'We're going there to win it' - Kameko team relishing tackling Ghaiyyath at York

Connections of 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko are confident their Classic winner has the required arsenal to down hot-favourite Ghaiyyath in what is shaping up to be a monster clash of the generations in Wednesday's Group 1 Juddmonte International at York.

Kameko had looked likely to stick at a mile in Sunday's Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, but after war room discussions between trainer Andrew Balding, owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and chief adviser David Redvers, he is instead heading into a potential battle with Enable's Coral-Eclipse conqueror Ghaiyyath.

Other rivals include Prince of Wales's Stakes hero Lord North, top-notch mare Magical and three-time Group 1 winner Benbatl in a star-studded showdown over 1m2½f on day one of the Ebor festival.   

Ghaiyyath is the 5-4 favourite with Unibet to make it three top-level wins in a row after a possible field of 14 were entered for the race on Thursday, with Lord North and Magical also shorter in the betting than Kameko, who is a standout 11-2 with William Hill. 

However, after a luckless run in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, the team behind Kameko are determined to get back to winning ways and have now committed to a trip to York and a step up in distance.
"The decision has to be made today otherwise it starts getting very expensive," said Redvers, racing and breeding adviser to Qatar Racing, on Thursday.  

"The reason we were leaving it until the last possible minute is that the ground in Deauville had been very hard and rough. Having discussed it with Sheikh Fahad and Andrew, the decision has now been made to go for the Juddmonte International.

"We feel the track and trip will suit him ideally. It's obviously going to be a stiff test taking on Ghaiyyath among others but it's the right track to try ten furlongs and we'll send him up there and hope it misses most of the rain."

Kameko and Oisin Murphy, picture Copyright and Supplied

Having started the season with a bang in the Guineas at Newmarket, Kameko's bid for a second Classic win came unstuck in the Derby before an uncomfortable trip in the Sussex Stakes left him boxed in with nowhere to go in the final furlong, and he finished fourth behind Mohaather.

"He patently didn't stay at Epsom and lost nothing in defeat at Goodwood but we've now got to get him back on an upward curve again," added Redvers.

"All along, trainer and jockey have felt that ten furlongs should be his gig. Interestingly, since the Sussex, he's constantly strengthening up and is looking a sharper horse but we're going for the Juddmonte and that's the decision.

"He won the fastest-ever running of the 2,000 Guineas, so clearly doesn't have much difficulty with a mile. His run in the Sussex Stakes was there for all to see. Take nothing away from the winner but with luck in running he could have quite easily won. The feeling prior to that was you certainly would have thought ten furlongs would hold no fears for him."

The Juddmonte International gave the Qatar Racing team one of their finest moments when Roaring Lion was successful at York two years ago, and they are hoping Kameko can make a similar statement on Wednesday.   

"With the Eclipse taken away from us as an option for three-year-olds this year, this is without doubt the ten-furlong championship of the season so far," said Redvers. "It's a hell of a race. Enable not going takes a little bit out of the race perhaps but to win this we've still got to beat the horse who beat Enable.

"When Roaring Lion won this race it was the race that made him world champion and we're not expecting an easy contest."

Asked if he thought Kameko could put it up to an on-song Ghaiyyath, Redvers added: "Absolutely. We're going there to win it. We're not going to finish in the first three, we just need luck in running on this occasion but York is a fair track."

Wednesday is shaping up to be one of the most important days of the season so far for Kameko's connections, with the highly touted Darain on course to defend his unbeaten record when carrying the Qatar Racing silks in the Group 2 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes, for which a field of 14 were entered on Thursday.

"We're going to have a fairly nerve-racking hour on Wednesday, when all our eggs are firmly in the York basket," added Redvers. "Darain is not specifically on the St Leger trail - John Gosden thinks he will enjoy the Voltigeur and the track."       

Redvers ruled out the possibility of crack two-year-old The Lir Jet making a quick reappearance in next Friday's Coolmore Nunthorpe, instead looking to the Flying Childers at Doncaster next month as a preferred stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup.

The going at York was described as good to firm on Thursday after just 2mm of rain during August so far, with conditions for the four-day meeting hinging on whether the track avoids possible thunderstorms through Sunday and Monday.