08/19/2013 2:31PM

York: Toronado, Al Kazeem square off in Juddmonte International Stakes


Toronado, who might be the best 3-year-old in Europe, and Al Kazeem, who might be the best older middle-distance horse there this year, face off Wednesday at York in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes.

The Juddmonte, contested over a little less than 1 5/16 miles on ground expected to be good to firm and worth about $666,500, drew six entrants. Declaration of War is a solid performer in decent form, and Trading Leather captured the Irish Derby this year, but the Juddmonte figures to come down to Toronado and Al Kazeem.

Al Kazeem, the Juddmonte’s antepost betting favorite in overseas markets, is in the midst of a banner season for owner-breeder John Deer, trainer Roger Charlton, and jockey James Doyle. Having made just one start in 2012 owing to injury, Al Kazeem would not have been pegged for the success he has enjoyed this year by any public handicapper before the start of the flat season, but after winning a Group 3 in his comeback run, Al Kazeem has reeled off three straight Group 1 victories in the Tattersall’s Gold Cup, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and the Coral-Eclipse Stakes.

Al Kazeem, a 5-year-old son of Dubawi, had to work hard to catch Mukhadram in the Prince of Wales’s but won fairly comfortably in his other two Group 1 scores.

Those open-lengths wins came over Camelot and Declaration of War, and in Toronado, Al Kazeem meets a rival of higher quality. Toronado disappointed in the English 2000 Guineas, finishing fourth with no apparent excuse, but he has performed admirably in his other three races this year and has come forward since the spring for trainer Richard Hannon and owner Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al Thani.

Toronado lost by a nose to top-class 3-year-old Dawn Approach in the St. James’s Palace Stakes and turned the tables on that rival with a half-length win in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes on July 31 at Goodwood.

The Sussex was open to older horses, and both 3-year-olds showed on that day they would not be overmatched facing the elder set, though no one in the Sussex was Al Kazeem’s equal. While the Juddmonte distance perfectly suits Al Kazeem, the trip is an unknown for Toronado, who has yet to race beyond one mile. The firm course conditions should suit both horses.

Post time is scheduled for 10:40 a.m. Eastern.