York Ebor Preview, Trends and Tips
After a couple of weeks in the relative doldrums, British flat racing leaps back to life this week with the four day Ebor meeting from York's gorgeous racecourse, the Knavesmire.
As always, before considering what to bet, we need first to understand the nature of the track: its layout, and draw nuances - as well as any personnel who might be specifically targeting the meeting.
We'll start with a look at just that and, as the week wears on, you'll find trends, form analysis and trends for all the major races. It will be hard to top the achievements of Glorious Goodwood, but that's not to say we shouldn't try. 🙂
OK, with that all said, let's get on with it, starting with...
York Ebor Course Constitution
The Knavesmire course at York consists of three elements: a straight or near straight piste for races from five to seven furlongs; a one turn (plus dogleg) strip for races from a mile up to one mile six furlongs; and, an oval passing the winning post twice for races from two miles to two miles six furlongs.
The course is flat and galloping and is widely considered to be a very fair test. Indeed, when Ascot was closed for renovations earlier this century, York was chosen to host the prestigious 'Royal Ascot' meeting.
York Racecourse Draw Bias
The completely straight five and six furlong course doesn't seem to have a pronounced bias these days, with horses winning from all stall positions. However, runners steering a path down the centre of the track have seemed to perform best, irrespective of which berth they emerged from at the start.
At seven furlongs, we bring into play a dogleg for the first time, as this trip sees races begin in a chute adjacent and, naturally, slightly beyond the six furlong start gate. Those drawn closest to the dogleg have the least distance to travel and, on decent ground, are well favoured.
All races from a mile to a mile and a quarter start in close enough proximity to the tight home turn for that bend to be a factor. Indeed, a high draw has historically been advantageous across all these race distances.
As you might expect, beyond ten furlongs, there is little to no draw bias.
York Racecourse Pace Analysis
York favours horses who race on or very close to the pace.
Indeed, according to Proform's excellent software, horses who led in their races won 14.58% of the time since 2007, and returned a whopping 191.63 units profit at starting price. At Betfair SP, this profit figure was a huge 399.58 points!
Emphasising the benefit of a prominent run style is the fact that those horses who were in the second rank in their races won 8.43% of the time , and those held up only had a winners to runners ratio of 7.28%.
York Ebor Top Trainers
This is a flagship meeting, and it is THE meeting that northern trainers target, even more so than Royal Ascot. As such, it's probably no surprise that my shortlist of trainers to follow at the meeting are mainly Yorkshiremen.
I positioned my odds parameters to allow followers of this angle to specifically bet candidates each way. That is, I have insisted that qualifiers on this mini angle must be at least 5/1. At the other end of the scale, I've put the bar at 25/1, as very few horses win anywhere above this price, and only three have done so at the Ebor meeting since 2009 (Crackentorp, Sole Power, and Monitor Closely).
With that in mind, the quartet I'm interested in are: Michael Bell, Tim Easterby, Willie Haggas and John Dunlop.
This quartet has plundered eight winners and another eight places from just 55 runners (29.09% strike rate), for a profit of forty points at SP, and an each way return of 48.1 points at SP.
They've had at least two winners and another two places in each of the last three seasons, and should again reward blind support within the odds parameters noted.
York Ebor Top Jockeys
The two jocks to keep an eye out for, in the value range of 5/1 to 25/1, are Kieren Fallon and Jamie Spencer. Both have had five winners in the last three Ebor meetings, and they've had another six and seven placed horses respectively, from a combined total of 55 runners in the bracket.
Profit at SP was 60.5 units, and at Betfair SP that rose slightly to 75.01 units. Each way support yielded 82.75 units of profit at a win/place strike rate of 41.82%.
I'm not much of a fan of jockey stats in truth, but these figures do seem to clearly demonstrate that Messrs Fallon and Spencer are the 'go to' guys when it comes to the Ebor meeting.
At the other end of the spectrum, Tom Queally has had no luck on each-way priced horses, with a 0 from 21 record in the last three years. He'll be keen to end that this time around.
So there we are. In this short intro piece, we've established that we probably want a front-running or pace-pressing horse, ideally drawn high if racing around the turn, and bonus points will be awarded if it is trained by Bell, Dunlop, Easterby or Haggas; and/or ridden by Fallon or Spencer.
See below for a full rundown of the opening day's action, which features the mighty Frankel stretching out over ten furlongs for the first time in public; the pre-eminent St Leger trial, the Great Voltigeur; and four other tasty betting heats.
York Ebor Day One (Wednesday) Preview and Tips
2.00 SYMPHONY GROUP STAKES (HANDICAP) (CLASS 2)
We kick off with an impossible looking handicap over five furlongs and a handful of yards, scheduled to be contested by a score of runners where they bet 9/1 the field. Barring five scratches then, we at least have four places to go at! (Silver lining and all that).
There have only been three previous renewals and all were won by a horse aged five or six, and all three lugged 9-04 or more. All three were third (or joint third) top weighted.
After that, things get more difficult, although two of the three winners had already won that Summer in Class 3 five furlong handicaps or higher.
There are no horses which match that tenuous set of criteria, so we'll have to rely on the form book. (Sorry!).
First up, at the top of the handicap, Captain Dunne is likely to take them along early and has a nice midfield draw for a trainer to note at the meeting. Tim Easterby is that handler, and he was responsible for 2010 winner, Hamish McGonagall. Fast ground and a big field won't bother him, and he'll be ready for this. Chance.
Another at the top of the weights of interest to me is Zero Money, from the Roger Charlton stable. This six year old has won a Class 2 five furlong handicap on today's going, and should be prominent enough to make a challenge. He seems to need a fast pace to be effective, and I think he'll be very close to making the frame, at least.
Two at the lower end of the weights, and at bigger prices too, are Hazelrigg and Silvanus.
