Varian still to decide on whether Prince will defend Ebor crown

Last year’s Ebor winner Fujaira Prince is set to return to the Knavesmire next week – but whether he defends his Sky Bet Ebor crown or runs in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup has still to be decided.

Roger Varian’s lightly-raced seven-year-old had his first outing of the season last month when third to Hukum at York.

Varian, who has been in red-hot form recently, has still to take the final decision over whether he will attempt to become just the second horse to win Europe’s richest handicap twice after Flint in 1922 and 1923.

Varian said: “The Ebor meeting has been a long-term plan, but a decision hasn’t yet been made as to which race he will run in.

“He won nicely off 108 last year and the extra 6lb he has to carry this time around wouldn’t be enough for us to rule out the race.

“It’s whether you essentially take on Listed and Group Three horses in a compressed handicap, or line-up against those good horses over two miles. The standard of the opposition will be taken into account before we make up our minds.

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“We were happy with his comeback and would expect him to build on it.

“Despite his good record fresh, as he’s getting older it might take him a run to reach peak fitness and the Silver Cup should have set him up nicely for the Ebor meeting.

“Although he has shown form on good ground or quicker, he is better with some give.

“If he gets his ideal conditions, which are probably a mile and six with ease underfoot, he is high class. I think he is capable of conceding weight in a race like the Ebor.”

Stablemate Eshaada, runner-up in the Ribblesdale, is being primed for a tilt at the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, on Thursday week.

“We’ve always had the Darley Yorkshire Oaks in mind for her and she’s looked very much like a mile-and-a-half filly,” said Varian.

Eshaada (blue) was impressive at Newbury
Eshaada (blue) was impressive at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She ran extremely well in the Ribblesdale where she wasn’t ideally positioned off what was a slow enough pace.

“I think she looked the best filly in that race, she looked the best filly when she won her Listed race and she could be coming here unbeaten if things had panned out differently for her.”

Varian’s other major contenders for the meeting include Third Realm in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes and Teona in the Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes.

Varian went on: “Third Realm ran a nice race at Goodwood – he would need to improve to be a Voltigeur winner, but the more of a test he gets at this trip the more it will suit him.

“We are very much looking forward to running Teona in the Galtres. We’ve not seen her since the Oaks, but we’ve always thought she was capable of considerably better than she’s shown.

“She didn’t handle the very soft ground at Epsom, while she pulled too when she was third to Snowfall in the Musidora, but she has since shown more of an inclination to relax at home.”

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