York hosts its grand Summer racing jamboree, the four day Ebor meeting, this week and geegeez has plenty of clues to help you find a winner or maybe even two.
So let's get to it, starting with course and trainer information to keep to hand.
York Ebor Course Information
The course is a fairly flat ovoid shape of around two miles. It has a roughly five furlong straight to the finish line, and has chutes for the six and seven furlong races at the top of the straight (the seven furlong chute dog-legging left onto the main drag).
I'm not completely sure of the influence of the draw now on the straight course, and it might be that being drawn near to either rail is an advantage (it is on many straight track races). However, recent results suggest that jockeys have favoured the near side (stands) rail, and as a consequence it's probable that high may be favoured on the straight track.
There is a pronounced bias on races of a mile to a mile and a quarter, due to the very tight home bend which is navigated at racing speed and often fans horses very wide in big fields. The danger for high drawn horses who choose to tack across to the rail and stalk is that they are by no means guaranteed a run when the horses race up the far rail.
Recently, a number of meetings have seen all runners head for the near side stands rail, so keep an eye out for that, as it implies that high drawn would be favoured in York sprints.
Claro? Good! 😉
OK, what about trainers? I've got six (and a bit) trainers to follow, and eight to field against.
York Ebor Meeting Trainers
Ebor Meeting Trainers To Follow
The first thing to say about York, without meaning to state the glaringly obvious too much, is that it is a Northern race meeting.Â As such, it is targeted by some notable Northern-based trainers.
And the converse is also true, as many of the more fashionable Southern-based handlers have a difficult time on the Knavesmire. So, who to back and who to lay / oppose?
First, let's take a look at the six and a bit trainers to follow. And, to save you further consternation, I'll cover off the 'bit' of a trainer first.
Most of my research covers specifically York race meetings held in August since 2006 (four years worth, due to the renovations which closed the track in 2008).
However, in the case of one particular trainer, I was testing out a theory regarding improvement in his juvenile runners on their second starts: not just at York but all second time outers.
The trainer is Brian Meehan, and I was especially interested in his fancied (6/1 or shorter) two-year-olds second time out. I learned that he has won 79 of 218 races under such conditions in recent years, for a profit of 45.05 points and a 36.24% strike rate. With that in mind, and depending the price, Archbishop is interesting in the Acomb Stakes, bidding to give Meehan his third win in the last four years in the race.
Back to the York Ebor meeting-specific stats, and these are my six to follow, along with links to their entries for the week:
These six luminaries of the Ebor Festival have between them, since 2006, won seventeen races from 92 runners, a strike rate of 18.48%. Those winners have boosted the balance sheet by 108.5 points at starting price, and there have been five and six winners respectively in the past two years. Think on! 😉
Ebor Meeting Trainers To Swerve
For every winner at the Ebor meeting, there must be losers. And in the training context, the swerves makes for very interesting reading... I have eight on my 'avoid' list, and they are these: MLW Bell, RA Fahey, KA Ryan, R Hannon, M Johnston, AP O'Brien, B Smart and S bin Suroor.
See, I told you they were interested reading. But now let me tell you why they're interesting reading!
This octet of estimable handlers have an abominable record in August on the Knavesmire, as the following figures testify:
Collectively, since 2006, they've sent 303 runners to post. Collectively, since 2006, they've celebrated just fifteen winners. That's a strike rate of 4.95%, or less than one in twenty. And a loss to a level stake of 231.42 points. Ouch!
But, believe it or not, it gets worse. If we only consider their runners priced at 9/2 or bigger, the pool of runners truncates slightly to 265, and the pool of winners truncates markedly to just FOUR!
These eight chaps have had just four winners from 265 runners priced at bigger than 4/1, a strike rate of 1.51%, and a loss of 229.5 points. Moreover, the place strike rate is a paltry 17.36%, meaning that around five out of every six of these fairly high profile starters finishes out of the frame. My placepots will be dodging these profit suckers all week long.
The final point on the octet is this: they can (and do) win with highly fancied horses. Their entries sent off at 4/1 or shorter have won 11 of 38 races (28.95%) for a negligible loss of less than two points at SP, and probably a small profit on the exchanges. Further, their place rate is 60.53%, which compares favourably with the place record of ALL 4/1 or shorter runners, of 56.25%.
Management Summary: Avoid these trainers with longer priced runners, but don't be afraid to back them (or placepot them) when they're strongly fancied.
That's the course and trainer specifics covered then. Now let's look at York's Ebor Meeting race by race...
York Ebor Meeting Day Three (Friday) Preview
Day three of the York Ebor meeting, and weâ€™ve six more puzzles to solve. Yesterday presented further evidence that the place to be might be down the middle of the track, although it did seem to be riding fair enough. Times were also a bit quicker on the straight course than the previous day, implying that the ground is drying out there. Time on the round course are still on the slow side, implying softish underfoot.
So we kick off Ebor meeting day three with a mile and a half handicap at 2:00. There have been some very big priced winners here, including a 50/1 shot trained by Sir Henry Cecil! In fairness, it was during his wilderness years, but stillâ€¦ Actually, all bar three of the last nine winners returned 10/1 or bigger, with two 33/1 victors as well as Sir Henryâ€™s bomb, so we ought not to be afraid to take something at a big price here.