Hazelrigg won over course and distance as recently as last month, in a Class 2 handicap. Since then the light has been hidden under the bushel somewhat, with a bungled start (blindfold still on) at Ascot; a tough trip and a bad draw at Ripon; and, a harder to excuse performance last time at Donny.
The feeling persists that this fellow has been readied for today and, again from a middle draw for Tim Easterby, he's a chance at a juicy price.
Silvanus is much easier to make a case for. He's won three of his last six starts, been second in another two, and was mugged in his run in the only other effort. Trip and ground are fine for this prolific nine-time winner, and although this company might be a bit too elevated, he's a reasonable 16/1 shot in my book.
Obviously, there are plenty of dangers, and my main aim will be to keep placepot tickets alive. These four will form a core of my travails towards that objective.
Four against the field (!) : Captain Dunne, Zero Money, Hazelrigg, Silvanus
2.30 ACOMB STAKES (GROUP 3)
From too many to almost too few, as we are now presented with a mere quintet of qualifiers - which is at least an each way quorum - for the Acomb Stakes, a two year old Group 3 over seven furlongs.
This is typically a small field event, and typically it is won by a fancied runner. Ten of the last thirteen winners were priced 7/2 or shorter, and only 2005 winner, Palace Episode (16/1), won at a double digit price.
It's no surprise in that context that ten of the last thirteen Acomb winners also won their previous start, and eleven of them were either favourite (five) or second favourite (six).
Seven winners in that time had had just one prior start, four had raced twice, and two had three previous tries. No debutante winners have been recorded in those years, and no horse with four or more starts under his belt has prevailed.
This race has little appeal to me from a betting perspective, with all five open to improvement, some of them considerably so. With that in mind, and mindful of the fine record of once raced types, I'm siding with the debut winner, Ebn Arab.
Charles Hills' Dixie Union colt is bred for middle distances, and his win over course and distance was impressive. Specifically, he won by five lengths going away, with large gaps between the horses in behind as well. The second and fourth have won since, giving the visual impression a hint of academic confirmation, and he's already the fastest horse in the race on Topspeed figures.
Against him is the twelve length last time winner, Dundonnell. But let's be clear: he was 1-4 that day, and it was over a mile at HQ. Although it's early days, the form looks only so-so, and not the level of Ebn Arab's, against my estimation at least.
Afonso de Sousa is the other of this trio vying for favouritism and he's also the most experienced in the field, with three races already. He was only good enough for fourth in a Newmarket maiden, when Dundonnell was a length and a bit in front of him, but bolted up by nine lengths last time out.
The Newmarket maiden was on soft ground, and the nine length demolition was over six furlongs on good. Although Afonso de Sousa is bred for this sort of trip, I'd still expect the selection to have too much improvement. Indeed, I'd argue he may already have achieved more in one start than the Irish raider has in three.
Concluding the five are Steeler, a last out Goodwood maiden winner, and American Impact, a last out five furlong Musselburgh winner. Neither look good enough to challenge the top three.
Selection: Ebn Arab
3.05 GREAT VOLTIGEUR STAKES (GROUP 2)
A cracking renewal of this perennial St Leger trial, despite only six runners.
Here's what history tells us about this contest: in the last fourteen years, half the winners also won last time out; the other half were second to fifth (six) and eighth. Eleven of the last fourteen winners were priced at 6/1 or shorter.
Main Sequence heads the market after excellent efforts to finish second and fourth in the English and French Derby's respectively. Those were truly run contests, and he finished well in both implying that the St Leger is an appropriate late season goal.
He's a worthy favourite, and could win, but he's around the 2/1 mark and I'm greedy.
Next in we have a trio of horses who are tightly bound on form and odds through linchpin, Noble Mission. Encke, Thomas Chippendale, and, indeed Thought Worthy, have all finished within a half length of Noble Mission, either in front of or behind that chap.
Noble Mission himself has never been out of the first two, with six runs split equally between gold and silver podium placements. Although there's nothing between him and Encke on form, Encke may just have more scope to improve after only four prior starts.
Thomas Chippendale however might have the measure of both of them. Already a half length better than the Mission in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot (Thought Worthy a further neck back in third), TC was actually stopped in his run that day and yet was still good enough to prevail.
I'd expect him to be the one to untangle this form knot and lead Noble Mission, Encke and Thought Worthy home. Whether that's enough to win the race is another question.
Thought Worthy has very strong form and, in my opinion, should be a little shorter than he is. He was fourth in the Derby; beat Noble Mission in a Listed race at Newmarket; ran close to French Derby winner, Imperial Monarch earlier in the season; and - as mentioned - was close to Thomas Chippendale and Noble Mission last time. In a race with very little pace, he's the stayer who might benefit most from a crawl. He's likely to lead, and if he can keep a bit up his sleeve, might repel the pursuants.
The one I've not mentioned could well be the fly in the ointment. Energizer has moved from Germany to Godolphin's Newmarket operations since his Royal Ascot win in the Tercentenary Stakes. That was over a mile and a quarter, but there's every chance he'll improve for this additional quarter mile as a son of excellent middle distance sire, Monsun.
The ground will be lively enough, as it stands, but there was no fluke about that comfortable Group 3 victory the last day. It will be interesting to see if Mahmood al Zarooni can tease improvement out of Energizer, after a holiday of two months.
It's a super trappy affair, and marginal preference is for Thomas Chippendale.
Selection: Thomas Chippendale
Dangers: Thought Worthy e/w, the rest!
3.40 JUDDMONTE INTERNATIONAL STAKES (GROUP 1)
Frankel. Ten furlongs. At last. St Nicholas Abbey too. Farrh and Twice Over also.
Frankel wins, and stablemate Twice Over is interesting each way and in the 'without Frankel' markets. The latter is a four time Group 1 ten furlong winner, including in this race last year. Fast ground is ticketty-boo for him, and he's too big at 5/1 without Frankel, especially as you can bet 1/5 1-2-3 with Hills.
That basically means you get your money back if Twice Over finishes in the first four. He will. And he might be second to Frankel.
