Roger Charlton’s five-year-old bids to become the first horse to add the Knavesmire showpiece to his cv after wins in both the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Coral-Eclipse.
While Al Kazeem goes to Yorkshire in great form, Charlton wishes there was more cut in the ground to aid his stable star in his quest.
“I’ve been delighted with Al Kazeem. He looks great and his work has been great,” he said.
“This is a different challenge for him – he is taking on the best miler in Europe (Toronado) – on a new track at York.
“He is also bidding to become the first horse to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Eclipse and Juddmonte International in the same season, it’s not going to be easy but he owes us nothing.
“I would be happier if the ground was good, good to soft in places, but has won on fast ground three times this season – he handles it but I feel he is a better horse on softer ground.”
O’Brien is much happier with the ground conditions.
Declaration of War has though been busy since Sandown, finishing third in the Sussex Stakes and fourth in the Prix Jacques le Marois.
“Declaration Of War is in good form. Obviously, he has not done much since Deauville, but what he has done we’ve been happy with,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
“He loves fast ground and is a very hardy horse – he seems to be going the right way for his racing.”
The last Irish-trained winner to lift this great prize was O’Brien’s Rip Van Winkle in 2010.
There is a second raider from the Emerald Isle in the shape of Jim Bolger’s Irish Derby hero Trading Leather.
“He’s very well since the King George, I’m very happy with him and he’s ready to go,” said Bolger.
“I thought it was a good run (in the King George), he’s probably the best staying three-year-old around.
“We’ve no choice but to take on Al Kazeem, so we’ll give it our best shot.
“After York he’ll go to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes.”
Trading Leather was second to Novellist in the King George at Ascot on his latest start and just three-quarters of a length back in third was Hillstar and Michael Stoute’s charge reopposes.
Al Kazeem must give Toronado 8lb, which is a challenging task at a time of the year when the younger horse is improving rapidly.
Although Toronado travels beyond a mile for the first time today, there is optimism that will stay the trip. He has a pedigree that indicates middle-distances should not be a problem. Indeed, he is the only horse among his sire’s top 10 performing progeny to be effective at a mile. The rest are all Group One winners over 10 or 12 furlongs.