Juddmonte International Stakes | Group 1 | 1m2½f | 3yo+ | ITV
The senior brigade have bossed the Classic generation seven times in the past decade in the feature race on York's opening day and Sir Michael Stoute's dual Group 1 winner Poet's Word is out to extend the sequence.
There are not that many King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winners who have pitched up at York just less than a month later and you have to go back to Duke Of Marmalade in 2008 to find a runner who did the double.
Whether it's a mile and a half or a mile and a quarter it all comes alike to Poet's Word, whose exploits this summer have paid a timely tribute to his sire Poet's Voice, who sadly died in the spring aged just 11.
The often used phrase about Sir Michael Stoute and his typical late improvers could have been written for the five-year-old who is now the second highest rated horse in the world behind Winx.
Poet's Word winning the Prince of Wales's Stakes, photo Liesl King
After registering his all-important first Group 1 win in the Prince of Wales's Stakes when lowering the formidable colours of Cracksman, Poet's Word arguably surpassed that when reeling in his stablemate Crystal Ocean on a return to Ascot for the King George.
Although he is back in trip, there are plenty in the line-up who don't like hanging around and Saeed Suhail's colt has recently worked nicely on the famous Limekilns.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to the owner, said: "Poet's Word has been a real flagship for us this year and it's testament to Sir Michael Stoute's patience that the horse is now thriving. They all have him to beat in the race and he goes there with a favourite's chance.
"He's quite versatile, so the drop back to a mile and a quarter is the least of our worries, although we respect the chances of the smart three-year-olds Roaring Lion, Saxon Warrior and Latrobe. The trip and track will be fine for him and he blew out nicely for this on Sunday morning."
In the form of his life and James Doyle now knows him inside out
May be out of his ground early doors and others may get first run on him back in trip
John Gosden is still to add the opening day's Group 1 feature to his glittering CV, famously coming closest when Golden Horn was unable to get by Arabian Queen in 2015.
This time he has elected to field two from the Classic generation that has won this only three times in the past decade.
Chief hope is Roaring Lion, who has strong credentials, not least as he returns to the scene of his highly impressive win in the Group 2 Dante Stakes in May.
Qatar Racing's grey acquitted himself well when a non-staying third in the Derby before reverting to a mile and a quarter to account for Saxon Warrior in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse last time.
Gosden sent the three-year-old to Newmarket's July course for a workout ten days ago and he blitzed out of the Dip in commanding fashion under Robert Havlin.
Gosden said: "It's a very good renewal with a super older horse, Poet's Word, in there and nice three-year-olds turning out, including Saxon Warrior, who Roaring Lion usually finishes close to whether it be in the Racing Post Trophy or the Coral-Eclipse.
"We know he likes the track as he was a good winner of the Dante and although this is a different level of competition, he goes there in good shape. Just like before Sandown we sent him to work at the July course and we were pleased with how it went."
If that does not go to plan, the Newmarket trainer has ample back up in fellow Group 1-winning stablemate Without Parole, who is up in trip and on a recovery mission after disappointing in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last time.
The son of Frankel had made the jump from Listed company to this level when accounting for Gustav Klimt in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, when there was a frenetic pace from the off.
Gosden's stable jockey Frankie Dettori is out for a record-breaking sixth win in the race on the three-year-old who has worked nicely at home of late.
The trainer added: "We've long been looking forward to running Without Parole over further than a mile and his participation is far more than an afterthought.
"He won the St James's Palace despite a frantic pace set by US Navy Flag, who went on to win the July Cup. The Sussex Stakes turned into a messy race and we've put a line through that, but he's enjoyed getting back on grass at home and goes there with a good shout."
Showed he was suited to a speed track like York when winning the Dante and his change of gear could be decisive.
Three-year-olds have an average recent record in this and this year's Coral-Eclipse was not a vintage renewal.
Has always shaped as if he would improve over further and this track will suit him better than Goodwood.
Stamina has to be taken on trust and he failed against his seniors last time.
