The Juddmonte International Stakes is one of the high points of British summer racing. Inaugurated in 1972, the race began with a dramatic bang and has lived up to its reputation for shocks and thrills and top class racing ever since.
Raced on the first day of the York Ebor Festival each August, the contest is of course Group 1 in class and takes place over 1 mile, 2 furlongs and 88 yards.
The event was devised by Major Leslie Petch, a former Clerk of the Course at York and up to and including 1985, was sponsored by Benson and Hedges and known as the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. The following two runnings were backed by the bloodstock company Matchmaker and the race’s name was changed to the Matchmaker International.
Juddmonte Farms, the bloodstock enterprise of HH Prince Khalid Abdullah, began its sponsorship of the race in 1989 and since then the race has become recognised as the Juddmonte International.
The race had an extraordinary beginning in 1972, as the first ever Benson and Hedges Gold Cup attracted a small but select field for a renewal that has never since been matched for drama. Brigadier Gerard arrived at York the pride of British racing and unbeaten in all fifteen career starts, having most recently won the Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.
Defeat was simply inconceivable for the superstar 4 year old but even so, he faced the 1972 Derby hero Roberto, trained by Dr Vincent O’Brien and ridden by the unknown Panamanian jockey Brualio Baeza. Roberto had won the Derby by the shortest of margins from Rheingold under a punishing ride from Lester Piggott. Perhaps the colt was feeling the effects of that unbelievably hard race at the Curragh as he badly disappointed in the Irish Derby. Even so, he was back in action at York along with Rheingold, with Piggott having switched to the latter, but the two adversaries were not really expected to trouble the Brigadier.
The first sensation came when the starting stalls opened and Roberto was sent straight to the front by Baeza, opening up quite a lead at a lightning fast pace. In the straight the lead remained wide margined and with two furlongs to race it became apparent that those in behind were struggling to peg back the leader – including Joe Mercer and Brigadier Gerard. Inside the final furlong Mercer put down his stick accepting the situation and Roberto galloped on to the line uncontested, shattering the course record. It was Brigadier Gerard’s only defeat in eighteen career starts.
After Moulton had won the second renewal, that superstar filly Dahlia, twice a winner of the King George at Ascot, became the first dual winner of the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. She had already completed her Ascot double before winning the first of her York races and by the end of her glittering career had also made a major mark in North America. Dahlia lived to the grand old age of 31 and truly was one of the great fillies of the 1970s.
Another vintage winner of the race in its early years was the Sir Henry Cecil colt Wollow, who had won the 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes (on the disqualification of Trepan) and Sussex Stakes, his only defeat to date coming in the Derby. At York he put in a sparkling performance to put the record straight with Trepan and that other smart French horse Crow.
There was a shock the following year (1977) as Relkino became the first big priced winner of the race, defeating the likes of Artaius, Lightning, Orange Bay and the Irish Classic winners Malacate and Sarah Siddons, not to mention the first two horses to compete in Britain from behind the Iron Curtain (in the Cold War Years) in Smuzka and Negros. Relkino had finished second in the 1976 Derby and had won the Lockinge Stakes in 1977 but after some disappointing efforts over a mile had become somewhat neglected in the market, starting at 33/1. His victory gave trainer Dick Hern small compensation for the defeat of his champion Brigadier Gerard some 5 years earlier.
Derby runner-up continued to enjoy a fine record in the race as Hawaiian Sound landed the 1978 renewal. Barry Hills’s colt had been a close second to Shirley Heights at Epsom before placing in a three-way photo to the Irish Derby and then finishing third (later promoted to second) in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes behind Ile de Bourbon. At York, the Lester Piggott ridden colt was sent into the lead early on and drew clear of his rivals to beat Gunner B and Jellaby.
Troy became the second Derby winner to follow-up in the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup with a hard fought victory in 1979. Having already won at Epsom, the Curragh and Ascot, Troy was a hot favourite to follow-up at York but came from a long way back to narrowly defeat Crimson Beau.
