Owner Jeff Smith feels he has “nothing to lose” by allowing his star filly Alcohol Free to line up for the Juddmonte International at York.
A daughter of American sprinter No Nay Never, Andrew Balding’s charge will take a step into the unknown on the Knavesmire as she tries a mile and a quarter for the first time.
There were doubts about whether the Cheveley Park Stakes winner’s stamina would even last out over a mile earlier in the year – but those have been extinguished by further top-level wins in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Never one to shirk a challenge, Smith is ready to roll the dice over another two furlongs in Wednesday’s Group One feature – a race he won with 50-1 shot Arabian Queen in 2015. His brilliant colt Chief Singer was third in the 1984 renewal.
“The favourite (St Mark’s Basilica) is out, but it’s still a top-class, Group One race,” said Smith.
“The Juddmonte International is a championship race, so what else would you expect?
“I haven’t seen the filly for a few days, but I’m told she’s absolutely thriving and full of health.”
Although Alcohol Free’s two victories this season have come on easy surface, Smith is unfazed about the prospect of faster conditions at York and admits only time will tell whether the mile and a quarter is within her compass.
He added: “We’re not fussed about the ground – she’ll go on anything.
“We have nothing to lose. Either she stays or she doesn’t stay. I’m really relaxed, or as relaxed as one can ever be before a big race.
“There’s no disgrace if she doesn’t stay. If she doesn’t, we’ve simply got the best miler – well, thank you very much!
“She’s got three Group Ones in the bag and proper Group Ones as well.
“It’s going to be interesting.”
The top two in the market are a pair of proven stayers in Mishriff and Love, who renew rivalry after finishing second and third respectively in the King George at Ascot.
John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff has already enjoyed a hugely-lucrative campaign, having won both the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic earlier in the year before being placed in the Eclipse and the King George.
Gosden senior said: “I was very happy with his King George run. Obviously, what he achieved earlier in the year was considerable, to say the least.
“We’ve very much been targeting the Juddmonte. The slightly extended mile and a quarter, we feel that’s his best trip.
“We’ve been happy with him since the King George. The race has changed a little bit in complexion, but we’re pleased to be going where we planned for a long time.”
Aidan O’Brien had to rule out hot favourite St Mark’s Basilica on Monday morning, but has an able super-sub in the brilliant filly Love.
The daughter of Galileo won the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks last season and O’Brien feels she is better than she showed at Ascot three and a half weeks ago.
“The King George was a little bit of a mess really. We kind of thought it would be an evenly-run race and it probably wasn’t,” the trainer told Racing TV.
“Ryan (Moore) followed them into the straight and just as he was ready to come out, David (Egan, on Mishriff) came up and cut the head off him. That was more rhythm broken and he just had to wait then.
“She ran on very well and Ryan was very happy with the run. We saw all the things that went wrong for her.
“She came out of the race well and in good form. It will be interesting when she meets the three-year-olds again in a solid run race and see what will happen – she will definitely improve.”
Love is one of two Irish challengers along with the Jim Bolger-trained Mac Swiney.
Since narrowly beating esteemed stablemate Poetic Flare to Classic glory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the son of New Approach has finished fourth in the Derby at Epsom and sixth in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.
Bolger said: “I won’t be underestimating him, anyway. He’s a very good ‘doer’, so he doesn’t get a lot of time out. In any case, he’s very well, so I’m happy with him.
“We’re hopeful that going back to a mile and a quarter will bring out the best in him.
“As usual, it’s a hot race. York has been a lucky track for me and I’m hoping that the luck will stay with us.”
William Haggas saddles two Royal Ascot winners in Mohaafeth and Alenquer. Mohaafeth lost his unbeaten record for the season when third in the York Stakes on his latest outing, while Alenquer was last seen occupying the same finishing position in the Grand Prix de Paris.
Reflecting on Mohaafeth’s last visit to York, Haggas said: “It was a balls up, from start to finish.
“The pacemaker went too slow and Jim (Crowley) was too far back. It was a mess, and you can put a line through it.
“Angus (Gold, of owners Shadwell) felt that if you ignore that run and concentrated on the good bits, he was well worth a chance here.
“The trip is fine and the ground should be OK, too. He’s got a bit to find, but he’s useful.”
Alenquer was priced up as ante-post favourite for the Great Voltigeur Stakes, but connections have opted to instead bid for top-level honours in the Juddmonte.
“The owners felt that as he had already won a Group Two there was no point running in another one. They want to test him against the best, and he’s very well,” Haggas added, ahead of another leg in the Qipco British Champions Series.
“He’s improving, and again you can put a line through his latest run at Longchamp as he was way too far back and never got into it at all.
“I don’t think he’s the soft or heavy ground horse that some have him down as, but he might just want a bit further. He’s not a bad horse.
“It’s an ambitious route for both horses, but they’ll both run a good race. Whether they are good enough is another matter.”