Best each way/without Frankel: Twice Over
4.15 BETVICTOR.COM STAKES (HANDICAP) (CLASS 2)
After what promises to be one of the most exciting races of the season, whatever happens, we have a two mile handicap. Only three renewals to date, and all three of the winning trainers are represented.
Mark Tompkins won last year with Dazinski, a great result for Geegeez readers, and he bids to follow up here. Tompkins also has Mystery Star here, and jockey bookings - Hanagan and Fallon - suggest both are fit and fancied.
2010 winning trainer, John Quinn, runs the Triumph Hurdler, Countrywide Flame; and 2009 winning trainer John Dunlop has Downhiller engaged.
There's very little else to go on aside from the form book, and regular readers will know that large field handicaps are not contests where I spend time sifting through every single runner. Rather, I prefer to look for a horse who has conditions in its favour and side tentatively with that.
Here, favourable conditions would be a win over two miles or thereabouts (all three winners won over at least 1m7f); a nice draw in this big field; and a prominent run style.
Western Prize is far from an original choice, being as he is the 5/1 favourite. But he has a helluva lot in his favour. Trained by the marvellous Ralph Beckett, he's drawn box 4, has won over 1m6f and been second over two miles, races prominently, and should improve on what he's done to date.
Frankie Dettori also has a live chance on top weight and Cesarewitch winner, Never Can Tell. Again, all boxes are ticked and, whilst she has plenty of weight, that's because she's a good bit better animal than most/all of these. 11/1 is perfectly fair about her chance.
Dazinski is respected in his repeat bid, off a mark just one pound higher than last term. It's clearly not a simple job to follow up in races like these, but he's got everything in his favour once more.
Loads of dangers as you'd expect, but I'll be working those three into my wagering and hoping for a positive outcome.
Selection: Western Prize
Next Best: Dazinski, Never Can Tell
4.50 TALK TO VICTOR STAKES (HANDICAP) (CLASS 2)
We close day one with another big field handicap, this time over ten furlongs and a few yards. Sir Michael Stoute likes to send a strongly fancied one for this, and he's landed it three times in the past decade with horses at single figure odds.
Consequently, Sir John Hawkwood must be on the shortlist. This thrice-raced son of Sir Percy has won both times he's run over today's ten furlong trip, including in this class bracket last time out.
His only defeat was when racing on heavy ground over a trip shy of his best (a mile). His hold up style however might not be ideal for a race like this, and he will likely need a fair bit of luck in running. Certainly, he wouldn't want to be trying to close from too far back against hardened scrapper 'cappers.
Also potentially against him is the record of three-year-olds in the race. Sir Michael did win with a 3yo back in 2002, but that was the last time the Classic generation showed their elders the way home. 28 have tried and failed since then, including numerous priced at single figure odds.
Four and five year olds have had it between them since then, with six of the last nine winners being four, and the other trio five.
As well as Sir Michael Stoute, Richard Fahey also has his name on the roster for this contest twice since 2005, as well as a second and a fourth in that period. He saddles the four year old Las Verglas Star here, a grey gelding who has run very well to finish second on his last three starts, the last two of which were in big field handicaps over this trip.
He must have a squeak although, of course, the concern remains that he'll find at least one better than him again.
Suits Me will almost certainly lead them early, and despite being the veteran of the field at nine, he might hang tough until very late in the day. He was only just seen off last time in a decent Doncaster handicap. Whilst it wouldn't surprise me to see him make the frame, it's harder to envisage him giving two years and more to some of the sprightlier in the field.
One who has a lot going for her is Tim Easterby's Maven. All of the Easterby's love a winner on the Knavesmire, especially in Ebor week, and none of them have mastered the game as well as Tim in recent seasons.
Maven has plenty on her side too: she's a course and distance winner; is tough and consistent; tends to race up with the pace (though was held up last time when winning here with a fair amount in hand); and will love the fast ground.
As with all Ebor meeting handicaps, it's extremely competitive, and I'll be taking a punt with the four year olds against the field.
Selections: Las Verglas Star, Maven
And that's Wednesday from where I'm sitting. There should be some excellent placepot pickings this week for those of you who a) are interested in such things and b) are smart enough to navigate your way through the card. That said, with Frankel essentially making this a five leg placepot, the first of the four York dividends may be the smallest.
York Ebor Day Two (Thursday) Preview and Tips
Day Two of four on the Knavesmire and, after the excitement and brilliance of Frankel yesterday, it's the turn of the laydeez today, with four of the six races open to fillies and mares only.
2.00 DBS PREMIER YEARLING STAKES (CLASS 2)
We kick off with one of the two unisex events on the card, the DBS Yearling Stakes, over six furlongs, for two year olds. The race has only been held at York five times since its inception, having previously been hosted by Doncaster. Newmarket also accommodated it in 2008, when York's meeting was abandoned.
Some pretty smart horses have won it, including Wootton Bassett as recently as 2010.
Trends are a bit thin on the ground, due to the mobility of the race location, so it's probably best to stick to the form book. That, of course, brings its own challenges in a large field of unexposed babies. But let's give it a whirl in any case!
I can tell you that eight of the last eleven winners were priced at 10/1 or shorter, though the other three were 18/1, 20/1 and 25/1. And, prior to those eleven renewals, there were winners at 14/1, 16/1 and 20/1 around the turn of the century. Hmm, not sure that helps at all...
The form picks are Annunciation, Hototo and Liber, based on what's already in the book. But, naturally enough, there are plenty in here expected to deliver more than they've thus far demonstrated. Blessington and Rocky Ground are the most obvious in that camp.
Let's start with the two unexposed types at the head of the market, Rocky Ground and Blessington. The former is trained by Roger Varian, and has beaten all bar the unbeaten Ollie Olga in his two starts. He was expected to win last time (odds on favourite), but looked a tricky ride, or perhaps just inexperienced, as he pulled hard and then lugged right late on.