In 1980 it was another Derby runner-up Master Willie, who just got the better of the brilliant filly Cairn Rouge, getting up in the final few strides. A year later Beldale Flutter landed the Group 1 contest as he finally vindicated the patience and confidence that had been placed in him, having been the only colt to that point to have beaten the mighty Shergar.
In 1982 came the first of consecutive victories for the axis of Robert Sangster and jockey Pat Eddery. Golden Fleece had been the brilliant, unbeaten winner of the Epsom Derby. However injury and illness kept him off the track and he never raced again. Training close by to his father Dr Vincent O’Brien, David O’Brien had another Sangster colt that had made a big impression during 1982: Assert. The brother to 1981 French Derby winner Bikala, Assert had been the runaway winner of the French and Irish Derbies, despite having been soundly beaten by Golden Fleece at Leopardstown. Defeat to Kalaglow in the King George had been disappointing but the colt lost little in defeat and at York he was simply imperious as he trounced his rivals, despite Eddery rising with a broken thumb.
The following year York endured rain which turned the going soft and saw the withdrawal of Irish Derby winner Shareef Dancer. However Caerleon, racing in those Sangster silks for Dr Vincent O’Brien, revelled in the conditions as he made all and bravely repelled challenges all the way down the home straight, led by Hot Touch, John French and Gorytus.
The 1984 Benson and Hedges Gold Cup was a vintage renewal with horses like Tolomeo, Chief Singer, Morcon, Raft and Sadlers Wells in the field of nine. But it was the brilliant 4 year old filly Cormorant Wood, who had won the 1983 Champion Stakes, who under a super ride from Steve Cauthen, came from the back of the pack to defeat Tolomeo, with Chief Singer the best of the 3 year olds in third place, just ahead of Sadlers Wells.
In 1985 there was another mouth-watering clash as the outstanding Oh So Sharp, winner already of the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks – and narrowly beaten in the King George, took on Triptych, Bob Back, Champion Stakes winner Palace Music and 1984 St Leger winner Commanche Run. This saw Lester Piggott at his brilliant best, dictating the pace on Commanche Run and defeating the brilliant filly he had been so disappointed to lose the ride on when splitting from the Cecil yard.
As the first two passed the post in 1985, perhaps nobody really appreciated the talent and durability of the third placed Triptych. Over the coming years she would demonstrate time and again what a magnificent race mare she was, racing against some of the greatest equines of the Post War years. By the end of her career she had amassed nine Group 1 victories and placed in another 18 Group 1 races, racing around the world and building up a huge following, much as Dahlia had a decade earlier.
In 1986 Triptych was taking on the likes of Dancing Brave and Sharastani and had run big races to finish placed in the Coronation Cup and King George. At York she took on the King George runner-up Shadari and had to settle for second place. However the following year she was back as a 5 year old and competing against the likes of Reference Point and Mtoto. Triptych had won the Coronation Cup at Epsom before finishing on the coat tails of those two outstanding colts in a memorable Coral Eclipse Stakes. She then placed once again in the King George (behind Reference Point). At York Triptych enjoyed the softening ground, quickening with real class to head Ascot Knight inside the final furlong. She would later that year land the second of her two victories in the Champion Stakes.
The following year controversy reigned as Persian Heights, the St James’s Palace Stakes winner, came from the rear of the field to finish first past the post. The 3 year old colt was clearly the best horse in the race and comfortably held the challenge of Shady Heights in second, with Indian Skimmer third. However, at the furlong pole, Persian Heights, racing down the wide outside, came across Indian Skimmer, momentarily giving the brilliant filly nowhere to race and resulting in her being snatched up. The result was that Persian Heights was disqualified and Shady Heights, beaten fair and square and not interfered with, with awarded the race. Under today’s rules it is almost with question that Persian Heights would have kept the race.
The 1989 Juddmonte International, run for the first time under its new name, produced a shock result, as Ile De Chypre, supposedly running to set the pace for Derby runner-up Cacoethes, made all under Tony Clark.
The 10 furlong contests of 1990 became the domain of that brilliant David Elsworth filly In The Groove. The Irish 1,000 Guineas winner was held up towards the back of the field and perfectly produced by Steve Cauthen to emphatically beat the Eclipse winner Elmaamul, before she later won the Champion Stakes.
