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Toronado (left): ace miler was well beaten in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International

Declaration Of War (second right): should add further Group 1s to his haul

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Improving Declaration can win more Group 1s

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

THERE are two ways of looking at Declaration Of War's win in the International Stakes and, as is his wont, trainer Aidan O'Brien tended to the positive.

After beating world leader Toronado and reversing Eclipse form with Al Kazeem the Ballydoyle boss claimed his horse was "incredible".

This positive view relied on the fact the winner had been improving throughout the year and suggested the York victory was his breakthrough moment. This could be true.

O'Brien also reiterated his belief that the colt could drop back to 6f, although this is probably overstating the case for the winner.

There is another side to the York result. The negative view is that the two form horses (who had beaten Declaration Of War by two lengths and three lengths in recent months) failed to give their best and, with the winner being the third highest-rated horse in the race, he may simply have run to form.

Indeed, giving a length-and-a-quarter beating to Trading Leather and a seven-and-a-quarter length beating to 100-1 shot Rewarded suggests he may not have improved at all.

Trading Leather was beaten five lengths by Novellist in the King George on his previous start and Rewarded was beaten eight lengths in the Wolferton Handicap last time.

Slot Wednesday's International Stakes in with those contests and put a black line through Toronado and Al Kazeem and you clearly haven't got the strongest Group 1 form this year. But that's the uber-negative view.

As is often the case an element of balance is required in judging the result. You haven't got the strongest lines performing at their best, but the winner and runner-up are clearly on an upward trajectory and have been gradually improving all year.

Rewarded was given a typical prize-money run. Switched off in last running to his own clock, he kept on as everything slowed down to finish a closing fifth. He was rated to a better view of his Goodwood win with an RPR of 111.

The winner was awarded a career best RPR of 126, with Trading Leather also running to a new high of 123. So, what next?

Declaration Of War is a big, scopey colt and his profile is progressive. He could be even better next year, although another aspect of his profile is his toughness. The big two may not have given their running last week but this one always does.

Give him a two week break and he'll be back banging out a mid-120s performance over 1m or 1m2f. He's done that five times already in little more than two months and there will be a mere 17 day break between York and his next assignment, the Irish Champion Stakes (August 7).

Whether he's got a big end of term prize in him is debatable. An RPR of 126 means he is still just behind the very best and his rigorous campaign may catch up with him by October. There's always next year, though, when he should add further Group 1s to his haul.

He may never back up his trainer's speed theory and run at a distance shorter than a mile. He is a few lengths off the best over a mile at present and he switched off perfectly and stayed on well over the longer trip last week, so a drop to 6f would be a strange call.

Toronado's effort was a write-off. He finished 15-lengths adrift of Rewarded in last. This does nothing to diminish his previous form, including a three-length defeat of Declaration Of War in the red-hot and smoking-fast Sussex Stakes.

Last week Richard Hannon jnr said they were eyeing the QEII and Breeders' Cup Mile for the leading European miler and he looks set to have a soft-palate operation to fix the breathing problem that excused his defeats at York and Newmarket.

The Hannons sent Paco Boy to Churchill Downs for the 2010 Breeders' Cup Mile but he was no match for the tight turns, eventually storming home for fourth behind Golidkova.

Toronado has a touch more class than Paco Boy and his turn of foot would be ideal for an American sprint finish, although US champion Wise Dan is also heading for the Mile. He's pretty quick too.

Fast ground has always been the concern with Al Kazeem. He may have won on good to firm four times - posting his best three performances on it - but everyone connected with the horse feels he lets himself down better with a bit of give underfoot.

Rider James Doyle gave the ground as the excuse for Wednesday's below-par effort. While the horse was winning on good to firm they kept him going on it, but now he's been defeated he will likely be kept to good or softer. And that will dictate where and when he runs.

Over in the States Game On Dude again left the impression this could be his year to win the Breeders' Cup Classic after running away with the Pacific Classic by eight and a quarter lengths.

The six-year-old appears to be on the up and has improved his peak RPR every season (118, 122, 125, 128). He posted a career-best RPR of 128 in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and he matched that figure on the weekend with a similarly dominant display.

He's not beating the highest quality opposition out West and he's winning all his races from the front, but there is no doubt he has improved again this season and he's on the biggest winning streak of his career, being unbeaten in six starts since taking a Grade 3 at Hollywood Park in December.

The gelding has tried and failed in the last two Breeders' Cup Classics, but the meeting is back at Santa Anita this year, where he is seven from eight.

Another positive is that he seems to have strengthened this year and can run powerfully to the line over the Classic distance of 1m2f. His record over 1m2f or further has improved from two from nine in previous seasons to three from three this year.

The distance was a concern last year. This year there are no holes in his cv. The only slight niggle is that he keeps getting things his own way out in front, which won't happen in the Classic.

But he was impressive on Sunday. He looks the best, most solid horse in the country. He looks capable of hitting 130 if circumstances allow. And if he is ever going to win the big one it will be this year.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Game On Dude 128 Bob Baffert (US) (Pacific Classic, Del Mar, 1m2f, 25 Aug)


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Toronado (GB) Sussex Stakes 130T
2 Dawn Approach (Ire) Sussex Stakes 129T
3 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
  Fort Larned (US) Stephen Foster Hcap 128D

Game On Dude (US)
Santa Anita Hcap/Pacific Classic
6 Al Kazeem (GB) Eclipse 127T

Novellist (Ger) King George 127T
8 Farhh (GB) Lockinge Stakes 126T
  Gold Ship (Jap) Takarazuka Kinen 126T
  Olympic Glory (GB) Jacques le Marois 126T

St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) Coronation Cup 126T
Verrazano Haskell Invitational 126D



Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Toronado (GB) Sussex Stakes 130
2 Dawn Approach (Ire) Sussex Stakes 129
3 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
4 Al Kazeem (GB) Eclipse 127

Novellist (Ger) King George 127
6 Farhh (GB) Lockinge Stakes 126
  Olympic Glory (GB) Jacques le Marois 126
  Gold Ship (Jap) Takarazuka Kinen 126

St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) Coronation Cup 126
10 Moonlight Cloud (Fr) Jacques le Marois 125
  Orfevre (Jap) Osaka Hai 125



Name (country trained) Race Rating
Fort Larned (US) Stephen Foster Hcap 128
  Game On Dude (US) Santa Anita Hcap 128
3 Verrazano (US) Haskell Invitational 126
4 Ron The Greek  (US) Sunshine Millions Classic
5 Cross Traffic (US) Whitney Invitational 122
  Dreaming Of Julia (US) Florida Oaks 122
  Orb (US) Kentucky Derby 122
  Palace Malice (US) Belmont Stakes 122

Royal Delta (US) Sabin Stakes/Delaware Hcap

Sahara Sky (US) Met Mile 122



Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Game On Dude (US) Pacific Classic
2 Animal Kingdom (US) Dubai World Cup 124
3 Mental (UAE) Al Shindagha Sprint 121
4 Red Cadeaux (GB) Dubai World Cup 119

African Story (UAE) Burj Nahar
6 Centralinteligence (US) Triple Bend Hcap 118
  Comma To The Top (US) Los Angeles Handicap 118

Goldencents (US) Bing Crosby 118
8 Delegation (Can) Dominion Day Stakes 117
Hunter's Light (UAE)
Al Maktoum Challenge R2/3
  Reynaldothewizard (UAE) Mahab Al Shimaal/Golden Shaheen 116
  Soft Falling Rain (SAF) Godolphin Mile 116
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