After winning both English and Irish Derbies following his defeat in the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas, Aidan O’Brien trained horse Australia was allowed a brief summer break before resuming his racing career. The three year-old reappeared at York this week in the 1m2f Juddmonte International Stakes with his trainer concerned that he may lack fitness following an increase in weight. His fears were to prove unfounded.
The race at York was step down in distance for the colt who had won his two previous races over the 1m 4f distance and he was facing older horses for the first time in his career. Fellow three year old The Grey Gatsby had won both the York Dante Stakes and Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby) over one and a quarter miles but the older Telescope and Mukhadram were viewed as genuine threats to Australia.
Mukhadram won the Coral Eclipse earlier in the season and finished third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot behind second horse Telescope and Oaks winner Taghrooda. Telescope had previously won the 1m 4f Hardwicke Stakes in impressive manner at Royal Ascot and was rated as the most likely horse to defeat the Epsom Derby winner.
Pacemaker Kingfisher and Arod were also in the line-up as the starting stalls opened at York with jockey Joseph O’Brien content to let Australia follow the other horses. As the runners entered the final straight, the order had barely changed on the prevailing good to firm ground but there was the sense that the pace was about to quicken.
When the jockeys decided on their moves for the finishing line, the response from Australia was not immediate but O’Brien appeared to be relaxed and biding his time. Two furlongs from home, the Irish trained horse cruised past his rivals and just three cracks of the whip were needed to maintain a straight line. Australia crossed the line with a few lengths to spare as The Grey Gatsby and Telescope followed him past the finishing post.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien said afterwards that the summer break had allowed his horse to mature physically and he was concerned that the extra weight may be blunt his fitness, but he has emerged as a stronger colt with an autumn campaign set to follow.
O’Brien also hinted that the body frame of Australia had developed into that of a miler which suggests that the colt may not race again beyond the 1m 2f distance which would be a shame for supporters of horse racing.
A race with Taghrooda in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe would now appear unlikely but a rematch with leading miler Kingman may be possible on Champions Day at Ascot in October. Whatever route is planned for Australia, it is apparent that O’Brien controls the destiny of one of the best ever horses to be trained in his very successful yard.