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Postponed in top shape for Juddmonte International test

15 Aug 2016

Roger Varian says his stable star is over respiratory issue and is not worried by him dropping in trip

Postponed and Andrea Atzeni winning The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup

Postponed will seek to extend his winning sequence to six at York on Wednesday. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Roger Varian is confident that Postponed is back in peak condition and has no qualms about his stable star dropping in distance for the Juddmonte International Stakes at York on Wednesday.

The near £1 million Group One showpiece forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series and the final field of 13 includes five other horses who have won at least once at the highest level.

Postponed confirmed his status as one of the world’s leading middle-distance performers with a superb four-and-a-half-length defeat of Found in the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom in June but had to miss his defence of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last month after being laid low by a respiratory infection just four days beforehand.

A number of Varian’s string remain affected by the condition and as a consequence he has had only ten runners this month (last year he had 68 in August) but he says Postponed has suffered no lasting effects.

“Half the battle is recognising it and not doing too much with the horses if they are slightly under the weather,” Varian said. “We’ve been cautious with what we have run but we managed to get a nice winner at Doncaster on Saturday and hopefully we are close to hitting form again.

“It’s challenging but hopefully Postponed can give us a boost. He’s been training well over the last few weeks, looks great and seems right back to himself.

“Horses are no different to people in that one person might take longer to get over an illness than another living next door. Postponed is a big five-year-old with a good constitution and he looks to have recovered quicker than some.

“He’s in his prime and one of the best around. It was disappointing to miss the King George but by no means the end of the world and we are looking forward to running him in the Juddmonte International.”

Postponed’s winning sequence of five wins stretches back more than a year but those victories have all been achieved over a mile and a half and his four previous runs over the International trip of a mile and a quarter have all ended in defeat.

Asked if Postponed running over a shorter distance gave him any concerns, Varian said: “It doesn’t really. This year he has travelled very strongly in his races and, most importantly, Andrea [Atzeni], who gets a number one feel of the horse, thinks he will handle himself down in trip very comfortably.

“Also, the majority of the horses in the field have perhaps shown their best level of form at a mile and a half, so he is not the only one with it to prove at a mile and a quarter.”

He added: “We wanted to try and win a Group 1 over ten furlongs with him and York was always top of the list. The Eclipse [run at Sandown on July 2] would have come a bit close to the King George, so the Juddmonte was always the ten-furlong race we were keen to have a go in.”

Postponed, who seems bound to start a short-priced favourite, will have the assistance of a pacemaker in King Bolette, who is in the same ownership and is also trained by Varian.

The betting suggests the highly progressive Hawkbill, who extended his winning sequence to six with victory in last month’s Coral-Eclipse, and globetrotting Highland Reel, who made all in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes when he had Wings Of Desire and stablemate Sir Isaac Newton behind, will pose Postponed the most problems.

However, there is plenty of depth with three other Group 1 winners also being declared.

The Grey Gatsby, winner of the 2014 French Derby, has gone almost two years since his last victory, in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, but he has run a string of excellent races in the interim and will be looking to make it third time lucky in the International, having finished second and third in the past two renewals.

My Dream Boat landed the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and might still have been feeling the effects of that battle when only fifth behind Hawkbill in the Coral-Eclipse last time.

France will be represented by Dariyan, who won the Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud this year and is trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre.

Mutakayyef will be contesting his first Group 1 but the manner in which he quickened clear of Dutch Connection in the Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile at Ascot last time suggests he is well worth his place in the line-up.

Sir Michael Stoute has trained a record-equalling five International winners and will attempt to add to his tally with Exosphere, who will carry the Juddmonte colours last carried to victory in the race by Frankel in 2012, and Arab Spring, who returned from 14 months off with an encouraging effort at Haydock this month.

The field is completed by the Almodovar, who was far from disgraced when third behind Dartmouth and Highland Reel on first venture into pattern company in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

CLASH OF THE BIG EARNERS

The Juddmonte International on Wednesday features three of Europe’s highest-earning horses in training. Between them, Postponed, Highland Reel and The Grey Gatsby have won their connections almost £9 million.

Postponed £3,815,434

The Grey Gatsby £2,661,424

Highland Reel £2,421,436