International field needs rain to beat Sea The Stars
A few trainers will be praying for rain in York this weekend.
Racing on ground softer than good looks the only chance the rest of the field has in the Juddmonte International to beat three-year-old superstar Sea The Stars.
The Juddmonte International is the richest race run at York racecourse, with prize money of £600,000 up for grabs. But even that can't tempt most owners, with a dwindling number of opponents prepared to take on the red-hot favourite.
Currently racing with an official rating of 136, making him the highest-rated horse in the world right now, Sea The Stars is being backed as though defeat is out of the question - and yet trainer John Oxx has publicly stated that the first winner of the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the Eclipse in the same season in 20 years won't run if there is significant rain on the Knavesmire on Sunday or Monday.
An improving weather forecast looks positive for the thousands of punters expected to flock to the course to, ahem, see the star.
I'll be one of them, and I'll be making a special exception to my rule of swerving odds-on favourites by backing Sea The Stars - if only because I don't want to have to tell my grandkids I missed the chance to win some cash on a legendary racehorse, which Sea The Stars can become if he finishes the season unbeaten.
Anyone looking for a decent alternative may see some value in Aidan O'Brien's Mastercraftsman (a best priced 2/1 at William Hill at the moment), who's won the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the St James's Palace Stakes since being well beaten by Sea The Stars in the Guineas.
His Royal Ascot time was around four seconds slower than Sea The Stars's Newmarket one on similar ground, suggesting he needs to seriously improve or catch the Derby winner on an off day.
There may be some each-way value in Tartan Bearer, who won the Dante Stakes for Sir Michael Stoute over course and distance as a three-year-old and has scored a win and a couple of respectable second places this term. But, unless there's significant rain, it's difficult to make a case for anyone but Sea The Stars in this renewal of the Juddmonte International.