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No stopping runaway Van once he shifts into gear

He was closing, and closing and eventually he got there. Rip Van Winkle left it late but denied owner Khalid Abdullagh an eagerly sought after win in the Juddmonte International at York -- a race he himself sponsors -- as Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old rallied late under Johnny Murtagh to deny Twice Over with Byword close by in third.

Such was the battle between Twice Over and Byword and the distance back to the often tricky Rip Van Winkle, there was some soul willing to lay him at 67/1 on Betfair, which was snapped up as punters also backed the leading duo at odds-on.

There was betting-in-running carnage, but there was to be no sob story for Rip Van Winkle as he hauled the honours by proving his battling qualities are one of his more prominent attributes.

"You have to say Johnny was marvellous today," said O'Brien. "He just let him take his time to come into the race and let things happen.

"They went slow but we didn't mind as at home he can pick up anything. It takes him a stride to get into top gear but he won well on the line."

Rip Van Winkle had Sea The Stars to admire on three occasions last season and even in Sea The Stars' absence from America, their tough battles and Rip Van Winkle's two tough victories over a mile had taken the sting out of him by the time the Breeders' Cup came around.

To the naked eye, yesterday's race looked like a mile and a half was made for Rip Van Winkle, but as he proved last year by beating Zacinto and Paco Boy, he obtains plenty of speed and O'Brien was quicker to suggest a drop back in trip over a step up, saying: "We wouldn't mind stepping back to a mile again now and we could look at the QEII at Ascot."

O'Brien also made no secret of the fact that Rip Van Winkle's season has been geared towards the Breeders Cup. "Last year the Breeders Cup was a wash-out because he was tired coming into the race. We have changed things a bit. He had a hard time last year and he hasn't developed a personality until this season," O'Brien said.

"We have geared him for the second part of the season and you would love to go back to America again fresh, either for the Mile or the Classic."

Murtagh added: "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 Ones last year what a champion he was."