The Knavesmire was the backdrop to a thrilling tussle in the Juddmonte International on Wednesday when Japan outstayed the world’s highest-rated racehorse Crystal Ocean in a sensational finish to the Group 1 prize.
Having gone down narrowly to Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Crystal Ocean was bidding to add to his triumph in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Crystal Ocean reeled in long-time leader Circus Maximus in the home straight and soon kicked for home under James Doyle. But there were a host of horses chasing his heels including Japan, Elarqam and King Of Comedy.
Japan responded best of all for Ryan Moore, closing the gap on Crystal Ocean and as the pair headed towards the line, it was the three-year-old who prevailed by a head with Elarqam a further length back in third.
It capped off a remarkable few months for the colt who had already won the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris last month, having been beaten in the Dante Stakes and Derby.
“We didn’t want to bottom him today because we knew we had the autumn coming”
Japan’s success in the Juddmonte International was a sixth victory in the contest for his trainer Aidan O’Brien, equalling the record held by Crystal Ocean’s handler Sir Michael Stoute.
O’Brien said: “The first time Japan showed us his class was in the Beresford Stakes when he beat two of our other horses who we thought were very good and quickened away well from them.
“We rushed to get him back for the Dante and ever since then, every run of his has been a step up and every month he gets better. We saw he got a mile and a half at Longchamp, but we didn’t want to bottom him today because we knew we had the autumn coming.
“He’s likely to go straight to the Arc and maybe take in the Irish Champion Stakes along the way.”
Jockey Ryan Moore said: “All he’s done is improve since the Dante. He had to try so hard and ran all the way to the line. He’s very progressive.
“He’s got better and better and hopefully he will keep on progressing. It was a superb performance.”
The result was another feather in the cap for Hertfordshire operation Newsells Park Stud, breeding Japan out of the Danehill mare Shastye, who has clicked beautifully with Coolmore’s perennial champion sire Galileo.
“He had to try so hard and ran all the way to the line”
A brother to Secret Gesture and Sir Isaac Newton, Japan was bought for £1.3 million guineas at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale in 2017. At the same sale in 2018, Coolmore purchased his full brother for £3.4 million guineas. Now named Mogul, he finished second in a mile maiden at Gowran Park on debut earlier this month.
Japan is one of 80 elite winners for Galileo and joins Australia and Frankel in being one of three winners for the stallion of the Juddmonte International.
There could be no faulting the display of Crystal Ocean, who for the second race in succession finished runner-up in a Group 1.
Stoute acknowledged the effort the five-year-old had put in and said: “Yes all of that, he just didn’t win.”
Connections of Elarqam were thrilled with his performance and were left rueing what might have been.
Trainer Mark Johnston said: “He was obviously very keen early on and he got caught off the bridle a couple out but he came back with a vengeance.
“Jim [Crowley] felt had he let him stride on early on then he might have won it. Had they come up the middle, as they have done in every race for the last five years, he might have won anyway.
“So it’s frustrating, but it certainly confirms beyond any doubts that he had class, so that’s reassuring.”
Logician stakes his Leger claim
A marker for the St Leger in September, the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York on Wednesday saw the John Gosden-trained Logician enhance his credentials for with an easy success.
The son of Kingman, bred and owned by Khalid Abdullah, was looking to remain unbeaten, having won all three of his career starts, and added a fourth consecutive victory when he scooted clear to score by one and three-quarter lengths.
Gosden said: “I couldn’t be more pleased with him. He’s still a tender, young horse who had won a maiden, a novice and a handicap, so it was a big jump.
“He’s going the right way. We’ll see how he is in the next ten days before we make any decision as to where he goes next. There is one obvious option [St Leger], but there are other options if you stay at a mile and a half.
“I need to speak to the jockey and the racing manager. There are a lot of discussions to be had in the next ten days.”