That was a small field and it's possible that this larger herd will enable him to get some cover and relax a little better. Certainly, his price implies that will happen. Indeed, although Rocky Ground does look a nag of some promise, he's very short in a race like this, and I'll pass him over on value bases.
Blessington comes from the mighty Johnny G barn, and won well in a Goodwood maiden last time. He had Saint Jerome (re-opposes, and a winner since) a length and a bit in his wake that day and should again be too good for that one. The sixth horse from that Goodwood race has also won since from just a few subsequent starters so the form looks all right.
Of the earlier types, with more races under their saddle cloths, Hototo and Annunciation look best. Hototo was precocious enough to win the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot (Liber and a couple of others from here well beaten), and has run well in defeat since.
He's stepping up from five to six furlongs here, and that has to be taken on trust. Given his lack of scope for improvement and that 20% trip increment, I'll look elsewhere for a wager in this one.
Annunciation is one I like. He hails from the Hannon herd, and any juvenile from there commands at least a second look. A winner in two of his three runs since a two length second to leading juvenile, Reckless Abandon, the only blemish on his card was when well turned over by the same horse in the Norfolk at Royal Ascot.
I think Annunciation will get this extra furlong without a problem (sire and damsire both solid milers), and this is a lot less competitive than that Group 2 at the Royal meeting.
Others to consider in a cluttered field are Body And Soul, Mister Marc and the aforementioned Liber. But I'll take Blessington and Annunciation on a wing and a prayer.
Each way: Annunciation
2.30 LOWTHER STAKES (GROUP 2) (FILLIES) (CLASS 1)
The first of the races for the lasses, and another juvenile contest, again over six furlongs. This is often a very high class contest, as you'd expect for a Group 2, with fillies such as Hooray, Russian Rhythm, Queens Logic, Bint Allayl and Cape Verdi winning in recent years.
Nine of the last thirteen winners were last time out victors; and twelve of the last thirteen came from the top four in the betting (six favourites), so it's probably not a race to get too cute in.
Of those horses with an official rating in the last fourteen years, only 93-rated Jemima in 1999 was on a double digit mark; the rest were rated 100+. Eleven of the last thirteen winners were having their third or fourth career start.
The clear favourite here is Johnny G's Newfangled, and she sets an excellent standard on form, as well as ticking all trends boxes. The one imponderable with her is the ground: both her wins to date have been on soft turf, and this will be a good bit quicker than she's encountered thus far.
But I'm confident her trainer wouldn't run her if he didn't think she'd act on the faster surface, and 11/10 might look value by 2.35pm this afternoon.
It's actually quite hard to make a compelling case for any of her rivals against the level of form Newfangled has shown thus far, but Rosdhu Queen is at least unbeaten in two. She's won a Listed race to boot, and that just six days ago.
That race was over five furlongs, and she ought to have little trouble with the extra trip here, both on breeding and based on the manner in which she plugged on over five. But that level of form leaves her plenty to find with the jolly.
Baileys Jubilee is rated 103, and might give Newfangled most to think about. After running promisingly in early season, she's been over to France for her last two runs, resulting in a Listed win over five and a Group 3 second over six. She was beaten just a short neck in that most recent start, and is the form choice for silver here.
She ought to run well, but she doesn't have quite the scope of some of these, and one which catches my eye a little is the once raced winner, Badr al Badoor. James Fanshawe doesn't tend to overface his horses, and usually gives them plenty of time too.
So it is that this daughter of Acclamation has had a good rest after beating off all-comers on her debut at the end of June. That form has been franked by the second, third and fourth all winning since, and both trip and ground will be fine. Whether she's good enough remains to be seen of course, but that's why she's on offer at around 9/1.
Fanshawe won this in 2004 with a filly called Soar, his only runner in the race in the last fourteen seasons at least, and he has a decent chance again.
Each way: Badr al Badoor
3.05 3yo+ HANDICAP (CLASS 2)
A mile handicap for three year olds and up, and just the twenty runners to assess. All nine winners in the past decade (2008 abandoned) were aged three or four, and it seems sensible to focus primarily on that age bracket. We're probably also looking for a horse rated at least in the early nineties.
Those two criteria offer a convenience shortlist of Sandagiyr, Trade Storm, Anderiego, Switzerland and Kahruman.
The first on this list is rated 107 and was having his first run since a fine Meydan campaign (won a Group 3) when seventh of nine in a German Group 2 last month. This is the lowest grade of race he's run in, and he could be a class apart, but jockey bookings suggest he's stable second string, and I'd want to see some sort of a competitive finish in recent turf starts anyway.
Trade Storm is a horse I've liked for a while, and having backed him in the Royal Hunt Cup (stuffed) and deserted him in the Shergar Cup (2nd, 16/1), I'll be back onside here. He normally races mid-division and that should be ideal here, with the ground looking spot on too.
Anderiego is owned by the Ebor Racing Club, and is bidding for a course and distance hat-trick, having won his last two starts here in July. He's gone up from a mark of 80 to 93, but still looks progressive, and top track jock Kieren Fallon will give the syndicate every hope. He's obviously not hiding much from the 'capper, but I think he has a robust chance of notching the treble, and it'll be a very popular win if he does.
That leaves the two three-year-olds, Kahruman and Switzerland, both of which can only offer winning form from the all weather. That's not to say they don't act on turf of course, as fine runs at Royal Ascot and Goodwood attest.
Kahruman has less experience, and may appreciate this galloping flat mile on fast ground. Switzerland I'm not so sure about. He seems to have run his best turf races over ten furlongs, and whilst it will never be a surprise to see a Mark Johnston horse win a decent handicap, he'd not be on my list.
Elsewhere in the field, the standing dish that is Navajo Chief will bid to repeat his win last year, having also been fourth the year before. There are few shrewder trainers than Alan Jarvis, and the Chief will have been trained to the moment for a crack at a pot on his favoured York piste. He's weighted to win, and is dropping back to an optimal distance after runs over nine and ten furlongs the last twice.
