Juddmonte International: Postponed, Hawkbill both iffy to race after illness sweeps Newmarket

Connections of Postponed and Hawkbill are adamant that the illness that has swept Newmarket for the past three weeks no longer affects their stable stars.
Hawkbill ridden by William Buick before July's Coral Eclipse Stakes Sandown. (Racingfotos.com)
Hawkbill ridden by William Buick before July's Coral Eclipse Stakes Sandown. (Racingfotos.com)

YORK, England – You can take their trainers’ word for it ahead of Wednesday’s Group 1 International Stakes, but we will never truly know if Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s Postponed or Godolphin’s Hawkbill are ready until after the gates fly here on the Knavesmire.

Connections of Postponed and Hawkbill are adamant that the illness that has swept Newmarket for the past three weeks no longer affects their stable stars.

Postponed missed last month’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes – won by Tuesday’s rival Highland Reel – due to a respiratory infection. Since that time, Roger Varian has sent out a fraction of the usual number of runners he would have at the high point of the British turf season. Although Certificate won a modest 14-runner handicap on Saturday for Kremlin House Stables, other runners carrying Varian’s standard have not fared as well.

Much like a cold that cuts through an office, however, some horses have a better immune system than others, and Varian believes that the Dubai Sheema Classic and Coronation Cup winner is ready to register his first victory of his career over 2000 metres on what will be his fifth attempt.

“He is a colt with terrific turn of foot and a high cruising speed,” Varian said. “These attributes and the manner in which that he has been winning over a mile and a half suggest that the drop back in trip shouldn’t be a problem.

“He seems fully recovered from the setback, which ruled him out of the King George. He looks well and his work has been very pleasing.”

Hawkbill is in a similar position. Since Charlie Appleby took over in 2013 he has averaged 91 runners in the month of August. So far this month he has saddled just 16 horses for three winners, one of which, Fly At Dawn, was expected to win yesterday at Kempton and obliged under Hawkbill’s big-race partner William Buick.

Hawkbill has followed an astonishing arc of improvement in the past 12 months that was capped in style by his battling success over The Gurkha at Sandown 46 days ago. The American-bred son of Kitten’s Joy was supplemented for £30,000 on Monday and Godolphin CEO John Ferguson believes that is money well spent with a return on that investment if Hawkbill finishes fourth of better.

“It’s always been Sheikh Mohammed’s plan to run,” he said. “The great thing about it is, it’s a mile and a quarter, which we know he loves. He’s very flexible as far as ground conditions are concerned. And although he is taking on some of the best mile-and-a-quarter horses in Europe, we believe he deserves to be there.

“Charlie is very happy with him. He is a horse that’s maturing mentally all the time. They’ve done a great job with him and I think he will run well.”

Postponed faces four individual Group 1 winners now after My Dream Boat was scratched Tuesday for what is traditionally one of the world’s highest-rated races. Postponed beat Highland Reel and Dariyan at Meydan in the winter, and the Dubai Sheema Classic trio will be joined by The Grey Gatsby, who was third behind Arabian Queen last year when he was also runner-up to Solow in the Dubai Turf. He was second to English Derby winner Australia in 2014.

The International kick-starts a high-class week of racing.

Postponed is rated joint-fifth in the world alongside Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Japanese sensation Maurice, and rising Hong Kong star Werther.

Hawkbill is ranked 11th, while Highland Reel is 18th. Also running across the Knavesmire on Wednesday is Aidan O’Brien’s Idaho, who is in 24th place and is favourite up against Saeed Suhail’s Across The Stars in the Great Voltigeur Stakes.

And that is not all this week. Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome, who is second in the standings, renews rivalry with Dortmund, ranked jointly with Hawkbill and My Dream Boat, in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Saturday where last year’s winner Beholder lies in wait.

Also in America on the same day the unbeaten Songbird (24th) bids to extend her record to a perfect ten in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga .

Over in Australia, star mare Winx, who is considered the third best horse in the world, will have her first start since April in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes.

The week was supposed to be bookended by the juvenile match-up between Royal Ascot winners Lady Aurelia and Caravaggio in the Prix Morny at Deauville on Sunday but O’Brien got cold feet yesterday and is targeting Dubai Future Champions Day at Newmarket in September.

“It looks like he’s going to the Middle Park,” the Irish trainer said of Caravaggio.

“It looks like that’s going to be the plan, without anything being written in stone, at the moment.”

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Published: August 16, 2016 04:00 AM

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