London (AFP) - Crystal Ocean's mantle as the world's top-rated racehorse may be under threat after he lost narrowly for a second successive Group One race, this time to Japan in the Juddmonte International on the first day of the Ebor meeting at York.
Crystal Ocean -- edged out in a thrilling duel last month by champion mare Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes -- had his nose in front entering the final furlong of the mile-and-a-quarter (2,000 metres) contest.
However, jockey Ryan Moore got to work on Japan and having drawn level with James Doyle on Crystal Ocean cajoled his mount to win by a head.
Moore -- who used to be number one jockey for Crystal Ocean's trainer Michael Stoute -- owed his victory in part to the pacemaking of Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate Circus Maximus.
For O'Brien it was a record-equalling sixth win in the race -- drawing level with veteran Stoute.
"He's a lovely relaxed horse and loads of class," said O'Brien, whose win earned Japan's owners over £600,000 ($730,000).
The 49-year-old Irishman defended the three-year-old generation -- which has been accused of not being up to top standard -- and said Japan's main target is Europe's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, on October 6.
"The lads (the owners) will see what they want to do but it'll be something like that and we'll maybe take in the Irish Champion Stakes on the way."
Japan, who won his second successive Group One after landing the Grand Prix de Paris in July, will have to beat the formidable Enable and deny her a historic third Arc.
Enable is the star attraction of the Ebor meeting on Thursday in the Yorkshire Oaks. Her team got off the mark on Wednesday with Logician making it four wins from four starts.
Frankie Dettori guided the John Gosden-trained colt to victory in the Group Two Great Voltigeur Stakes earning the horse quotes of as short as 7/4 for September's English St Leger, the final classic of the season in the United Kingdom.
Gosden, though, did not guarantee that Logician would run in the St Leger. The Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned horse is fast improving but unexposed at the top level.
"I will see how he is in 10 days time, if he is in top order," said Gosden.
"He is a classy colt but I have to gauge whether the St Leger might be a step too far at this stage of his career.
"I've won a few St Legers (four) so I know what it takes."