Postponed justifies favouritism in winning International Stakes at York
Horse racing Postponed justifies favouritism in winning International Stakes at York Roger Varian-trained colt battles hard to hold off Highland Reel
Mutakayyef did not get clear run before finishing fast into third
The summer may be a memory the next time that Postponed travels to the track, but the impression left by his win in the Juddmonte International Stakes here on Wednesday will endure. Postponed looked very much like the ideal racehorse as he extended his winning streak to six in the best race in Europe so far this year, showing versatility and a strong constitution to match his considerable talent, and he is now the clear favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly on 2 October.
That could be the next stop for Postponed, according to Roger Varian, his trainer, whose relief at seeing his judgment vindicated was very evident after the five-year-old’s defeat of Highland Reel and Mutakayyef with Hawkbill, the Eclipse winner, well beaten in eighth place. Less than month ago, Varian was forced to scratch Postponed from the King George at Ascot due to a respiratory infection which has continued to affect a number of horses in his stable. He was convinced that Postponed was back to full health, however, and also ready to cope with a drop from 12 furlongs to 10, and so it proved.
This was Postponed’s fourth Group One success in a streak which started with a narrow win in the 2015 King George, and his third for Varian after Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, his owner, switched the horse from Luca Cumani’s stable last September. The result was not in serious doubt from the moment Andrea Atzeni, Postponed’s jockey, sent him into the lead about three furlongs out, and while he edged right to finish the race on the stands’ rail, Postponed held off Highland Reel, this year’s King George winner, by a one-and-a-quarter lengths.
“He’s an incredible horse and I’m very lucky to train him,” Varian said. “We didn’t have long to get him ready, but we really felt he’d turned the corner two weeks ago and the last seven days he looked to have blossomed. A week ago I wouldn’t have known for sure that I was running him, but the change over the last week gave us confidence that he was right. We trusted in the horse’s condition, and he delivered.
“We’ll get him home from today and make sure he’s not gone backwards for the run, and talk things through with Sheikh Obaid, but I’d think it’s unlikely he would run again before the Arc, so that gives us plenty of time to tune him for that race.”
Win or lose at Chantilly in October, when Harzand, the winner of the English and Irish Derbys, is a likely opponent, Sheikh Obaid intends to keep Postponed in training as a six-year-old next season rather than cash in on the son of Dubawi’s value as a stallion prospect.
“I’m doing my best to win races, which is why he will be racing in 2017,” Sheikh Obaid said. “As many Group Ones as I can win with him, I will try [to win]. Two studs have already asked for him, but that can wait for one more year. If he is OK after the Arc meeting, maybe he will go to the Breeders’ Cup [at Santa Anita], because he loves firm ground and a fast pace would suit him.”
The Sheikh also made it clear after the race that he has no regrets about his decision to move his entire string from Cumani, who trained High-Rise to win the Derby in the owner’s colours in 1998, because he felt that the trainer was not following his “military” orders.
“When I tell a trainer something, he has to listen to me, not do his own thing,” Sheikh Obaid told Racing UK after Postponed’s win. “I am military. If I give somebody an order, he has to take my order. I’m not going to listen to a trainer to give me an order what to do, this is my final thing.
“I asked one thing – to get Postponed ready before the race – and he [Cumani] said ‘I can’t’. He told me after running Postponed three times [last season] he’s not ready and that’s a problem. He has to run him to get him ready. When I went to Simon [Crisford, who also trains for the owner] I told him the same. If I tell you to run in this race you have to run and I won’t take any excuses later.”
Paddy Power paid out on Aidan O’Brien in its champion trainer market after Idaho’s success in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, which took the trainer past £5m in prize money this season. Along with his stablemate Housesofparliament, who led for much of the way before being overhauled well inside the final furlong, Idaho will now go to the St Leger at Doncaster and will be a worthy favourite to extend O’Brien’s already commanding lead in the title race.
Idaho is now top-priced at 2-1 for the Leger, and the only horse in the market at a single-figure price.
Danny Tudhope rode the sixth-placed The Grey Gatsby for the first time in the International Stakes, having replaced Jamie Spencer, the grey’s partner in eight of his 12 previous starts. Spencer remains a regular partner for other horses in Kevin Ryan’s string, however, and took the Group Three Acomb Stakes for the stable on the 16-1 outsider Syphax.
Best Of Days, bought for an undisclosed but presumably eye-watering sum by the Godolphin operation after a six-length win on his first visit to the track, was backed relentlessly before the off to start odds-on at 10-11, but he was agitated in the stalls and had nothing left to repel the late challenge of Syphax after a strong move into the lead a furlong out. “Jamie is as cool as ice and didn’t rush him,” Ryan said, while also suggesting that he felt reports of Spencer’s replacement on The Grey Gatsby had been overblown.
“Sometimes you just need a change of hands and a change of mind,” Ryan said. “Jamie was the first person to know, and Jamie being Jamie, he backed me all the way. The disappointing thing about it was that it made the front page of the Racing Post. I’m sure there are better things going on in racing that could make the front page. It probably got more coverage than Richard Fahey got for winning a Group One [with Ribchester] in France. That was disappointing.”