James Doyle is relishing the opportunity to continue his association with Crystal Ocean in the Juddmonte International at York.
After kickstarting his campaign with victories in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown and the Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury under Ryan Moore, Sir Michael Stoute’s stable star completed his hat-trick in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in the hands of Frankie Dettori.
With both jockeys unavailable for last month’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Doyle was given the leg-up for the first time – and both horse and rider lost little in defeat as they went down by a neck to the brilliant mare Enable in a race for the ages.
Doyle said: “I was really proud of my horse at Ascot and I thought for a second we might have won, because we put (Enable) under pressure – and then she powered away from me late on.
“It was a great race, and great to see two horses turn up in fantastic nick.”
There is no rematch on the Knavesmire on Wednesday – with Enable bound instead for the Yorkshire Oaks 24 hours later – so Crystal Ocean will be a hot favourite to get back on the winning trail and provide Stoute with a record seventh victory in the 10-furlong showpiece.
Doyle is confident the drop in distance will not be an problem either for a horse who appears to have few chinks in his armour.
He said: “I’m looking forward to the Juddmonte, because it is the race of the week.
“I can’t thank the owners and Sir Michael enough for the faith they have shown in me. There are various reasons, with Ryan and Frankie being unavailable, but even still it gives you plenty of confidence.
“It is back at a mile and a quarter. But there is a nice, long straight at York – and he is tactically versatile, so there’s no issue in that regard, and he has run super on fast and soft ground.
“He has all the credentials a top Group One horse needs, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be running him if he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. He has no quirks – he is plain sailing to ride, which is a big plus. He is just a solid Group One horse.”
While confident about his own chances of victory, Doyle is respectful of the opposition – giving special mention to the John Gosden-trained King Of Comedy, who went down by a diminishing neck in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest appearance.
“I thought King Of Comedy was very eye-catching in the St James’s Palace Stakes,” he said.
“Stepping up in trip looks like it will suit, and he is by that powerful stallion Kingman – he is a very worthy contender.
“Crystal Ocean does everything you ask of a horse. He can put himself into a spot and relax, and you can ride him more patiently if you require – he has got a good turn of foot.
“It is the race of the meeting for me. All eyes will be on Enable – but of all the races during the week, the Juddmonte is the one you want to win.”
Stoute, who also saddles outsider Regal Reality, said: “It’s a tough race. We go there with two nice horses. They’ve prepared well, and we hope for the best.
“Obviously we’re happy with him (Crystal Ocean), or we wouldn’t have sent him.”
Regal Reality was third behind Enable on his penultimate start in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, but could finish only fourth on his latest outing in the York Stakes.
Stoute added: “He ran very well in the Eclipse – it was a good, solid run actually.
“The ground was too soft for him last time. The surface will be more suitable (at York), and we’ll learn more about him.”