2014 York Ebor Preview and Tips
It's Ebor day at York, and as well as that excellent staying handicap, there's a very strong supporting card to keep us thrilled, and offer opportunities to get our wallets filled!
Just after two o'clock is when it all begins, with the...
A Group 3 over the somewhat specialist trip of nine furlongs, and seven are scheduled to face the starter. This is a race in which Godolphin have monopolized the winners' enclosure, taking the prize on no fewer than six occasions since 2003. Surprisingly perhaps, they're unrepresented this time, as are most of the big stables.
With none of the field having previously won over the trip, it's a bit of a guess as to which horse will be best suited to the step up from a mile or down from ten furlongs. One that could cope well with the step back is hat-trick seeking Farraaj, who won the John Smith's Cup here when last seen.
Roger Varian's team are in reasonable form, and this son of Dubai Destination gets the Atzeni treatment again, having steered him to his two preceding wins, both over ten furlongs. He's never raced on softer than good, though, and any rain would probably lead to his withdrawal.
Despite the small field, there is a trio who might make the running - Trade Storm, Flying The Flag and Custom Cut all led last time - and others that like to race prominently, in the form of Graphic and Farraaj. So this could be run at a decent gallop, and Graphic, a winner on good and soft, and runner up in a similar race at Epsom could be the one.
Trained by Wily Willie Haggas, he's shown that nine furlongs suits by running gallant races in defeat on all three occasions he's tried the trip, notably when a close fourth in the 2013 Cambridgeshire (in a field of 31), and when second in the aforementioned Epsom Group 3, the Diomed Stakes.
He won't mind the ground, as long as it's not soft and, in an open looking event, 4/1 is perfectly fair.
A minor trial for the St Leger, this handicap is normally won by a progressive staying type, as evidenced by the likes of Mount Athos in the recent past.
The first thing to say is that there looks to be a ton of pace on here, with any or all of Notarised, Rocket Ship, Sebastian Beach, and Fun Mac keen to get on with it. The ramifications of that are that a strong stayer with a touch of class will be required to claim the spoils.
Luca Cumani's record in the race is very good - 14163 since 2004 - and he's saved the progressive Connecticut for the job this time. By New Approach out of a Slip Anchor mare, Connecticut is stoutly enough bred and he won fairly cosily in the end when sent off an 8/11 chance in a Newmarket mile and a half handicap a month ago.
Before that he'd won over ten furlongs here, and needed every yard of the trip to get his head in front. Although he has top weight of 9-07, he could defy that burden and give 'Filthy' Luca his third win in the race in the past decade.
Willie Mullins runs a horse he claimed from France, called Uradel. It's impossible to know what this fellow is capable of, and on balance he's probably got less scope than his rivals, with nine runs already on the board.
There is an army of dangers, a couple of which make appeal at prices. Adventure Seeker won here over a quarter mile shorter in May, and his defeat at Goodwood could be put down to a number of things other than a lack of ability (track, draw, very fast ground). He looks a stayer, and 16/1 is being nibbled as I write.
Vent de Force is another suited by conditions, and has already proven his stamina by winning twice at this trip - at Sandown and Haydock - both on softer than good. Clearly, any rain would help his cause, but even on genuine good ground he looks better than a 20/1 shot to me. Hughie Morrison is enjoying a bit of a renaissance this season and he has a decent each way claim.
In a race where a few might be compromised by racing too close to a fierce pace, or by not seeing out the distance, Connecticut and Vent de Force, as well as Adventure Seeker perhaps, may reward intrepid punters.
The race for the right to make a speech at the Gimcrack dinner, and Kevin Ryan's owners have been afforded more oration opportunities than any in recent years, the trainer nabbing a hat-trick since 2005, including the last two renewals. He runs the 85-rated Teruntum Star this time and, even with Atzeni doing the pushing, the Dutch Art colt has a mountain to climb.
Much more likely is the chance of Baitha Alga, absent since winning the Norfolk Stakes over five at Royal Ascot. That was a drop back in trip for a horse who had already won the Listed Woodcote Stakes over six at Epsom, so the return to that distance won't inconvenience him. The 65 day absence is a slight niggle - it's longer off the track than any winner since at least 1996 - but if he's improved any he'll take a lot of beating.
Baitha Alga is joint top-rated on 108 with stable mate Beacon, a lad who will be trying six furlongs for the first time having got outpaced before staying on in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood four weeks ago. He won't mind the ground however it rides, and might just be the pick of the Hannon pair.