Of the remainder, Prince of Johanne is a brilliant horse, though he does need a searching gallop (as when winning the Royal Hunt Cup off 100). There's a doubt about whether he'll get that here, despite the big field, but if they did go off fast, he'd have to be on the list.
Ultimately, it's a very tough puzzle and, with stakes to a minimum, I'm playing like this:
Each way: Anderiego, Trade Storm, Kahruman
Respected: Navajo Chief, Prince of Johanne
3.40 DARLEY YORKSHIRE OAKS (GROUP 1) (CLASS 1)
Another cracking contest, and the late summer middle distance highlight for fillies and mares. Just the seven of them are due to battle this out, but there's class and finesse aplenty within their elegant midst.
In the last fifteen years, all bar the Italian raider, Super Tassa, were three or four years old. The Classic generation has it nine to five on the score sheet during that time.
And again, barring Super Tassa - a 25/1 bomb - all of the remaining fourteen recent winners were priced at 7/1 or shorter. This is unlikely to be a shock result.
If we were to break things down into two mini-races, one for three year olds and one for older horses, The Fugue would be clear in the Classic race.
Despite being beaten into third by both Was (winner) and Shirocco Star (second) in the Oaks at Epsom, the argument - with which I have sympathy - goes that what really beat her there was the track. That argument is given a hint more ballast by the way The Fugue lugged in on older roomie, Izzi Top, in the Nassau Stakes, a Group 1 run on Goodwood's equally undulating strip.
In that latter race, Was was almost three lengths adrift of The Fugue at the line, and that looks a more reliable interpretation of the two fillies' respective merits.
Shirocco Star, for her part, added a bronze medal in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot, and another Oaks silver in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh. It's quite possible that the Ascot race would have come soon enough, and she ran a cracker to be next best behind Great Heavens in Ireland, reversing form with both her Ascot (Princess Highway) and Epsom (Was) conquerors.
The dark one is Coquet. She was travelling like the winner in the Epsom Oaks when brutalized against the rail. With nowhere to go, her jockey Robert Havlin took a monster pull dropping her to last of the twelve runners. She then fair flew to be beaten less than six lengths in sixth.
I'm pretty sure that she'd have been in the frame but for that incident, and she hasn't been seen since.
The Fugue from Shirocco Star / Coquet from Was then in the 3yo mini-race.
The older horses are harder to accurately sequence. Shareta ought to be the best of them, based on a number of form lines, most notably a third in last year's Prix Vermeille and a second last time in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud, both Group 1's.
But her record of just three wins from twelve starts is a cause for consternation at this rarefied altitude.
Wild Coco is a mare, in every respect, for me. I've never got her right. I couldn't have her one iota at Goodwood last time, and she fair hacked up in that Group 3. Prior to that, she was second last in a Listed contest over course and distance here on this same card last term.
Presumably something went wrong there, because she wasn't seen again until that 'impossible' Goodwood romp. Sir Henry had worked his magic with yet another filly. His record in this race - four wins - means Wild Coco cannot easily be discounted, but the balance of her form leaves her a little to find with the best of these. With just six career starts though, and one of those a 'knock out', she could well find more.
Jessie Harrington's Bible Lord completes the line up, and this lass is owned by the same connections as Snow Fairy. Lucky bleeders... erm, I mean breeders. Two fantastic broodmares of the future.
For now, though, Bible Lord showed her talent when running up to 2011 Oaks winner, Dancing Rain, in the inaugural Champions Day Fillies and Mares race. Since then, she's raced against the boys twice this term, and was a shade disappointing in the latter of those two.
A tentative suggestion for the older horse 1-2-3 is Wild Coco, Shareta, Bible Lord.
With those lines in place then, the question is which would win between The Fugue and Wild Coco. The answer has to be The Fugue, and I think she'll probably win this.
However... there is little to no pace here. Was will probably try to make all, in the absence of any confirmed front-runners, and she'll surely be caught and passed by most of these. She makes no appeal at all at 6/1.
If they do go a fair clip, then The Fugue will probably win. If not, I think both Coquet and Shirocco Star are interesting at a price.
It's hard to categorically discard any of the septet, with the possible exception of Was, but The Fugue gives jolly-ticklers a good chance of a return, and Coquet and Shirocco could fill out the places.
Selection: The Fugue
Possible value alternatives: Coquet, Shirocco Star
4.15 GALTRES STAKES (LISTED RACE)
Again, no race in 2008. Twelve of the last fourteen winners were 8/1 or shorter, so again it's unlikely to throw up an outsider. Curiously, only one last time out winner has bagged the Galtres since 1997, a stat which I find mystifying and can only put down to coincidence.
Three year olds have won ten of the last fourteen, with their one year elders scooping the other four. That doesn't bode well for five year old Cracking Lass, who is just that, but may be out of her depth here, conceding ten pounds all round. Against that, she was second in this last year when a 25/1 poke, so maybe all hope is not lost.
Eleven of the fourteen winners were from the first four in the betting, and it makes sense to focus on that range again.
The top four here are Sequence, Pale Mimosa, Bite Of The Cherry and Firdaws.
Sequence is coming back to the track just a week after stealing a big lead and retaining it all the way to the line in a Class 4 handicap. Whilst horses can step up from that level to Listed class (Set To Music did it in this race last year), I'd want a good bit more than 7/4 about it.
The other thing is that facile-looking winners often take more out of themselves than meets the eye. She can win, for sure, but 7/4 is not for me.
Pale Mimosa won by even more than that - fifteen lengths! - when hacking in at Galway the last day. She beat nothing at all but was clearly impressive. That was on heavy ground on a quirky undulating right-handed track. This race is on fast ground on a pan flat left-handed track. Again, she might easily be able to win, but there are enough question marks there for 11/4 to be on the short side.
