Crystal Ocean to Reign Supreme in Juddmonte
There are no trainers who you would prefer to have a five year old group performer for you over Sir Michael Stoute. His ability to train horses in a way so that they not only remain at a high standard when they are five, but in some cases, they continue improve and be at their best when they are five, is a remarkable talent. This season we have seen him do the business again with Crystal Ocean, a horse that is no doubt having his best season so far, despite being five. The horse has been a model of consistency once again, he has finally won his first group one and up at York on day one of the Ebor Festival, I think he can win his second.
Strictly on ratings alone this horse is some way ahead of the field in opposition here and when you take into account his battle with Enable and you consider that she had a weight advantage over him, that makes him the best horse in this country. He went down by a neck to the superstar mare, but had an additional 3lb to carry, take that off his back and we could well have seen a different result in the race.
When you look down this field, I’m not too sure there is anything in there that would even make Enable sweat, let alone push her all the way to the line, and it is not just that one piece of form that makes Crystal Ocean stand out. He began the year with two comfortable successes in Group Three company, showing he was well above that level but it was the perfect way for him to get going and find his feet.
Then he moved up to the top level at Royal Ascot, winning the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes by just over a length and that was a great moment for this horse, finally landing a Group One win. You could argue that his run against Enable was even better than that, despite him coming second and right now this horse is thriving, he appears in great order and if he runs his race then it is going to take one hell of a performance to beat him from one of these.
The older horses that carry the same weight as Crystal Ocean all have somewhere around 10lb to find with him, which is not going to be easy. He is an ultra consistent horse and even if he runs 2 or 3lb off his very best, that still leaves the older challenges with a tough task to get to him.
If there is a horse to beat him, and I don’t think there is, then it will more than likely be one of the three year olds in the line up. They get a 7lb weight for age allowance in this race, so even though they are rated 9-11lb worse than Crystal Ocean on their best form, much of that is negated by the allowance that they get, so they don’t have to make as much up in their own performance as the older horses do. This is why the three year olds we have on show are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th favourites in the race, and the two to focus on for me are Japan and King Of Comedy.
Japan ran a stinker in the Dante here in May, but since finished third in the Derby and has then gone on to win a Group Two at Royal Ascot and a Group One in France. However, he does have to handle the drop in trip here, he looked a thorough stayer over 1m4f and this trip of 1m2f is not certain to suit. King Of Comedy is improving at a rapid rate, he was unlucky behind Circus Maximus last time out and would have probably won with a better passage through. He goes up in trip, and that is something that will certainly suit him, and that probably makes him the most likely challenger here with question marks over the trip for Japan.
However, having said all of that, there is no way that I would be swapping Crystal Ocean for either of the challengers in this field. He is a high class horse, a model of consistency and just like we have seen time and time again in the past, Sir Michael Stoute has managed to pull out even more improvement from him this season, even though he is now a five year old.
His run behind Enable makes him the best horse in training for me, and anything close to that will make him very difficult to beat here unless we see a huge amount of improvement from something. I don’t think we will, and Crystal Ocean is chosen to get us off to a flyer at the Ebor Festival.