International Stakes Betting

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Also known as the Juddmonte International, the International Stakes is a Group 1 flat race for Thoroughbreds aged three years and upwards. It is held each August as part of the annual York Ebor Festival. Covering a distance of ten and a half furlongs, the race takes place on the on the left-handed turf of the Knavesmire racecourse.

The youngest runners carry eight stone eleven pounds, while four-year-olds and older horses bear nine-stone-five. There is an allowance of one pound for four-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere and three pounds for fillies and mares. No penalties are applied for previous wins.

When the event was inaugurated in 1972, it was called the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup. The tobacco company’s sponsorship continued until 1985, and then the race became know as the Matchmaker International for two years. A brief sponsorship hiatus occurred in 1987-88, until Juddmonte Farms lent support to the event in 1989. It has been unofficially referred to as the Juddmonte International ever since.

The very first running was won by won by Roberto, fresh off an earlier triumph in the Epsom Derby. Oddly enough, it was the runner-up here that made the headlines. The race marked the first and only shocking defeat in an illustrious career of eighteen races for the legendary Brigadier Gerard, 1972’s British Horse of the Year.

Since then, two horses have turned in back-to-back wins at the International Stakes. Dahlia did it first in 1974-75, followed by Ezzoud in 1993-94 and Halling in 1995-96. Ezzoud’s trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, stands out among all others when it comes to bringing winners to the starting line here. He also trained the 1986 champion Shardari as well as Singspiel in 1997 and Notnowcato in 2006 for five victories in total.

Two jockeys are tied for the greatest success by a rider at the International Stakes. Lester Piggott notched five victories here, including both rides on Dahlia and solo wins aboard Hawaiian Sound in 1978, Commanche Run in 1985 and Rodrigo de Triano in 1992. Four years later, Frankie Dettori embarked on his own five wins, starting with Halling and Singspiel back-to-back in 1996-7 and then Sakhee in 2001, Sulamani in 2004 and Authorized in 2007.

Today, the prize pool for the International Stakes is worth £700,000, up from £600,000 in 2009 and making it not only the biggest race of the Festival but also York’s richest race of the entire season. The winner’s share in 2010 was £393,699.95, claimed by that year’s 7/4 favourite from Ireland, four-year-old Rip Van winkle.

Johnny Murtagh was Rip Van Wrinkle’s pilot. He won aboard the 4/6 favourite Duke of Marmalade in 2008 and would have had the hat-trick riding 3/1 Mastercraftsman in 2009, but Michael Kinane guided three-year-old Sea the Stars to the finish line a length ahead of him, paying 1/4 as the race’s heavy favourite.

The last five-year-old to win the International Stakes was Sulamani in 2004, preceded by Falbrav in 2003, also five. Six of the last ten winners have been four-year-olds, while two winners have been age three. No favourite has lost since 2006, and no winner has paid out at double-digit odds since Ezzroud’s first win in 1993 paid 28/1. In ante-post wagering, look for any entries trained by three-time winner Aidan O’Brien to draw early attention.

For 2011, the Festival has been extended to four full days, finishing for the first time with a weekend date. The International Stakes retains its place as the highlight of the opening day. It is preceded by two fine lead-ins—the Group 3 Acomb Stakes and the Group 2 Great Voltigeur, both sponsored by sportingbet.com.

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