Ghaiyyath has grown up this year. Capable of flashes of brilliance in 2019, mixed with the occasional disappointment, he now appears the finished article and is producing those moments of magic more regularly.
Winner of both his Group 1 starts in Britain this year – the Coronation Cup and Eclipse – his catch-me-if-you-can tactics are fast making him a favourite with the public.
Certain to head the market for York’s £275,000 Juddmonte International, Ghaiyyath will endeavour to recruit more members to his fan club by once again setting out to make all under William Buick.
York lends itself particularly well to front-running, and it will take a performance of extraordinary class to reel him in based on what he has shown at Newmarket and Sandown this summer, where, among others, he lowered the colours of Enable, Anthony Van Dyck and Stradivarius.
“This could be one of the best races of the season and it’s exciting to be part of it,” trainer Charlie Appleby said.
“It is the first time the top three-year-olds will be taking on the older horses at this trip this season.
“The Juddmonte was always the plan for Ghaiyyath. He has proven himself at the highest level, most recently in the Eclipse, where he was coming back in distance.
“I’ve been asked whether I was surprised at the way he won the Coronation Cup, and the honest answer is ‘no’. You don’t win a Group 1 by 14 lengths like he did in Germany by being just an okay horse. You’ve got to be pretty special – and he is special.”
Ghaiyyath simply pulverised his rivals at Baden-Baden, but weakened tamely after setting the pace in the Arc at Longchamp subsequently, finishing tenth of 12 behind Waldgeist.
The million-dollar question those waiting for the Knavesmire action to unfold are asking themselves is ‘will any horse be capable of passing him?’.
And even if the answer is yes, there is a tantalising possibility that the far more mature Ghaiyyath will be able to battle back and regain the lead.
The five-year-old certainly showed powers of resilience when challenged by super-mare Enable in the Eclipse, and stayed on strongly to beat her by two and a quarter lengths.
The ground won’t bother Ghaiyyath. “That day at Baden-Baden the ground rode on the fast side of good. Before that we thought he was more comfortable on a slower surface, but what he has shown us since on quicker ground knocks that theory out of the park,” Appleby said.
“He was digging deep over the final furlong in the Eclipse, yet he came back fine. It was no harder race for him than the Coronation Cup, which he won going an end-to-end gallop over a mile and a half in record time.
“He showed maturity at Sandown. He showed he was manageable in a race, which is the result of growing up.”
In what is rightly being billed as the race of the season so far, Ghaiyyath’s growing maturity could be the key to the outcome of this eagerly anticipated Group 1.