Jungle Cat has danced all the big dances so far this season, which means he has less scope to go on than some of his rivals. But he's lost very little in a pair of defeats to Ivawood and a second to The Wow Signal before that. Although he's 'only' rated 105, his might be the strongest form on show, and he looks bound to run his race again.
Tom Stack sails Accepted over from Ireland, and his unbeaten-in-two son of Approve (won this race himself in 2010) remains in 'could be anything' territory. That they've come over is a clue to how they like the horse, but with such a range of decent form on display I prefer to side with a proven (geddit, Approve-n?! Never mind...) form beast.
The same comment applies to Fendale, and I'll chance Jungle Cat against the lot of 'em.
The twenty runner Ebor, a crackerjack of a staying handicap, is the feature of the day - and the race from which the whole meeting gets its name. A few quick factoids for the big race:
- Only four of the last seventeen winners were drawn lower than ten
- Only three last time out winners have prevailed since 1997, from 84 to run
- Three year olds have an excellent record: won three from 20 (15%) and placed 50% of the time - pity then, that none run this year; four year olds have a lamentable record: won three from 141 (2%) and placed 17% of the time; five year olds have a very good record: won nine of 94 (10%) and placed 23% of the time. [I suspect that 3yo's benefit from weight for age, and 5yo's are more mature than 4yo's physically. 4yo's have neither maturity nor weight for age allowances]
- No horse since 1997 has carried more than 9-04 to victory, and only two have lugged more then 9-02. That said, it is a tightly compressed handicap this year
- No horse rated higher than 102 has prevailed since before 1997, though again, it is a tightly compressed handicap this year
- All bar one winner since 1997 was running within 60 days of its previous start
- Of the 65 horses to have won just once at the distance since 1997, five won, for a profit at SP of 80.5 points
That would give a trends shortlist of Suegioo. Trainer Marco Botti remains in fine form, and this horse has been to every big staying handicap party in 2014, winning the Chester Cup before just getting touched off in the Northumberland Plate. He's been laid out for this since then, and just a three pound rise over this shorter trip could be ideal.
Jockey Paolo Sirigu takes the mount, and he too has been in fine form in the last month, winning on three of his ten starts in that time. This is a big day for him, and he's trusted to give the horse every chance from stall ten. 33/1 is huge, even allowing for Andrea Atzeni riding Marco's other horse, De Rigueur.
Assuming the compression of the handicap - that is, the narrow weights/ratings band from top to bottom - makes ratings and weights less material, then a number of others come into calculations too.
The market is dominated by Pallasator. Trained by Sir Mark Prescott, Pallasator has been sold to the Qatari racing team since his last run, a win in a mile and a half Ascot handicap. Needing the full range of that trip, the extra quarter mile should be spot on and, despite carrying more cargo than most, his is an obvious chance. The form of that win was already strong, but received a further, timely, boost when Glenard won here yesterday, and Pallasator would be a crushing blow for bookies, having been very popular for months ante-post.
At the other end of the admittedly short weights spectrum is Mighty Yar - hopefully pronounced yaaaaaaarrrrhhh! - for Lady Cecil and Frankie Dettori. Second, and rallying, over a mile and a half here last time, he looked as though the one and three quarter miles of the Ebor would be dead on. But the key to him looks to be fast ground, so the rain can not be said to have helped his claim. Indeed, in five turf runs, he's recorded 112 form figures on good to firm, and 77 on softer than that.
He's progressive still, with just six total career starts, but that ground niggle is enough to put me off.
Clever Cookie is even more lightly raced on the flat, with just four starts to his name. He's also done well under National Hunt rules, winning five of eight starts, including a Grade 2 hurdle. On the level, he's secured a Listed win over course and distance, on ground the soft side of good, so it's very hard to crab his chance. 9/1 is fair.
Saeed bin Suroor has won this twice since 2008, and saddles the attractively named Wadi Al Hattawi (which, apparently, means Mr Hattawi's Valley). A four year old who hasn't run for 63 days, he'd be a trends buster for sure, but that doesn't mean he's without a chance. He was a winner over a mile and a half here in May before failing to land a blow in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He had a horror transit that day, and it's far from guaranteed that he'll get a better one here, but he is a good bit better than he was able to demonstrate at Ascot, and looks a likely type.
