08/14/2004 12:00AM

Bago strong at York, wet or dry


The prospect of soft ground means that the field for Tuesday's Group 1, $825,000 Juddmonte International Stakes on the first day of York's famous three-day Ebor meeting may not be known until a few hours before post time.

But whatever the conditions, the French colt Bago appears likely to strike a blow for the 3-year-old generation. Sidelined by sickness in the spring, Bago - a Jonathan Pease-trained son of Nashwan - has twice beaten Cacique in recent Group 1 races on a dry surface. And he proved his ability to handle soft ground, running away with another Group 1 race at Saint-Cloud last November.

The 1 1/4-mile distance should suit Bago, whereas it may prove too short for Sulamani, Bago's lone main rival who is sure to enjoy soft ground.

Rakti and Azamour, both Group 1 winners at Royal Ascot, will be withdrawn if the ground is testing, and though Cacique, an Andre Fabre-trained half-brother to top performers Banks Hill, Heat Haze, and Dansili, may complete a French 1-2 by chasing home Bago for a third time, rain would hinder him.

Best of the rest may be Kalaman, who beat one horse when favored in this race 12 months ago but ran his best effort in a while in winning a Group 2 at Ayr last month.