In 1991 there was another shock as Terimon, the one-time 500/1 Derby runner-up, made all under Michael “Muis” Roberts to defeat another Derby winner in Quest For Fame.
The 1992 Juddmonte was a race to savour as Terimon returned to defend his crown against a select field featuring 2,000 Guineas winner Rodrigo De Triano, his stable mate, the Derby winner Dr Devious, the Group 1 winning filly All At Sea, Eclipse winner Kooyonga, Group 1 winner Seattle Rhyme, globe trotter Zoman, that smart race mare and Nassau winner Ruby Tiger and the Dante winner Alnasr Alwasheek. In a thrilling race, Rodrigo De Triano and Lester Piggott came to swoop just before the furlong pole, going into the lead from All At Sea and the early leader Alnasr Alwasheek. The front air drew clear with the Guineas winning colt landing the race quite brilliantly, the pair clear of Dr Devious. Rodrigo De Triano would later add the Champion Stakes to his English and Irish Guineas and Juddmonte successes in a fantastic season.
One of Rodrigo De Triano’s victims in 1992 had been Ezzoud, a colt who was considered to be a real character but who had been injured after running down the field in the Irish Derby. In the care of Sir Michael Stoute, Ezzoud was kept in training and deployed with a visor in his races.
In 1993, having won the Earl of Sefton Stakes, Ezzound became disappointing, being beaten in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and again at Royal Ascot and was sent off an unfancied 28/1 for the Juddmonte International. The 3 year old trio of Sabrehill, Tenby and White Muzzle were expected to dominate proceedings. Turning for home White Muzzle was apparently in control at the head of affairs but the lightly-raced Sabrehill was beginning a run and take over just outside the 2 furlong marker. As Sabrehill went clear it appeared that the race was over. However further back, Ezzoud was starting to get going under a vigorous ride from Walter Swinburn and extraordinarily he began to eat into the flashy chestnut’s lead and sprinted past him a few yards before the line. Sadly Sabrehill was injured and did not race again but the race underlined Ezzoud’s undoubted ability.
Aside from finishing second in the Champion Stakes, Ezzoud’s performances for the rest of 1993 were disappointing and he continued in that vein in the early part of 1994. The 5 year old was again beaten at the Curragh and was then narrowly beaten by Muhtarram in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, with many people unconvinced by his high head carriage. However Ezzoud then served a timely reminder of his talent as he beat two Classic winners in St Leger winner Bob’s Return and Derby winner Erhaab, to land an unlikely victory in the Eclipse Stakes.
Having unseated his rider at the start in the King George, Ezzoud hampered a number of runners in the race whilst galloping loose. He then headed back to York for another crack at the Juddmonte. Bob’s Return was back, as was Muhtarram, while Grand Lodge and King’s Theatre (the King George winner) were top class 3 year olds. Even so, the public and bookmakers had learned not to underestimate Ezzoud.
In the event Alflora and King’s Theatre set a steady early pace and that pair led the field into the home straight, with Ezzoud poised to deliver his challenge in fourth place. King’s Theatre went on at the 3 furlong pole but was chased through by Ezzoud, who in turn was tracked by Muhtarram. Ezzoud and Swinburn delivered challenge with a furlong and a half to race and beat off King’s Theatre but then had to repel the late challenge of old rival Muhtarram down the outside. All the way through the final furlong the pair battled hard, neither horse given a quarter, but it was Ezzoud who gamely held on to become the second horse to win the race twice. In doing so he put to bed all notions that he was ungenuine.
Remarkably the third horse to achieve back-to-back victories came straight along in the shape of Halling. As Ezzoud was winning his second Juddmonte, Halling was a progressive 3 year old colt in the care of John Gosden, who harboured hopes of landing a nice handicap with his colt. Eventually, Halling was a brilliant winner of the Cambridgeshire Handicap in the autumn, before travelling out to Dubai, where he switched to Godolphin.
