Golden Horn (Timeform Rating 133p) – Keith Melrose
This feels a bit like shouting down from the top of the mountain. Surely just about everyone, no matter their betting loyalties, would concede that Golden Horn is the likeliest winner of the Juddmonte? He is the Derby winner, the Eclipse winner- the winner of everything, in fact, that he’s run in.
Golden Horn is an exceptional three-year-old, in terms of ability but also in how adaptable he’s proved. It’s an irregular consistency that, even after just five runs, is quite remarkable: regardless of the trip, the course, how the race is run or where he’s positioned in it, he’s been able not only to win, but on every occasion intonate that he’s a 130+ horse. It’s very rare to find a horse that swaggers the way Golden Horn does on every run- even Frankel and Sea The Stars looked vulnerable once or twice.
Those two will be remembered as greats of the sport, a realm that Golden Horn hasn’t entered yet. But he might. Five runs is the same as the seemingly unexposed Time Test, and little more than half of Gleneagles’ tally. Can we call a Derby and Eclipse winner unexposed? If we can, then Golden Horn surely counts.
The Juddmonte isn’t run under lab conditions, of course, and reality always brings more uncertainty. Even then, Golden Horn is almost as strong in his practical exams. The likeliest way for the others to ‘get him beat’ would be a race with no pace and, after Sandown, you’d imagine Golden Horn would lead in those circumstances. Allowing Frankie Dettori to do his own thing on a top-class horse with an excellent turn of foot doesn’t exactly sound like the sort of thing to make the other two’s task any easier.
Gleneagles (129) - Tony McFadden
A son of super sire Galileo – whose progeny tend to stay middle-distances – and a full-brother to Marvellous, whose superior stamina saw her grind her way to victory in a soft-ground Irish 1,000 Guineas, Gleneagles’ pedigree certainly offers hope that he will prove as effective over an extended 10 furlongs.
Up against rivals such as unbeaten Derby winner Golden Horn and the rapidly-progressive Time Test, Gleneagles will need to improve upon the level of form which has seen him finish first past the post on eight consecutive occasions, though the fact he hasn’t been legitimately beaten since debut is surely a salient point: Gleneagles has been winning so hasn’t had to show the full extent of his ability.
There have been some narrow winning margins amongst Gleneagles’ victories, but that can be attributed to a tendency to idle, and you get the feeling that there has been plenty left in the tank on most occasions – including in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere when he was demoted by the French stewards!
Gleneagles confirmed himself as the stand-out miler of his generation with a comfortable success in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, before overcoming adverse circumstances to win the Irish equivalent at the Curragh, but arguably his most impressive success was his latest one at Royal Ascot. Gleneagles was never troubled as he turned a prestigious Group 1 race into a procession, travelling comfortably and quickening in trademark style to win easily. That was his fourth win at the highest level – five if you’re counting his Longchamp effort – and he looks sure to launch a bold bid at York, his undoubted class and straightforward nature marking him down as a high-class, dependable racehorse.
Time Test (130p) - Ben Fearnley
Given his connections, Time Test was always highly likely to be aimed at the Juddmonte International after making the switch from handicaps to Group level in devastating fashion in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. Already this decade, Khalid Abdullah has twice seen his silks flash first past the post in this race, courtesy of Twice Over and Frankel.
Pedigree would suggest middle-distances all the way for Time Test, though Roger Charlton seems keen to keep him at 10 furlongs and, if anything, drop back to a mile. Given the speed he's shown, that'd be difficult to argue against and it puts Time Test closer to Gleneagles than Golden Horn on the speed-stamina spectrum.
Although the rightful outsider of the superstar trio in terms of status, Time Test has the credentials to be talked about in the same breath as the other two. And let's not forget that they are also breaking new ground, too. Undefeated, dual-Group 1 winner Golden Horn is yet to face a rival as highly-rated as Time Test, and of course this trip is an unknown for Gleneagles, who has done all his winning thus far over a mile or less and has looked speedy, rather than a true middle-distance horse.
Rather than attempt to pick holes in the opposition, though, we should let Time Test’s impressiveTercentenary Stakes win speak for itself, Exhibit A in this case for the usurper. Time Test disposed of a competitive-looking field with ease at Ascot, cruising into the race and just being nudged out by Frankie Dettori to go and assert, which he duly did by three-and-a-quarter lengths, and with the clock backing up the strong visual impression he created that day, it was a top-class performance by Timeform standards.
What Time Test lacks in Group 1-winning form, he makes up for in abundant promise (and Timefigures), so although the outsider of the three heavyweights going into this year’s Juddmonte International, he still deserves plenty of respect, and combined with the tactical expertise of Pat Smullen in a race that looks likely to go that way, he may just surprise a few people.