Next in at around 8/1 are Bite Of The Cherry and Firdaws. The former was yet another facile winner last time out, although 'only' by five lengths, again in a Class 4 handicap. I'd rather take 8/1 about a horse stepping up here than 7/4 and, purely from a value angle - allied to the fact she's had a few weeks off and is progressive - she's tempting.
Firdaws was only fifth last time, but that was in a Listed race and is commensurate with the best of the more highly regarded horses in the wagering. She has been disappointing this season, failing to build on an excellent third in the Group 1 Fillies' Mile last backend. She's also stepping up in trip, which might bring about improvement... and might not.
All told, she's a risky proposition, but that's why she's 8/1.
Of the remainder, as I've written, a case can be made for Cracking Lass on the basis of her silver medal spot last year, if you can accept that she is conceding ten pounds all round.
Tactics will be interesting here, as there's the prospect of a battle for the lead between Sequence and Bite Of The Cherry, which may compromise both of their chances. If one or other got their own way in front, that would certainly give them a fair chance of getting out and staying out, a la Thought Worthy yesterday.
Pale Mimosa and Aniseed are the stalking horses, and Aniseed won at the first attempt at this twelve furlong trip last time. That was on the all weather at Lingfield, and her all weather form looks a beat sharper than her turf form.
This is a tricky old race, and it could go many ways. I'll be playing Sequence and Pale Mimosa on my 'A' tickets in the placepot and Bite Of The Cherry, Cracking Lass and Firdaws on my 'B' tickets. In other words, I haven't a clue what will happen!
Possible each way value: Bite Of The Cherry
4.50 FILLIES´ STAKES (HANDICAP) (CLASS 2)
We close ladies' day with a fillies' handicap, over seven furlongs. A maximum of fifteen runners means there will only be three places to play for, and down the middle of the track may well be where the action unfolds.
I'm looking for a prominent racer who is drawn low to middle, with strong seven furlong form, and the class to win. Sir Michael Stoute's Ladyship doesn't have an ideal draw, but may be able to mitigate that with a good start. Certainly she has a lot in her favour, and ought to run well, stepping back up to seven furlongs.
There is likely to be better value elsewhere, though, and confirmed front runner, Swerve, has the perfect berth in trap two to optimize her early speed. She was bought from Dermot Weld's yard in the perennial Juddmonte cast off sale.
Alan McCabe paid 80,000 guineas for her, so clearly good things are expected of this daughter of seven furlong specialist Oasis Dream. With no other obvious pace in the field, she might well get an uncontested lead from a good draw on a speed favouring track and, in that context, 20/1 is too big, especially as she has been in the first three in four of her seven starts to date.
Bunraku might also run well from a low draw. She likes to race prominently, and has good ground form which ties her in with Riot Of Colour, who is less well drawn/suited by the likely pace scenario. She's right at the bottom of the handicap here, which means she's not the best of these, but all others are giving her weight. With most things in her favour, she might be worth a chance at around 14/1.
Riot Of Colour is ultra-consistent, having been in the first two in all seven career starts. Alas, six of those have been second places, suggesting that she finds only the one pace. And, worse still, five of her runs have been as favourite, including her last four! She's highly likely to be thereabouts, and placepot punters looking for a banker could do worse than side with her, but as a win proposition, she's unattractive... to me at least.
David Barron won this last year - the inaugural running - and he has another decent chance this time with that same filly, Shesastar. She's a hold up horse, so will need a lot of things to go her way, but she's in great form having won under today's conditions on her penultimate race, and wasn't beaten far last time despite only being fourth of five in a race which wouldn't have been at all run to suit.
Seven furlongs on good to firm in this grade looks ideal for her, and Graham Gibbons knows her well having won on that aforementioned recent win.
It is, of course, a wide open affair, and I'm taking two at double digits.
Each way selections: Swerve, Shesastar
On the placepot ticket (amongst others): Ladyship, Riot Of Colour
York Ebor Day Three (Friday) Preview and Tips
It's been a tough couple of days so far, with just Thought Worthy and Trade Storm keeping us in the hunt. We begin the second half of York's four day Ebor extravaganza with Nunthorpe day, and rain has eased the ground to good, possibly on the soft side. As well as the Group 1 sprint, there is also the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes, plus a Group 3 and the usual unfathomable handicaps. So let's get to it:
2.00 SKY BET MOBILE STAKES (HANDICAP) (CLASS 2)
We kick off with a twenty runner mile and a half handicap, and I have to declare that I am enjoying the hospitality of the sponsors, the excellent Skybet, today. Lucky me! 😉
Three year olds have won just two of the last nine renewals (abandoned in 2008), and both of those were short priced runners trained by 'Always Trying' Mark Johnston. He runs the tough as teak 3yo, Fennell Bay, this time. This chap is rated 93 but races from a handy enough mark, and might make the frame.
Four and five year old's have taken six of the remaining seven instances, and that might be the age bracket in which to focus, despite Crackentorp striking a blow for the veterans - at 33/1 - last term.
This is tough and, as ever in such races, I'll look for a horse(s) suited by conditions and hang my hat on its / their chance for small money only.
I start my search with Mrs Karl Burke's Tepmokea, a dual course and distance winner on wildly differing ground. He likes to bowl along in front and, whilst that might be difficult to see through to the jam stick against nineteen rivals, he does look likely to get a fairly easy lead. As a winner here in a field of sixteen off today's mark of 90, and proven on any ground, he makes my ticket.
Silvery Moon has been super-consistent for his trainer, Tim Easterby, making the podium in eleven of seventeen races. This will be his first attempt at beyond a mile and a quarter, and if he stays, he's a fine chance. If he stays...
The market is dominated by a trio of t'ree year olds: Silver Lime, Willie Wag Tail and Expert Fighter. The first named has any amount of progression in him after finishing fast over a furlong shorter to nick the prize on the line at Glorious Goodwood. He's a legitimate market leader and anything around 6/1 is fair; shorter is stretching the value paradigm a tad too far for my tastes.
