Benefitting from a strong ride by Johnny Murtagh, Rip Van Winkle got up in the final strides to deny Twice Over victory in a thrilling renewal of the Juddmonte International (Eng-I) at York Aug. 17.
Rip Van Winkle provided trainer Aidan O’Brien with his third win in the International, joining Giant’s Causeway (2000) and Duke of Marmalade (2008). He also denied Khalid Abdullah, whose Juddmonte Farm sponsors the race, a one-two finish, as his Twice Over and Byword had to settle for second and third, respectively.
The International lived up to its billing one of the most exciting races of the season, bringing together group I winners Rip Van Winkle, Twice Over, Byword, Dick Turpin, Cutlass Bay, Cavalryman, and Jakkalberry to determine who would be the best over 10 furlongs.
It was longshot Stimulation that took the lead from the break and set a moderate pace under Darryll Holland. Byword followed closely in second, with Twice Over and Cutlass Bay in close pursuit. Richard Hughes had Dick Turpin, who was very keen during the early stages, placed in mid-pack, as both Cavalryman and Rip Van Winkle were content to trail the field through the first half-mile.
Stimulation continued to show the way through moderate fractions, increasing his lead slightly as the field swung into the home straight. With three furlongs to run, the field began to converge on the longtime leader, with Byword the first to make a move under Maxime Guyon. The French raider overtook Stimulation, opening up a one length advantage.
Twice Over was under a strong drive by Tom Queally, and quickly pulled alongside his French counterpart. Byword and Twice Over continued to slug it out, with Twice Over finally gaining the advantage with under a furlong to go.
Rip Van Winkle, who had been a bit slow into stride, was now rallying powerfully on the far outside, making up tremendous amounts of ground under Murtagh. The 4-year-old continued his late charge, just getting up in the shadow of the wire to claim the victory from Twice Over by a half-length.
Byword held on for third, three-quarters of a length behind Twice Over. Cavalryman got up for fourth, with Dick Turpin finishing a disappointing fifth.
The final time for the 10 furlongs and 88 yards was 2:08.58 over the good turf course.
A delighted Johnny Murtagh said after the race: “I love this horse. I rode him in the Derby and Guineas; he didn’t show his true self there but he showed when he won his two group I’s last year what a champion he was.
“Aidan had a plan this year with him that he was going to take it slow. There are a lot of big races coming up for him at the end of the year and we want to have him fresh and well.”
O’Brien added: “Last year the Breeders’ Cup was a wash-out because he was tired coming into the race. This year we have geared him for the second part of the season and we would love to go back to America again, either for the Mile or the Classic.”
Henry Cecil mentioned that Twice Over would be aimed for a defense of his title in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes (Eng-I) on Oct. 16, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) also under consideration.
Rip Van Winkle is a 4-year-old colt by Galileo out of Looking Back, by Stravinsky. He was bred in Ireland by Roberto Brogi and is owned by Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.