After a break Halling showed he had developed from 3 to 4 and landed a competitive Eclipse Stakes to signal his arrival as a major middle distance colt. He was then sent to York where he had to take on some smart 3 year olds including top notch miler Bahri, Eltish and Annus Mirabilis. With about 3 furlongs to race Walter Swinburn and Halling had travelled strongly to just about dispute the lead with Needle Gun.
Having coasted into the lead, Swinburn asked the chestnut to quicken at the 2 furlong marker and he lengthened in eye catching fashion to sensationally storm clear of Bahri in a memorable, one-sided performance.
Over the coming months Halling’s reputation solidified although he disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup. The following season Halling won the Prix D’Ispahan and a second Eclipse Stakes before heading back to York.
This time Halling faced a stern test against the like of First Island, a progressive colt who had won the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes and then landed the Sussex Stakes. Also in the line-up was Irish Guineas and Champion Stakes winner Spectrum as well as the smart 3 year old Bijou D’Inde.
This time Frankie Dettori rode Halling and jumped the 5 year old off in front. The pair set a fast pace and were a couple of lengths clear of Bijou D’Inde as the runners turned into the long York home straight. With 3 furlongs to race Frankie Dettori had already taken a peep back to look at his rivals who were all poised to pounce on the target in front of them. However, Halling stretched clear again, much as he had done in 1995 and all of a sudden the rest of the field were floundering in the wake of a true 10 furlong champion who sauntered home easily clear of the top class colt in First Island.
There was a new cast for the 1997 Juddmonte, with Halling retired, his Champion Stakes conqueror Bosra Sham took star billing. However up against her was the globetrotting superstar colt Singspiel, Dual Irish Classic winner Desert King and the Epsom Derby hero Benny The Dip. It was Benny The Dip who set the tempo from Singspiel and Bosra Sham as Desert King failed to settle. The order remained unchanged into the home straight but Frankie Dettori travelled powerfully on Singspiel and eased upside Benny The Dip just before the 3 furlong marker, before moving into the lead. Benny The Dip fought on, but he, Bosra Sham and Desert King were all under pressure as Singspiel kept up the tempo, never really threatened.
In 1998 a number of the established older superstar Group 1 winners like Singspiel, Pilsudski and Bosra Sham had been retired. Afilly making her mark was the lightly raced One So Wonderful, who had maintained her unbeaten record for Luca Cumani with victory in the 1997 Sun Chariot Stakes. The following year, that record went with a disappointing effort and signs of temperament, in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park, won by Insatiable. She duly won a small contest at Chepstow and was sent to York, where she got the better of a thrilling three-way photo finish to deny Faithful Son and Chester House.
The 1999 Flat season was lit up by the arrival of crack American jockey Gary Stevens, who rode for Sir Michael Stoute for several months. Following the split between Kieren Fallon and Sir Henry Cecil, Stevens inherited the ride on Cecil’s giant 4 year old colt Royal Anthem, a horse he had ridden in North America the previous year.
Defeats in the Coronation Cup and Hardwicke Stakes were fine efforts but a shade disappointing for a colt that looked sure to develop with time. At York Stevens gave the colt a most positive ride, racing prominently behind the pace setting Central Park and Saffron Walden, before Seizing the initiative in eye catching fashion with 6 furlongs to race. This was a daring move by Stevens, who rushed Royal Anthem up past the leaders on the wide outside, dwarfing his rivals and racing powerfully with his ears pricked.
Any hopes that his rivals might have harboured that the move was too early, were quickly dispelled as that giant stride ate up the ground down the long, galloping York straight. Royal Anthem started to lengthen his stride with about 2 ½ furlongs to race and Greek Dance and Chester House were simply unable to match him. By the furlong pole their fate was sealed as Royal Anthem and Stevens continued to pour it on, lengthening 8 lengths clear for a brilliant victory.
The 2000 renewal could not have been more contrasting. It featured round two of a memorable duel between Royal Ascot scorer Kalanisi and Ireland’s “Iron Horse” Giant’s Causeway. The pair had in fact both won at the Royal meeting, where Giant’s Causeway had won the St James’s Palace Stakes. They met in a memorable Coral Eclipse Stakes over 10 furlongs in early July, fighting out a thrilling battle and drawing clear of subsequent Arc winner Sakhee. The Eclipse Stakes turned into an all-out war with neither colt prepared to relent and the pair flashed past the post together, with Giant’s Causeway gaining the day by the narrowest of margins from Kalanisi.
Several weeks later they were back in competition at York and turning for home Shoal Creek, the pacemaker for Giant’s Causeway, led his stable companion to the 4 furlong marker, offering a big gap down the inside rail for Michael Kinane. At the 3 furlong marker Giant’s Causeway went on but Kalanisi and Pat Eddrey had the move covered and loomed large down the outside.
As the crowd began to roar, anticipating the ensuing rematch, Kalanisi joined issue at the quarter mile pole, although racing wide. Heading to the furlong pole the pair were separated only by the width of the track but were head for head but inside the final furlong it seemed as though Kalanisi had slightly more momentum although he drifted into the inside towards Giant’s Causeway. However Giant’s Causeway, Aidan O’Brien’s magnificent 3 year old, was the last horse in the world to shirk a fight and battled his way back in front, with the pair taking turns to bob their heads into the lead with each stride. At the line Giant’s Causeway was the one who had his head in front in another thrilling contest.
Sakhee had been injured in the Eclipse Stakes of 2000, perhaps robbing the racing public of an even greater contest. He was back on the track in 2001 and in the Juddmonte took on the likes of Eclipse winner Medicean, unbeaten in all three starts that season, as well as Black Minnaloushe, the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner. However this turned into a one-horse affair pretty quickly. Sakhee took up the running fully half a mile out and proceeded to gallop his rivals into the ground, winning by 7 lengths. Later in the season he would repeat his demolition job in the Arc de Triomphe.
In 2002 the Juddmonte saw another rematch as Golan and Nayef locked horns. Golan had been a brilliant winner of the previous year’s 2,000 Guineas before chasing home Galileo in the Derby. Nayef had taken time to come to hand as a 3 year old but won the Champion Stakes as he hit form in the autumn of 2001. At Ascot Golan was back to his very best as he beat Nayef by a head, having taken over the lead just a few yards from the finish. Both colts were dropped in distance for the Juddmonte, where the chief challenge to the pair appeared to come from Noverre, a colt who had won the Sussex Stakes the previous year and ran well behind Rock Of Gibraltar in the latest renewal of that race. Given a positive ride by Richard Hills, Nayef was disputing the lead with 4 furlongs to race, while Golan was already being niggled. With 2 furlongs to race Nayef led from the hard at work Kieren Fallon and Golan but the latter was closing and Hills now resorted to the whip. The pair battled throughout the final quarter of a mile with Nayef maintaining a narrow advantage and Golan never losing ground but never quite closing any further and they flashed past the post with Nayef gaining the victory.
By 2003 Golan had retired and Nayef faced a new rival in the shape of ex-Italian racehorse Falbrav. Now trained by Luca Cumani, Falbrav signalled his potency as he defeated Nayef in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, before fading into fifth place in the King George behind Alamshar. At York, Darryl Holland settled Falbrav just behind Nayef as the pacemaker Izdiham blazed a trail. Turning for home, Nayef was poised to take over the lead and had first run on his rival, going on with 3 furlongs to race as Mingun issued his challenge. However, Holland produced Falbrav just before the quarter mile pole and his turn of foot quickly took him past the under pressure Nayef and he surged clear most impressively.
In 2004 the race went back to Godolphin as the 5 year old Sulamani returned to his best form to beat Norse Dancer and subsequent Arc winner Bago. Sulamani had previously been trained in France and the international theme was continued the following year as the Italian colt Electrocutionist – also soon to join Godolphin, beat the Japanese runner Zenno Rob Roy by a neck, with a head back to the third Maraahel.
The following year Maraahel was again narrowly defeated as Notnowcato gave Ryan Moore his first ever Group 1 victory in a field that also contained Irish Derby winner Dylan Thomas. The chestnut colt would win the Eclipse Stakes the following year under an inspired ride by Moore and in August 2007, returned to York to take on the Derby winner Authorized (whom he had beaten at Sandown Park) and an improved Dylan Thomas, who had won the King George at Ascot. In the race however Authorized made no mistake as he brilliantly despatched Dylan Thomas, with Notnowcato a well beaten third ahead of a future star in Duke Of Marmalade.
York’s worst nightmare unfolded in 2008 as the heavens were unrelenting and water logging caused the Juddmonte International Stakes to be rescheduled for Newmarket, later in the month. A quality line-up assembled on the July Course but controversy ensued as Aidan O’Brien’s Duke Of Marmalde defeated Phoenix Tower and the Derby winner New Approach. However, the trainer was fined after a BHA hearing had accused him of deploying “team tactics” which saw the pace setting Red Rock Canyon give was for his fancied stable mate. Duke Of Marmalade was clearly the best horse in the race however and added the Juddmonte to his earlier King George victory during a glittering season.
The Juddmonte International Stakes has often attracted superstars since Brigadier Gerard’s name gave the race instant recognition. In 2009 the mighty Sea The Stars added thousands to the crowd. Equine perfection in so many ways, John Oxx’s colt had won the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and Eclipse Stakes in an unbeaten 3 year old campaign and faced an old rival in Mastercraftsman at York. Stepping up to 10 furlongs for the first time, Mastercraftsman was the strongest fancy of 3 Aidan O’Brien runners in a field of just 4 and the grey colt set sail for home with 2 ½ furlongs to race. However, Sea The Stars and Michael Kinane travelled smoothly through the race as he had done in all of his victories and as his jockey asked him to quicken, the Champion made up ground to join his foe and pass him comfortably before the line. Sea The Stars proved an outstanding champion and defeated Mastercraftsman again in the Irish Champion Stakes before famously winning the Arc to seal a glorious career.
Perhaps the hardest race Sea The Stars had was in the 2009 Eclipse Stakes, where Aidan O’Brien’s Rip Van Winkle had made him work hard for victory. That outstanding colt later won a Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth IInd Stakes and was still around in 2010. In the Sussex Stakes Rip Van Winkle was denied back to back victories but the exciting 3 year old colt Canford Cliffs and O’Brien then stepped his 4 year old back up to 10 furlongs for the Juddmonte International.
At this point Prince Khalid Abdullah had still not owned the winner of the race he sponsored but he appeared to have strong hopes through his pair of colts Twice Over (the Champion Stakes winner) and Byword, a winner at Royal Ascot. The crack 3 year old Dick Turpin was another recent Group 1 winner who was stepping up in trip.
As the field raced down the centre of the track it appeared as though the Prince might enjoy a one-two as his two colts went into the lead and fought out a thrilling contest, a couple of lengths ahead of the staying on Rip Van Winkle. But the O’Brien colt started to make significant ground inside the final half a furlong and passed Twice Over just as that colt had got the upper hand on Byword. It was a well deserved victory for Rip Van Winkle, a colt who had been overshadowed by the exploits of Sea The Stars the previous year.
Twice Over was a popular and regular competitor in these 10 furlong Group 1 contests and had seemed to signpost the renaissance of Sir Henry Cecil’s Warren Place yard. In 2010 Twice Over had finished a close second to Rip Van Winkle in the Juddmonte before winning his second Champion Stakes at Newmarket on a memorable afternoon that also saw the stable’s latest star Frankel win the Dewhurst Stakes.
At the age of 6, Twice Over was back again for the 2011 Flat season but after winning at Meydan in the spring, had disappointed in the Lockinge Stakes and again at Royal Ascot, a track he never seemed at ease on. In late July Cecil sent him to York where he landed the Group 2 Skybet York Stakes and that set his veteran up for another tilt at the Juddmonte International. There were only five runners and the main dangers appeared to come from Aidan O’Brien’s progressive Await The Dawn and Twice Over’s illustrious stable companion the brilliant race mare Midday. The mare also ran in the Abdullah silks and had just won her third Group 1 Nassau Stakes, to add to a famous Breeders’ Cup triumph in 2009, a Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille in 2010. She was the latest in a long line of outstanding Group 1 race mares who competed for several years and she was worthy of mentioning in the same breath as some of those great forerunners likes Dahlia and Triptych and Indian Skimmer.
With 2 furlongs to race Await The Dawn was joined on either flank by Midday and Twice Over and the Irish colt sadly found little, returning home a very sick horse. In the meantime Midday had opened up a lead of a couple of lengths but tenaciously Twice Over stuck to his task and galloping down the centre of the track began to wear down the mare. At the line Twice Over had ¾ of a length to spare as Sir Henry Cecil landed a one-two, Price Khalid Abdullah finally won his own race and Ian Mongan recorded his first ever Group 1 victory. Twice Over raced on without further success but retired in 2012 the winner of two Champion Stakes, A Juddmonte International and an Eclipse Stakes and was duly sent to stud in South Africa.
As spectacular as Sir Henry Cecil’s first and second had been in the 2011 Juddmonte International, these events were hugely overshadowed by the emergence of Frankel. The outstanding two year old had developed into the most extraordinary talent, obliterating his rivals in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas with an astonishing performance from the front. He remained unbeaten throughout his 3 year old career which he capped with victories in the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth IInd Stakes – although he had remained at a mile.
The racing world was delighted to learn that Prince Khalid intended to keep Frankel in training for 4 year old campaign and having overcome an injury scare in the spring, the colt brilliantly defeated his old rival Excelebration in the Lockinge Stakes before routing that horse by 11 lengths in the Queen Anne Stakes. He then became the first horse to win two Sussex Stakes with a facile victory over Farhh, a top class colt who had finished just ½ a length second to Nathaniel in the Eclipse Stakes. Excelebration meanwhile had been winning Group 1 races where Frankel did not turn up, underlining the strength of Frankel’s form and his sheer dominance.
Next up however, came unchartered territory. Sir Henry Cecil and the team at Warren Place had been at pains to get Frankel to settle in his races and this task had been beautifully executed as seen in Frankel’s performances as a later 3 year old and during his 4 year old campaign. The deployment of his half brother Bullet Train as a pacesetter had helped and Tom Queally was able to switch Frankel off before stoking perhaps the strongest engine in any racehorse.
But that theory of relaxation, was to be tested over 10 furlongs now in the 2012 Juddmonte International Stakes against proven performers of the calibre of Farhh, St Nicholas Abbey and Twice Over.
Frankel was settled by Queally at the back of the field and the runners left the gates and Robin Hood and Windsor Palace, the two pace makers for St Nicholas Abbey, went on from Bullet Train. These three were tracked by St Nicholas Abbey in a perfect position and then came Farhh.
Robin Hood led the field into the home straight and the runners veered across towards the stands rails.
With 3 furlongs to race the pace makers gave way and St Nicholas Abbey came to the front very much on the bridle, while Farhh loomed large towards the centre of the track. However, a glance to St Nicholas Abbey’s right showed Frankel lobbing along as if in half work as he smoothly moved up to the O’Brien colt’s flanks without any effort.
But now the question was one of stamina. As the field hit the 2 furlong marker Frankel had eased into the lead as if his rivals were second rate and St Nicholas Abbey was under strong pressure now along with Farhh, whilst Queally had not moved a muscle on Frankel.
Visually what happened next was extraordinary as Frankel extended his lead without seemingly making any effort, while his top class rivals were hard at work and losing ground. It was a vision of equine beauty and a ruthless demonstration of sheer unadulterated class. Frankel drew further and further clear with absolute disdain for his rivals and the extra quarter of a mile. In behind there was a terrific scrap for second place which Farhh won by the shortest of margins.
However Frankel had delivered where Brigadier Gerard had fallen short and set a very, very high standard. It was an emotional and memorable scene as Frankel and Queally returned to the Winners’ Enclosure with the Prince, delighted to again win his own race and Sir Henry Cecil, looking gaunt but highly satisfied by his colt’s imperious display.
This was a fourth victory in the race for Sir Henry who would so sadly lose his life 10 months later but must have dearly treasured this magical afternoon. It was a performance that left race goers walking tall. And so soon after Sea The Stars’ had been so magnificent.