Willie Wag Tail is a hold up horse ridden by Jamie Spencer. Normally that would scream 'no bet' to me, but he's definitely better than his last run where he was interfered with, and the wider expanses of the last half mile here should give him his chance if he's good enough to snatch it. Trip and class are fine.
Expert Fighter is a Godolphin own bred son of Dubai Destination, and he won well last time over this trip on fast ground. That was a small field where Frankie was able to make all, which was a change of tactics. A repeat of the front-running approach would cause Tepmokea an issue, and Expert Fighter's draw in the car park (18) hardly encourages an early front rank move. Not for me, on balance.
Each way selections: Tepmokea, Silver Lime
Others to consider: Silvery Moon, Fennell Bay, Willie Wag Tail
2.30 GIMCRACK STAKES (GROUP 2)
The six furlong Gimcrack Stakes has long been a prize highly sought after, not for its opportunities in the breeding sheds of the future, but rather for the opportunity to make a speech at the Gimcrack dinner a month or so later.
Morawij's owner, Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum, is in pole position this time as his horse is clear favourite at around the 2/1 mark.
Recent history has given us the following clues to the winner of the Gimcrack: all of the last fifteen winners were in the first five last time (only five won last time out); there were three 16/1 winners in that time with the rest all returning single figure prices; and, all bar one of those winners ran last between sixteen and sixty days ago.
That actually offers little of substance in terms of whittling down the race, and it's a real puzzle. So let's look at the form.
Morawij won over six furlongs on debut but has been campaigned at the minimum in three runs since. He's been beaten by good horses in good races - Reckless Abandon in the Norfolk, and Bungle Inthejungle in the Molecomb - and that is strong five furlong form. Whether he'll cope with six in this grade (win was in Class 5 maiden company) is another question.
Given that only two favourites have won in the past fifteen years, I'm going to demand a bit more meat on my wagering bone.
Pearl Acclaim is next in, but despite winning two small field affairs, the latter just six days ago, they don't amount to a great deal when stacked up against some of these. Clearly, he's won them well and is capable of more, but this is a big step up.
Lewisham is a fine youngster with a chance here, despite being a three race maiden. The most recent of those three runs was when just failing to nobble Alhebayeb in the Group 2 July Stakes. That was on soft ground, and he's previously run well enough on good. There is a suspicion that he might be better suited with a bit of give though, and that's enough for the search to continue.
Heavy Metal was a Group 2 winner last time, in the Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, and that is probably the single best piece of form in the book. But he's a seven race relative veteran against horses with a good bit more scope, and he's not always put best hoof forward. He definitely has a chance, and the faster the ground the better, but surely at least one will improve past him.
Blaine is firmly in the 'could be anything' camp. Unbeaten after a single victory, over course and distance, he will stride on from the bare level of that form here. Obviously well liked by connections, he'd need to step forward by a fair bit and could well do that. In a race where I'd have to make excuses for many in order to bet them here, at least backing this fellow is a vote for the future.
Odooj would appear not to be fancied by shrewd connections as he's failed to be favoured in two runs to date, the first when winning and the second when narrowly beaten. He may well be a horse that shows more on the track than at home, and those are cherished beasts indeed, with so many having reciprocal ability! He's well bred but not for me.
That leaves Cay Verde and Euxton Hall. Both have bits of form to give them a squeak at monster prices, and it wouldn't be the biggest shock if they were to grace the frame with their presence. Cay Verde is of some interest after hanging all over the camber at Goodwood last time and still being good enough for a close-ish third to Heavy Metal.
Back on an even keel here, he could reverse the placings and, in a race where I'm struggling to get even a toehold, I'm prepared to risk a couple of quid each way at 16/1, with the dead eight runners meaning three places currently. Euxton Hall had no such excuses when leading and finishing behind in the same race, and looks up to his neck here.
Tentative each way selection: Cay Verde
Alternatives: Morawij, Heavy Metal
3.05 SKY BET STRENSALL STAKES (GROUP 3)
A Group 3 over the slightly specialist distance of nine furlongs, give or take twelve yards. A great race for Saeed bin Suroor, who has trained the winner four times in the last eight renewals. The longest priced winners in the last fifteen years (no race in 2008) were priced at 8/1 - Palavicini and Right Wing - and both were trained by John Dunlop.
Alas, neither bin Suroor nor Dunlop Sr. has an entry this time.
Right Wing was the only winner in that time older than five, with the share of spoils thus: 3yo - 5; 4yo - 6; 5yo - 2; 6yo - 1. The balance of power is therefore with the three and four year olds. Again, that's less than helpful as only Side Glance - at five - is older!
All bar one of those winners was in the first three in the betting, so maybe it makes sense to focus at the top end of the market here. According to the betting, this is a wide open heat, and I'll be using specific nine furlong form as a means of shortlisting candidates.
Those who have won over that trip are Questioning, Dubai Prince and Stipulate. Side Glance has won twice at a mile and half a furlong, and should also be considered. The ground - good or slightly softer - ought to be fine for all of those four, and Dubai Prince's left-handed record of three from three (including a course and distance win here last month) marks him up.
Dubai Prince has also won a Group 3, so has no problems on the class scale. Side Glance can see that Group 3 win and raise it one, as he's two from two in this grade.
It's a real head scratcher is this race, and that extends to the pace analysis too. It's possible that Barefoot Lady and/or Questioning will make a bid from the front and either would be dangerous if allowed an easy lead. But I'm happy enough to side with those who have optimal conditions: Dubai Prince and Side Glance.
Selection: Dubai Prince
Next Best: Side Glance
3.40 COOLMORE NUNTHORPE STAKES (GROUP 1)
A proper burn up here, and a tip top class one at that, as nineteen drag racers rev up their engines for a five furlong thundering of hooves. With ground likely to be on the soft side of good, those which have top class form on that sod will make my shortlist, especially if drawn close to the middle and racing front rank.
