Swingalong back at York to lead Burke attack on sprint prize

Karl Burke unleashes a four-strong assault on the 1895 Duke of York Clipper Stakes, with course winner Swingalong and the Group One-placed Spycatcher leading the Spigot Lodge attack.

The former is the mount of stable jockey Clifford Lee and has enjoyed some of her finest hours on the Knavesmire, while she has also acquitted herself well at the highest level when set some stern assignments.

Meanwhile, the soft-ground loving Spycatcher came within a short head of Group One glory at Deauville last summer and is another proven in top company, this time partnered by Ryan Moore.

Burke is struggling to split his quartet, and in particular this pair, and said: “Swingalong has been working really nicely, she’s been on the go a long time and has been ready to go for a while.

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“She loves York and we hope she will run a big race – she has never run a bad race at York.

“Spycatcher will need every drop of rain and if the ground is deemed to be firm then there would be a doubt about him going.

“We’ve got four nice horses and it is a shame they all have to run against each other. Swingalong seems to be at the head of them, although on soft ground I would be leaning with Spycatcher.”

The Middleham trainer’s hand is strengthened by last year’s fifth Marshman, who like Swingalong, has smart course form.

Stablemate Cold Case was a place behind Marshman in the Gimcrack at York as a juvenile and progressed to compete in group one company last term, finishing fourth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Marshman (left) and Cold Case (right) running at York as two-year-olds
Marshman (left) and Cold Case (right) running at York as two-year-olds (PA)

“Marshman has always run well at York and he goes there in good form,” continued Burke.

“He ran disappointingly at Newmarket, but he always runs disappointingly there so we’re putting that down to the track and he seems in good form.

“Cold Case is coming back off a bit of an injury last year and he’s worked nicely. He will definitely need the run and come on for it, but if I don’t run him here there’s nothing for him until Ascot, so it is a case of having to go really.”

Another with a couple of cards up his sleeve for this race is proud Yorkshireman William Haggas, who last won this race in 2017 with Tasleet.

The Newmarket-based handler returns to his native county with the hat-trick seeking course winner Montassib and consistent performer Tiber Flow, who is the preference of the trainer.

Tiber Flow (right) gets William Haggas' vote
Tiber Flow (right) gets William Haggas’ vote (Tim Goode/PA)

“It’s a strong race. I would prefer Tiber Flow tomorrow, but the market doesn’t, so we will see,” said Haggas about his chances.

“Montassib likes it soft and I don’t know how slow or quick it is going to be. He was really effective on soft ground at Doncaster and it probably isn’t going to be that on Wednesday.

“I think Tiber Flow is a pretty useful horse. He didn’t like Newmarket (when fifth in the Abernant), but he had a good blow and he has come forward.”

Michael Dods saddled Azure Blue to lower the colours of Highfield Princess in this 12 months ago, with his stable stalwart Commanche Falls also in the line-up again having claimed a bronze medal last year.

Azure Blue was seen only once more last season, finishing down the field in the July Cup, and after a prolonged battle with injury setbacks is ready to regain some of the momentum she was building.

Azure Blue (left) is the defending champion
Azure Blue (left) is the defending champion (Mike Egerton/PA)

Meanwhile, Kevin Ryan’s Washington Heights will seek to continue on his upward curve having caused a shock on his seasonal return in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.

“Every task he has been set he has stepped up to the mark and he was very progressive last year and perhaps unfortunate to bump into a couple of well-handicapped horses in some of those big-field handicaps,” said Adam Ryan, assistant to his father.

“He rounded his season off with a good win at Listed level and obviously you are never quite sure how much emphasis you can put on that form, but he took his step up to Group level very well last time and he’s got a great attitude on him.

“York is one of the best tracks in the country and for us Yorkshire trainers it’s a very important track and this a very important meeting. It’s great to go there with runners in these big races and I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race, put it that way.”

Four of the first five from that Newmarket Group Three lock horns once again and Jane Chapple-Hyam hopes Newmarket runner-up Mill Stream can benefit for York’s flat and fair sprint straight with William Buick in the plate.

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She said: “It’s maybe not the best draw (stall five), but we’ve got a good jockey who knows him and the horse has improved from the Abernant, so we’ll try to be in the shake-up.

“I feel being back on a flat track will make a big difference rather than that first run into the dip at Newmarket. The change back on to a flat track is definitely a plus.

“He’s raced there, so he knows the track and he’s a very good traveller. That (Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes) is the plan, but we’ll be guided by how he performs on Wednesday.

“When they are three, they are not as mature as older sprinters that are more conditioned to taking on these high-class sprint races.”

Art Power was well held in his return in this in 2023 before finishing the year a Group One winner in the British Champions Sprint.

Art Power winning at Ascot on British Champions day
Art Power winning at Ascot on British Champions day (John Walton/PA)

He opened the pipes in Saudi Arabia in the early part of the year and forms one half of a two-man King Power Racing-owned team alongside Andrew Balding’s All-Weather Championship Finals Day scorer Fivethousandtoone.

“Art Power is probably more forward than he was this time last year when he really needed the race and it looks like there has been a little bit of rain for him,” said Alastair Donald, racing manager to the owners.

“He obviously has a Group One penalty now, but I think he should run really well and then he will go to the Curragh in two weeks which is his favourite place and this will be a good stepping stone.”

On Fivethousandtoone, he added: “I think there is a fine line between a 105 and 115 rated horse in sprints and we think will be a nice track for him. As long as it doesn’t rain too much, he could run quite a big race.”

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