. Trainer Clive Cox suspected he regressed off Royal Ascot too.

Sir Michael Stoute is double-handed with Exosphere, who’s yet to follow up on his Jockey Club (G2) heroics at Newmarket back in April, and the talented but fragile Arab Spring, who makes a quick turnaround in his second start back off a 14-month layoff.

Rounding out the 13-strong field is lightly-raced class climber Almodovar, third to Dartmouth and Highland Reel in his stakes debut in the June 18 Hardwicke (G2) at Royal Ascot. Almodovar and Mutakayyef are both by Sea the Stars, who subdued Mastercraftsman (The Grey Gatsby’s sire) in the 2009 Juddmonte International.

See the Ebor Festival preview for more on the racing action, including post times for the notable events.

Postponed photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley