Kingston Hill looks a Great bet
Simon Holt previews the first day of York's Ebor Festival and fancies Kingston Hill to win the Great Voltigeur.
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The first day of York's Ebor Festival will stage a clinical test of the quality of this year's three-year-old middle distance crop with both Australia and Kingston Hill, first and second in the Epsom Derby, set to start short-priced favourites.
At Epsom, the two colts had the race to themselves throughout the final two furlongs but, while Australia went onto land the odds convincingly enough in the Irish Derby and Kingston Hill got too far back before staying on well behind Mukhadram in the Eclipse, the form of the Derby also-rans looks shaky to say the least with only sixth-placed Western Hymn (beaten in France last weekend) producing any performance of note.
Australia should have no problem with the drop back to a mile-and-a-quarter in the Juddmonte International, especially given that he was a close third over a mile in the 2000 Guineas earlier in the season and it will be a shock to many if he is beaten.
An unsettled weather forecast for York caused his connections some concern and the news that Joseph O'Brien will retain the ride comes as a surprise given that 8st12lb is several pounds below his best - and strongest - riding weight. Moreover, trainer Aidan O'Brien is worried the Galileo colt could be fitter after a seven-week absence.
However, if Australia is as good as he looks, and as good as Ballydoyle think he is, then he must be hard to beat in receipt of the weight-for-age concession from his older rivals even if odds of 4/7 make little appeal.
Any flaws could be exposed by Mukhadram who returns to arguably his best trip (he was a course and distance winner last season) after finishing a fine third behind the impressive Taghrooda in the King George on his first attempt over a mile-and-a-half at Ascot last time when the Derby third Romsdal could finish only seventh.
On that form, there is nothing between the selection and runner-up Telescope (just a short head between them) and they probably faced an impossible task in trying to concede a 15lb weight-for-age and sex allowance to an exceptional filly.
But Mukhadram, earlier successful in the Eclipse and second in the Dubai World Cup, is in tremendous form and could well turn the tables on Telescope, successful in the 12-furlong Great Voltigeur on this card last season, over this trip.
A strongly-run race looks assured with Australia's stable-companion Kingfisher (who made the running for him at The Curragh) again in the line-up and he could also give Paul Hanagan and Mukhadram a decent lead while for Telescope, whose best form has definitely come at 12 furlongs, a strong gallop will also be desirable and Ryan Moore is also likely to sit handy.
There is little between The Grey Gatsby and Arod who finished first and second here in the Dante Stakes in May and both advanced their credentials subsequently with the winner going onto land the French Derby and Arod finishing fourth behind Australia at Epsom before landing a minor event at Leicester. But it's likely they need to find more to play a hand in the finish here.
Earlier, everything looks right for KINGSTON HILL in the Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes as conditions ought not to be too quick for him and he looked much more at home over a mile and a half at Epsom than over ten furlongs on fast ground in the Eclipse subsequently.
Again, he is likely to start a short-price but not as short as Australia and, racing against his own age group again and with Ryan Moore in the saddle, he must surely be hard to beat.
Should Kingston Hill disappoint, then the improving Postponed could be the one to take advantage.
Luca Cumani's charge, the mount of Kingston Hill's regular rider Andrea Atzeni (who has a retainer with this colt's owner), has got better with every start this season and was impressive when slamming Double Bluff (a good winner and up 10lb in the ratings since) by three-and-a-half lengths in an 11-furlong listed race at Hamilton last month (Odeon fourth).
Another danger could well be Hartnell who has won at Newmarket and Ascot (Marzocco third) since finishing second to the reopposing Snow Sky in the Lingfield Derby Trial back in May.
Mark Johnston's colt looks very tough and a good run here will see him heading to Doncaster for the St Leger.
Snow Sky was colty and indisciplined before scrambling home in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood (Observational sixth, Red Galileo seventh) on his latest start but that form probably represented a step forward and he too could be bound for Doncaster.
Like other trainers, Aidan O'Brien has used this race to good effect as a trial for Town Moor but his two runners here - Granddukeoftuscany, a wide margin winner of a moderate event at Tipperary, and Indian Maharaja who runs for the first time since finishing sore at Leopardstown in March, are difficult to assess and have much to prove on what they have beaten so far.
*Make sure you check out the @sportinglife twitter account at midday on Wednesday August 20 for a social media Ebor Festival-related quiz - free bets with Sky Bet are there to be won!