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Cecil seeks sixth Series victory in Juddmonte International

15 Aug 2011

Sir Henry Cecil, who is out on his own at the top of the QIPCO British Champions Series trainers' leaderboard, is double-handed in the big highlight on the opening day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.

Sir Henry Cecil.  Image courtesy of racingfotos.com.

A select field of six runners will go to post for the £700,000 Juddmonte International Stakes at York on Wednesday, with Sir Henry Cecil responsible for two of the runners, Midday and Twice Over, and Aidan O’Brien for three – Await The Dawn, Roderic O’Connor and Windsor Palace.  

The line-up is completed by Zafisio, who will be making his seasonal debut for his new rookie trainer, Jo Hughes. 

Cecil has five winners to his name in the QIPCO British Champions Series so far, two ahead of Aidan O’Brien and Mahmood Al Zarooni, and will have high hopes of adding to his tally on Wednesday afternoon.

Midday is fresh from her third Nassau Stakes victory in a row at Goodwood last month, while Twice Over, winner of the last two runnings of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, bounced back to form over Wednesday’s course and distance in a Group 2 race last month.

Both horses are owned by Prince Khalid Abdulla, who has sponsored the International Stakes through his Juddmonte Farms breeding operation for the last 20 years, but has never seen his colours carried to success in the most valuable race of York’s season.

Aidan O’Brien will be doing his best to put a spanner in the works, however.

In Await The Dawn he has a potentially top class four-year-old who has been very impressive in lower grade races, but who will be stepping up to Group 1 level for the first time on Wednesday.  

The bookmakers have no doubts about his class, installing him as hot favourite for the race and, unlike the Cecil duo, he will relish any cut in the ground.  Currently the going is Good-to-Soft.

Roderic O’Connor is the only three-year-old in the field and is an interesting contender, having won the Irish 2000 Guineas over eight furlongs, but subsequently disappointed over 11 and 12 furlongs. 

Stepping back to 10 1/2 furlongs on Wednesday may see him recapture his form, though that may not be good enough to trouble the principals.

Windsor Palace is clearly there to help make the pace for Await The Dawn, who won impressively over 12 furlongs in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last time and so will want his stamina to be brought into play as much as possible, while Zafisio, off the track for nearly a year, looks to have a big task on his hands.

It promises to be a fascinating race – Cecil vs O’Brien; England vs Ireland; top QIPCO British Champions Series trainer vs the man in second place.

Make sure you get along to York to watch or catch the action live on Channel 4, with the big race due off at 3.40pm.

For the full Juddmonte International race page, CLICK HERE.