Who could have predicted Saxon Warrior freely being available at 5-1 on the morning of the Juddmonte International in the aftermath of his glorious 2,000 Guineas triumph at Newmarket in early May? And, that Roaring Lion would be shorter in the market despite trailing in fourth behind him in first Classic of the season.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the first Saturday in May and Saxon Warrior's reputation has taken a bit of a battering.
Only fourth in the Investec Derby and third in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh, despite starting a skimpy odds favourite for both, Saxon Warrior did restore some of his reputation at Sandown when gunned down late by Roaring Lion.
But, if the real Saxon Warrior does stand up on Wednesday, it could spell disaster for his rivals.
"Saxon Warrior is fine and everything has gone well in the lead-up to the race. We asked a lot of him in the Eclipse, given it was so close to the Irish Derby, but he ran very well at Sandown. He's been doing everything nicely at home since and I'm happy with him," O'Brien said.
"It's a very hot race, it always is, and the best of what is around is in there. It should be a great race," O'Brien added.
Looked a world-beater when readily brushing aside Roaring Lion in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and arrives fresh from a 46-day break
Has lost his air of invincibility and seemed to have few excuses, apart from a quick turnaround, when beaten by Roaring Lion in the Eclipse
What better way to warm up for a potential crack at Winx in the Cox Plate than take on the best that Britain and Ireland have to offer.
Australia's superstar mare looks the best in the world right now but an encouraging effort, and certainly a win, would book Latrobe's ticket to Moonee Valley and what a prospect that would be.
The Irish Derby winner drops down two furlongs in trip for his latest test but Joseph O'Brien believes this acid test will indicate which route to take for the remainder of the season – whether Winx is a realistic rival or if the St Leger might be a more suitable option.
O'Brien said: "Latrobe has been in very good form at home since the Irish Derby and has travelled over well.
"It is a very hot race, but you expect that as it is the Juddmonte International after all. This will tell us a lot more about what route to take with Latrobe for the rest of the season and I am really looking forward to the race."
Arrives at the top of his game having dug deep to land the Irish Derby on only his fifth career outing so there should be more to come
Taking on some of the best horses in training over a trip which might be short of his best
It's 14 years since the Godolphin blue was successful in the traditional highlight on day one of the Ebor meeting and Saeed Bin Suroor throws two Group 1 winners into the mix this time around in the shape of the four-year-old pair Benbatl and Thunder Snow.
The duo have bagged their top level accolades in Germany and Dubai respectively but will find this a stiffer test, particularly Thunder Snow, who is making his first start since his impressive victory on dirt in the Dubai World Cup in March.
While conceding that Thunder Snow would probably come on greatly for the run, Bin Suroor emphasises that Benbatl has done particularly well since his recent Group 1 victory in Germany and was primed for a good showing.
He said: “Oisin Murphy came in to ride Benbatl in his work on the Limekilns and was impressed. He’s ready to go but he wouldn’t like the ground too fast.”
With Murphy riding the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion, Jim Crowley gets the call up and will be hoping to back up his win last year on Ulysses.
Thunder Snow, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, has not run since March but did enjoy a racecourse gallop at the Newmarket July course a fortnight ago.
Bin Suroor said: "Sheikh Mohammed is keen for Thunder Snow to go for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After York, he will have just one more run before Churchill Downs. He worked nicely on the July course the other day and is ready to start back."
Bin Suroor and Godolphin will be looking for their fifth win in the Juddmonte International, having scored with Halling (1995-96), Sakhee (2001) and Sulamani (2004).
The ratings suggest owner Clive Washbourn might struggle to get a significant return on the £75,000 he paid to supplement last month's course-and-distance Group 2 winner Thundering Blue, but the owner and his trainer David Menuisier are undaunted.
Menuisier said: "Thundering Blue looks fantastic and is in great form, the best he's been all year. He needs to run every month or so, and this race was the obvious choice for him.
"We have nothing to lose. All the pressure is on the others, as everyone knows how good they are and nobody is expecting too much of us. Wherever he finishes, it should be interesting."