Since causing a semi-upset in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, partly due to the under-performing Animal Kingdom, Aidan O’Brien’s colt was defeated by Al Kazeem in the Eclipse and Toronado in the Sussex Stakes and even managed to fit in another placed effort in the Prix Jacques le Marois some 10 days ago.
O’Brien justifiably waxed lyrical about Declaration Of War’s remarkable make-up, while connections of the vanquished pair were left scratching their heads after their respective third- and sixth-placed finishes.
Eventual runner-up Trading Leather took the field along, with James Doyle and 11-8 favourite Al Kazeem, who has cut a swathe through the middle-distance division this season, sat poised on his heels.
A sense of urgency appeared to envelop Doyle as he tried to wind up the pace halfway down the long home straight but his old ally for once failed to initiate a response and it became clear Joseph O’Brien and Declaration Of War (7-1) were moving best of the sextet.
The game had been up for Toronado long before he had even encountered what would have been an unknown final couple of furlongs and Richard Hannon’s colt looked a husk of his usual self as jockey Richard Hughes eased him home.
Trading Leather, the Irish Derby winner and King George runner-up, was the epitome of belligerence once again on the rail and threatened to get back ahead once passed before the distance, but he could not quite regain enough momentum to shackle Declaration Of War and was beaten by a length and a quarter.
“He has such an unbelievable constitution, this horse, we’ve never had one like him,” said O’Brien.
“Every day at home he’s getting better and better, which is amazing.
“He looks like a horse getting ready to have his first run.
“He’s had all these races but he never goes backwards. He’s in full work all the time at home.
“I know I said after Ascot that he’d go back in trip rather than forward, but I suppose there aren’t the races for him.
“He’s not lost a kilo all year and he has such a physique, he has to be busy as he does himself so well.”
Looking ahead, O’Brien said: “There’s a lot (of horses) going there but he could go to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes.
“The Breeders’ Cup Classic is always a dream and he’s very like Giant’s Causeway (winner at York and Leopardstown in 2000 before running second in America).”
Joseph O’Brien said: “I’m not sure if it was as much of a surprise to us as it was to a lot of people.
“In the Eclipse it was probably my fault. James got first run on me. I was only getting involved in the last 100 yards and it was all over.
“A mile and a quarter on hard ground suits him lovely. We always thought you could drop him back in trip to six or seven furlongs.
“Obviously five furlongs would have been a bit sharp for him, but he is hardy and handles fast ground very well.”
Of Trading Leather, trainer Jim Bolger said: “It was an excellent run and he’ll now go for the Irish Champion Stakes.”
Al Kazeem was a further length and a half adrift and his trainer Roger Charlton felt the colt had paid the price for another outing on good to firm ground.
“James never felt happy at any stage. He wanted to press Trading Leather more, and he couldn’t do it,” Charlton said.
“He’s had three runs on firm ground and he was looking after himself, I think. You hope you can get away with it, but if you keep running a horse on firm ground when he prefers it softer, that’s what happens.
“Whether he goes for the Irish Champion Stakes or whatever, we’ll just see how he comes back.”
Toronado will be examined and given a break ahead of a possible run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October.
Hannon’s son and assistant, Richard jnr, said: “He just didn’t run his race. It wouldn’t have made a difference if it was over six furlongs, seven or a mile.
“It’s very disappointing. We’ll go through him at home and at least there are two months until the big mile races, it’s just a shame we didn’t see what he could do at a mile and a quarter.”