De Rigueur, as mentioned, is the choice of Andrea Atzeni, and he's improved over a stone this season, at the ripe old age of six. A winner of his last two starts, there's nothing to suggest he's stopped improving yet, and he had the beating of Pallasator on his most recent effort. That was over a mile and a half, where he stayed on, so the longer trip should fit all right, and a four pound elevation is hardly draconian.
Mutual Regard was third in a Listed race at Leopardstown when last seen, a race from which the winner, Pale Mimosa, emerged to take the Lonsdale Cup here yesterday. The trip should be spot on, and I can see him running close to the frame without necessarily winning.
And finally, Willie Haggas runs Dare To Achieve. The trainer, who amazingly has yet to win this race, says on racingpost.com that he should never have run him last time at Epsom. He returned from there a sick horse, but is apparently in good form now. He had previously won a Listed handicap at Hamilton over a mile and a half, and could go better than a 25/1 shot.
As you can tell, it's a wide open race, and Pallasator - though his chance is obvious - makes limited appeal at 4/1. 6/1 might be fairer... Against him, I'm happy to side with Mr Hattawi's Valley and Dare To Achieve. And, at a huge price, Suegioo may not be out of it either.
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A juvenile race over the minimum, and the one they have to beat is the speedy Showcasing colt, Showing Character. Unbeaten in his two starts thus far, he made all both times, and looks set to blaze a trail from the outset. True, he has a bit to find with some of these, but none has the scope of this chap, and many were showing their best in early two year old races and are struggling now more mature types have emerged.
That last comment applies to Mind Of Madness, who looked a very promising prospect when scooting away from Abscent Friends on his debut, but has failed to add to that score in four attempts since. He did run a good second in the Norfolk but looks exposed now.
Moonraker is another who won a decent Ascot maiden back in May, which has worked out very well, but he hasn't gone on since then. In fairness, he's only the one run - at Goodwood, where he may not have handled the track - but he has something to prove just now.
Cool Strutter won his maiden a few weeks ago, at the third time of asking, but he's a stone and more to find with Mind Of Madness if you take that one's rating at face value. More interesting might be Al Fareej, a quick filly who has a habit of finding one too good: she's been second on three of her five starts, including last time in a Listed Fillies' race. This will be tougher against the boys, but they'd not be the nippiest bunch of lads assembled.
Of the rest, Littlemissblakeney has one line of form which wins this race, when she was fifth in the Queen Mary behind Anthem Alexander and Tiggy Wiggy. She didn't stay last time, so that run can be forgiven, and Hugo Palmer's squad continue in ridiculously fine fettle (five winners and two seconds from his last eight runners!!!)
She's 14/1 with 888sport and that's a bargain, whether she wins or not.
Plenty of old favourites contest this extended mile and a quarter handicap, but the one I'm on is AJMAN BRIDGE. Badly drawn at Goodwood last time, he flew home to be second. And, while that often flatters a horse, his trainer is in ebullient form, and Ajman has lucked in with the draw this time.
Trap three will enable him to sit very close to the speed, and I'm oddly confident that that man Andrea will get the job done. 11/2 may look an unsexy price, but when he wins you'll all be cheering just like me. Nap.
Others that I won't be considering but which have a squeak include Llanarmon Lad, Awake My Soul, Busatto and Tres Coronas.
Busatto may try to lead, and it will be difficult for him to save enough, hindered also by a wide draw, to hang on; while Tres Coronas looks high enough in the weights just now, though he does love it at York. He also might prefer it a bit softer.
Llanarmon Lad gets the Ryan Moore treatment, for Brian Ellison, and has been incredibly consistent this season. He too has a nice draw for a stalking ride. And Awake My Soul is another for whom the ground could be a bit quick, with David O'Meara still seeking an elusive Ebor meeting 2014 win.
If you need a winner here, good luck. There are lots of non-form-based ways for you to do your money here. Jockey misses break, jockey gets caught in a pocket, jockey fails to rate horse's speed, jockey drops whip, etc.
If you must bet, then the top weight, Speed Hawk, has a favourable looking profile. Beaten narrowly by Group 1-placed Extortionist over the minimum earlier in the season, he's a last day winner trained by king of the sprinters, Robert Cowell. Top apprentice, Robert Tart, takes the ride, and he should race handily amongst speed before running on late.
Whether that's good enough to prevail is anyone's guess, but he ticks more boxes than most, and could just save the bacon.