There would be one more victory for Frankel as he ended his 14 race career with victory over Cirrus Des Aigles in the Champion Stakes, ensuring he went to stud unbeaten.
The 2013 renewal had an impossible act to follow but saw a classy renewal in which the Irish Derby winner Trading Leather bid to make all against Eclipse Stakes winner Al Kazeem, Sussex Stakes winner Toronado and Aidan O’Brien’s smart 4 year old Declaration Of War. In the home straight Jim Bolger’s 3 year old still led but was challenged by the multiple Group 1 winner Al Kazeem at the 2 furlong pole. In the meantime Declaration Of War had begun his run to their outside and he went on as Trading Leather battled back next to the rails and Al Kazeem fought on. In a thrilling finish it was Declaration Of War who had enough momentum and kept up his gallop to beat Trading Leather with Al Kazeem a close third. Declaration Of War would later run a mighty race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing ¼ of a length third to Mucho Macho Man.
In 2014 the cream once again rose to the top as the Derby winner Australia put up arguably his finest racecourse performance to comfortably beat the Prix du Jockey Club winner The Grey Gatsby, with the smart older horses Telescope and Mukhadram well beaten.
Australia’s victory was just the fourth 3 year old success since the turn of the century as he joined Derby winners Authorized and Sea The Stars and the outstanding Giant’s Causeway. In fact, Australia was just the sixth 3 year old winner since 1990. That underlines the challenge facing 3 year olds and it invariably takes an exceptional one to win this prestigious prize.
A year later and another Derby winner took his chance, but Golden Horn’s unbeaten record came to an end on the Knavesmire. Under a canny ride from future Champion Jockey Silvestre De Sousa and on rain-softened ground, the relatively unconsidered 3 year old filly Arabian Queen held off the late challenge of Golden Horn to cause an upset.
In 2016 the older horses came to the fore, with the outstanding Postponed returning to action after illness. In a vintage renewal, the leading horse on turf beat the recent King George winner Highland Reel in another York thriller.
A year later, saw a fascinating continuation of the rivalry between the three year old colts Churchill and Barney Roy.
The former, trained by Aidan O’Brien, had landed the Qipco 2,000 Guineas (beating Barney Roy) and the Irish 2,000 Guineas, before Barney Roy turned the tables in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Barney Roy, had then stepped up in trip in the Eclipse Stakes, finishing a close second to the four year old Ulysses.
With a furlong and a half to run at York, the race appeared to lie between the front pair of three year olds.
However, Ulysses and Jim Crowley began a powerful run down the outside to collar the pair in brilliant style, with Churchill just beating Barney Roy for second place.
Ulysses had finished second behind Enable in the King George in his previous race – and would fill the same position with a superb effort in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The success of Ulysses, gave his trainer Sir Michael Stoute, the stand alone best record in the Juddmonte International Stakes – it was his sixth victory.
In 2018 the race went to the three year-old Roaring Lion.
The John Gosden trained grey, had taken time to come to hand in the spring, but after running third in the Derby, he embarked on a magnificent summer.
Roaring Lion landed the Coral Eclipse Stakes from his old rival, 2,000 Guineas winner, Saxon Warrior.
The pair clashed again in the Juddmonte International Stakes, but on this day, the Lion roared emphatically, drawing away in the final furlong for a brilliant victory.
The King George winner Poet’s Word stayed on for second, ahead of Thundering Blue and Saxon Warrior.
Roaring Lion would narrowly defeat Saxon Warrior in the Irish Champion Stakes, before adding the QEII Stakes over a mile at Ascot.
The Juddmonte International remains a core component to defining the champion 10 furlong horse each season in Europe. It is a race that has set the bar in excellence and every one of its winners is assured a place at stud but more importantly a slice of history.
Winners of the Juddmonte International Stakes:
|1988||Shady Heights [a]||4|
|1989||Ile de Chypre||4|
|1990||In the Groove||3|
|1992||Rodrigo de Triano||3|
|1998||One So Wonderful||4|
|2008||Duke of Marmalade [b]||4|
|2009||Sea the Stars||3|
|2010||Rip Van Winkle||4|
|2013||Declaration of War||4|