08/11/2009 11:00PM

Ground will be key to Sea the Stars's campaign


Sea the Stars has been nominated to Tuesday's Juddmonte International Stakes at York, but trainer John Oxx has warned that the highest-rated horse in the world will not run in the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard Group 1 contest if the ground is not at least good or better on the day.

In fact, Oxx told the Racing Post that Sea the Stars, the winner of the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the Eclipse Stakes, would not run anywhere this year if the ground was not good or better. The County Kildare trainer mentioned the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 5 as a follow-up to or a replacement for the Juddmonte, but would not venture on any firm assignments beyond that date for the 3-year-old son of Cape Cross. He did say, however, that the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, a race won by his dam Urban Sea in 1993, was still under consideration, as was the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Oxx is apparently a bit wary about a trip to Santa Anita for Sea the Stars, thinking that a season that began in the 2000 Guineas on May 2 and ends Nov. 7 is too long. On the other hand, he noted that Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator, fourth and first in last year's Guineas, still had enough gas left in the tank to finish first and second in the Classic nearly six months later. There is speculation that Sea the Stars's owner, the Hong Kong-based Christopher Tsui, might be thinking of the Hong Kong Cup on Dec. 13 at Sha Tin, where good to firm ground is virtually assured.

Oxx and Tsui are under a great deal of pressure to deliver Sea the Stars to stud duty in timely fashion. At this stage, the Irish National Stud is the favorite to receive his services, which are in such demand not only because of his record on the racecourse, but also because he is a son of the great broodmare Urban Sea and a half-brother to the excellent stallion Galileo.

Tsui's mother, Ling Tsui, was named the winner of the the Irish Field Breeder of the Year Award on Wednesday for having bred Sea the Stars, who leads every known list as the world's highest-rated horse. On the World Thoroughbred Rankings, he tops Rip Van Winkle 131 to 128. Both the Racing Post and Timeform give him a 133 to 131 edge over the same horse.

A measure of just how cautious Oxx is being with Sea the Stars is reflected in his comments concerning the possibility of running him as a 4-year-old. Oxx told the Irish Field that nothing has been decided on that issue as yet, but said that Sea the Stars could remain in training next year if soft ground were to rule him out of all his remaining assignments this year. The delicacy of the situation highlights the contemporary conundrum of whether horses are bred to be raced or raced to be bred.