Yearning For York

York’s Ebor Meeting starts on Wednesday, so I thought I’d use today’s piece to fuel anticipation for one of the Flat’s major gatherings.

The Great Voltigeur is one of the highlights on day one, and often serves as a pointer to the St Leger. Idaho was an impressive winner 12 months ago for Aidan O’Brien, but met with disaster at Doncaster, when stumbling and unseating Seamie Heffernan having been sent off a short-priced favourite. The horse has shown his class this season with victory in the Hardwicke Stakes and a notable third behind Enable in the King George.

Sea Moon was another that probably should have took the St Leger, having won the Great Voltigeur. His victory at York was stunning, and he was made favourite for the season’s final Classic. He endured a nightmare passage through the race, and when finally getting a clear run, finished to great effect, but all too late to win.

Despite several going close, John Gosden’s Lucarno was the last to complete the Voltigeur - St Leger double back in 2007. He stayed on strongly at Doncaster, to beat a Ballydoyle battalion. It seems an obvious thing to say, but St Leger winners need to see out the trip strongly. York and Doncaster have long straights, and horses can become embroiled in a protracted battle.

One of the great winners of the St Leger, was Ballydoyle’s Milan. Another powerful stayer, he’d lacked the ‘zip’ in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, but found York and Doncaster to his liking. He stormed clear late-on at Donny to win the Classic by five lengths. Dropped in trip for the Arc, again his lack of speed proved vital, and though he stayed on steadily from the turn, he could only manage a fifth-place finish.

Postponed took the Voltigeur in 2014, but was not thought to have the necessary stamina for Doncaster. He returned to York two years later and captured the Juddmonte International, the highlight of the opening day of the Ebor Meeting.

The prestigious and incredibly valuable showpiece, has been won by numerous high-class colts. Frankel and Sea The Stars are the outstanding pair in recent times to land the prize. Frankel’s demolition of a high-class field was arguably his most thrilling success. His first attempt at the 1m2f trip, and yet he cruised past the opposition, destroying Group One winners Farhh, St Nicholas Abbey and Twice Over.

Sea The Stars took in the Juddmonte during a devastating three-year-old campaign, where the superstar colt swept all before him. He certainly didn’t have it all his own way at York, when having to lower the course record to see-off Ballydoyle’s Mastercraftsman. Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old had won the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot, and proved a worthy adversary. Sea The Stars went on to win the Irish Champion Stakes before landing the Arc at Longchamp.

The Yorkshire Oaks headlines on day two, and we could see a potential great in this year’s renewal, with Enable a likely starter. Khalid Abdullah won the race with the sensational Midday back in 2010, and this filly looks every bit as good. Three times the winner of the Nassau Stakes, the Sir Henry Cecil trained heroine was a class act, though Enable has the potential to reach even greater heights.

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Peeping Fawn was another terrific winner of the Yorkshire Oaks, when storming to a four-length success in 2007. Like Enable, she’d won the Irish Oaks on-route to this, though had also captured the Nassau, rather than take on the boys in the King George.

Another filly who proved good enough to beat the colts, was 2013 Yorkshire Oaks winner The Fugue. Like Enable, she was trained by John Gosden, and having won this race during her four-year-old campaign, travelled to Ireland to win the Irish Champion Stakes. She was sensational on quick ground, and as a five-year-old set a course record when winning the Prince Of Wales’s at Royal Ascot.

Expect fireworks in the Nunthorpe on day three of the meeting. Mecca’s Angel beat Limato in last year’s renewal, and we have another ‘super-filly’ entered this time around, with Lady Aurelia hoping to add this to her sensational King’s Stand success in June.

The Nunthorpe roll of honour is crammed full of sprinting stars. York’s five-furlongs is a quick one, and in recent times few were faster than Sole Power. Ed Lynam’s ‘pocket-rocket’ was often delivered late, with devastating effect. He beat Starspangledbanner to win as a three-year-old in 2010, and then had to wait until 2014 to capture the prestigious sprint as a seven-year-old. On fast ground he was mustard.

Oasis Dream was one of the best, and took the Nunthorpe in stunning fashion back in 2003. He almost lowered Dayjur’s track record, despite being eased down late-on.

Dayjur is thought by many to be the greatest sprinter of them all. He had a stunning three-year-old campaign, capturing York’s showpiece during a season of complete sprinting dominance. The Temple Stakes, the King’s Stand and the Prix de l’Abbaye were captured before his final run in America. In sight of victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, he leapt a shadow nearing the post, and lost out by a neck.

It’s sure to be a week to remember, with the hugely competitive Ebor Handicap taking place on the final day. Sadly, I can only get to York for the Juddmonte, but undoubtedly will enjoy another thrilling day at one of the UK’s greatest tracks.

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