Bear in mind also that the last two winners of this were priced at 20/1 and 100/1 (!) and you get a feel that taking a short price is probably not a great thing to do. Indeed, six of the last fifteen winners were returned at double (or triple!) figure odds.
One two year old has won the Nunthorpe in recent years (Kingsgate Native in 2007, scratched this year); four 3yo's, and three each of four and five year olds have nippily nicked the Nunthorpe. Four horses aged six or over have also prevailed, and in percentage terms, there's very little between the age groups in all likelihood.
Twelve of the last fifteen winners were in the first five last time out, and that includes 100/1 bomb, Sole Power, and 20/1 honeypot, Margot Did.
All bar one of the sample of winners were off for at least two weeks before scoring here, but all had raced within three months of their Nunthorpe wins.
From a pace perspective, the real early burners are drawn far apart. Tangerine Trees is drawn in 20; Masamah has trap 14; Beyond Desire is in nine; and Bogart will jump from gate number two.
In theory, then, wherever your fancy is drawn, they should get a tow into the race. In reality, I'd imagine they'll end up coming down the middle and the dual lead speed of Masamah and Beyond Desire might be the place to slipstream if you can.
I actually like Masamah a fair bit. I've lost money on him down the years, but he does win and he is quick. He'll go on the ground too, as long as it's not soft, and he's come back to some form, as he showed when third to Ortensia in the Group 2 King George Stakes last time out. As a three time course and distance winner, you know you've no worries on that score, and 28/1 with Stan James looks tasty.
A filly who ticks a heck of a lot of boxes, including the one about me losing money on her, is Angels Will Fall. She bids to emulate her soul sister, Margot Did, who bagged the spoils last year, and she's 33/1 to do that. Again, she was behind Ortensia last time, but she'll have less trouble with the ground here than that one might.
Tangerine Trees is one of those binary horses who either win or finish nowhere, and he's popped up at some juicy prices in his career (33/1, 18/1, 14/1). The last time he was in the frame without winning was November 2009! As a Group 1 five furlong winner as recently as last October, he'd hardly be a shocker and is worth a small win only tickle 'just in case'.
And, to prove I probably have gone mad, one at a monster price is Humidor. This fellow hasn't won aboveListed class, and not at all since September last term, but he's a five furlong specialist who goes on any ground, and has run some nice races in defeat in Group class. He's a closer, so the more early speed the better for him, and he's got bits and pieces of a place chance at something like 100/1.
I know I haven't mentioned the jollies: Bated Breath, Sole Power and Ortensia all have trainers bemoaning the rain and, despite their protestations, all could win. Pearl Secret is supposedly an aeroplane, but is taking a mammoth step up in class. Again, he could win.
But this is a race in which to demand jam on your bread. I'll take the place part of a 33/1 ticket if it must be that one of the 5/1 pokes wins the race. History says that very often it's the big prices that prevail here.
Each way two against the field: Masamah, Angels Will Fall
Small win only: Tangerine Trees
Tiny each way tickler: Humidor
4.15 SKY BET MOBILE CONVIVIAL MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 2)
Did I mention how wonderful those Sky Bet people are? 😉 They sponsor three races on the card, and this is the least auspicious of them, a maiden. I'll probably have drowned in generous lashings of Krug by this point (or at least a couple of bottles of brown ale), and will be cheering home placepot picks if lucky enough still to be alive on that wager.
Both winners to date were double figure prices, emphasising perhaps the folly of piling into one here. The trainers don't know which horse is the best; the jockeys don't know which horse is the best; and the horses certainly don't know which of them is the best. So what chance the drunken punters?!
Unless you need to scrape through the 'pot, steer well clear of this. If you do need placepot assistance, you might want to side with low drawn beasties. They won the inaugural running in 2010 (trap 4), and took the first four positions last term (6,4,8,7 of 17).
Wentworth is 5/4 favourite. I was at Goodwood when he was beaten by Steeler (2nd in a good race here on Wednesday), and he did get a horror run that day. But still, 5/4? Short, very short.
Brave Command is accumulating silver: two seconds from two starts, and I wouldn't expect this son of US dirt sire, Hard Spun, to thrive on sodden turf.
Johnny G saddles the third in on the morning line, Bright Strike, and he's another by a US dirt sire who doesn't excel with soft ground runners.
The next two are debutants, and could be okay. One is trained by 'Always Trying', and he has a filly in here who finished second on her bow yet is a bigger price for this. The other is from the Charles Hills barn, and his old man, Barrington, had the fifth in 2010 and third last year. Hills' hoss is called Market Town and is bred to be good in time.
Placepot selections: Wentworth, Market Town (plus two or three others in all probability)
4.50 TYREGIANT.COM STAKES (NURSERY) (CLASS 2)
Sheesh! It doesn't get any easier, does it? We're into nineteen runner juvenile handicap territory now! Two recent 20/1 winners and a 33/1 tell you about this contest as an investment vehicle.
It's a six furlong sprint, and I'm going to take two of the lower weighted animals with scope for significant improvement. In fact, all of the last nine winners had either won already or were having their first handicap run after the obligatory three maiden starts.
Last year, none of the first four home were a single figure price, and this might be akin to a crapshoot.
Honestly, it's not a race I'm playing, and unless you know a horse has a stone in hand, it's not a race I can suggest you play in either.
Almost pin-sticking in their token nature are these two hardened campaigners, one stepping up to six for the first time and who could improve for it; and one who might appreciate a return to a touch more cut in the turf (and who reminds me of Mrs Matt).
Pin-sticking selections: Mayfield Girl, Mary's Daughter
I'm afraid due to family commitments, there won't be any Saturday selections and, after a week where this scribe has found winners quite hard to come by, you might be glad of the respite. In any case, thanks for following me this week and I hope you have more good luck than bad by close of play Saturday.