08/18/2008 11:00PM

Rain sinks first two days at York


The weird weather that has been plaguing England and Ireland this summer has struck at York, as heavy rains forced the track to cancel the first two days of its prestigious four-day Ebor Meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday due to a waterlogged course. As a result, the Juddmonte International Stakes, which was to have featured a much-anticipated clash between Duke of Marmalade and New Approach, has been postponed until Friday, weather permitting.

Also postponed is the Great Voltigeur Stakes, a key St. Leger prep that will now be run Thursday. The original entries for the two big races stand, but there is doubt as to how many of those horses will take their chances on what will surely still be heavy ground later in the week. An inspection at noon Wednesday was to determine whether racing could be held at York on Thursday.

Aidan O'Brien had already shipped Duke of Marmalade to England from his yard in County Tipperary for the Juddmonte International before Tuesday's meeting was canceled. New Approach was already in Dublin on his way to the airport, but York officials were able to get in touch with trainer Jim Bolger and the Epsom Derby winner was returned to his barn in County Carlow.

The Yorkshire Oaks, a 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 contest scheduled for Thursday, has already been bitten by the weather as its likely favorite, Promising Lead, was left out of the race. Trainer Michael Stoute decided not take any chances with his Pretty Polly Stakes winner on heavy ground, thus leaving the $560,000 purse to eight fillies and mares with more mermaid-like dispositions.

O'Brien will saddle three of them, including Irish Oaks runner-up Ice Queen. Just a head second to stablemate Moonstone in the Curragh fillies classic, Ice Queen won her maiden on soft ground, although she finished only sixth in her lone try on heavy against older females in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes while still a maiden.

In the rescheduled 1 1/2-mile, Group 2 Great Voltigeur, St. Leger favorite Patkai will be challenged by disqualified Irish Derby third Alessandro Volta and Godolphin's untested Meydan City, but none of them have ever encountered heavy going.