The four most recent winners have been the shortest prices, and the fact that Mark Johnston and Sir Michael Stoute have grabbed a couple of wins each will be allied to that. Obviously, their runners command respect, so letâ€™s start there.
The Fonz, for Sir Michael, won this last year off 87 and, thanks to achieving little of note in six runs since, will attempt the double off just a pound higher mark. Conditions are plum for him, and heâ€™ll be cherry ripe for this, if youâ€™ll pardon the fruit bowl of puns.
Johnston runs the robust Bowdlerâ€™s Magic, a four year old who has bags of stamina and will try to kick from the front. He might be susceptible to a classier (or quicker) horse, but heâ€™s sure to prove tough to go past down that interminable five furlong home stretch.
Anything John Dunlop runs at this meeting deserves utmost respect, and his Warlu Way has been laid out for this. He won nicely over this trip at Haydock at the end of June and ran with credit in a comparable contest at Ascot last time.
Dunlop is not the only member of our six to follow with a runner here, as John Quinn saddles the fast-improving, Kiama Bay. This chap broke his duck in a Class 6 mile handicap at Hamilton in June last year and, since then, has been first or second in seven of his eight races, including when finishing in front of Warlu Way in that aforementioned Ascot handicap.
The way he kept on that day suggests heâ€™s still got more to offer, but that habit of finding one too good may again be his undoing here. Respected, but reluctantly passed over.
The third member of our York Ebor training fraternity represented here is Tim Easterby, the local hero being double-handed with Crackentorp and Mirrored.
Crackentorp has only won once on turf, and that was over course and distance here in a big field. That alone gives him a squeak, but this is a better class race and the ground might be slightly looser than heâ€™d want. Heâ€™s also a six-year-old, which is older than any recent winner, and he wonâ€™t be for me this time.
Mirrored looks much more likely, having been running on over shorter trips in recent starts. He will be ultra-match fit for this, and has dropped down to his last winning mark of 85. If he can show a little more for racing over a little further, then heâ€™ll be a challenger.
And yet a fourth of our supertrainer gang enters one here, this time Willie Haggas â€“ looking for his second winner of the week â€“ unleashes Agent Archie on a mission from Newmarket.
Archie does have a bit to prove at the trip, having been tonked on his only previous try over further than ten furlongs, but heâ€™s a year old and stronger now than then, and wily Willie doesnâ€™t send them to his native Yorkshire for nowâ€™t.
He couldnâ€™t have won more readily at Yarmouth last time, but that was a quarter mile shorter and two classes easier than this, and on balance â€“ though he may very well improve a lot (and the early money suggests heâ€™s expected to) â€“ Iâ€™m going to side with experience. Which brings me back toâ€¦
â€¦with not too many miles on the clock (this will be his twelfth start), Dunlopâ€™s Warlu Way is the one for me, with Mirrored and Kiama Bay feared amongst many. 11/1 with Ladbrokes.
2 of the last 9 went to the favourite (1 joint)
6 of the last 9 winners returned a double-figure price
6 of the last 9 carried 8-13 or LESS
NO horse older than 5 years-old in the last 9 years
Sir Michael Stoute has won 2 of the last 4 runnings â€“ THE FONZ
Mark Johnston has won 2 of the last 4 runnings â€“ BOWDLERâ€™S MAGIC
John Dunlop took this in 2005 â€“ WARLU WAY
John Dunlop is 6 from 15 with his 4+year-olds here â€“ WARLU WAY
Barry Hills is only 1 from 32 with his older horses at York - SHARAAYEEN
Frankie Dettori has a 23% record when riding older horses at the track â€“ BAY WILLOW
Kieren Fallon has a +Â£37 record and a 19% strike-rate on older horses at the course â€“ THE FONZ
At 2.30, we embrace the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes, a decent contest for young men over six furlongs.
It seems pertinent to me that Willie Haggas (won the race twice in the last five years) had this race as an option for Tuesdayâ€™s winner, Entifaadha, but instead chose to run Justineo here. So letâ€™s start with that chap.
Heâ€™s taken a while to get the hang of things, but his win in a Newmarket maiden last time showed heâ€™s going the right way. Bred for a bit further in time, he will get better but probably isnâ€™t going to be sharp enough for a contest like this.
Whilst five last time out winners have taken this, it seems noteworthy that nine horses beaten on their last outing have landed the pot. Also, eleven of the last fourteen winners had three or less career starts (though all had run at least once).
The one that best fits the profile is Aidan Oâ€™Brienâ€™s Reply, a thrice raced entry who was beaten in a muddling renewal of the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes last time. This is a step down from that race, and he locks horns again with Lilbourne Lad, who beat him a length and a bit that day.
Lilbourne Lad had first run there, and was able to maintain his advantage over the fifth placed finisher, Reply. But this time there might not be much in it.
In what looks a very trappy affair, Iâ€™ll take Reply for small stakes only.
2 of the last 10 went to the favourite
8 of the last 10 returned 8/1 or SHORTER in the betting
William Haggas won this in 2006 and 2010 â€“ JUSTINEO
Kevin Ryan landed the spoils in 2005 â€“ SARDANAPALUS
Aidan Oâ€™Brien raided these shores in 2001 to win this â€“ REPLY
William Haggas has a 25% record with his 2 year-olds here â€“ JUSTINEO
Richard Hills has a 24% strike-rate when riding juveniles at the track - BURWAAZ
Jamie Spencer is 5 from 23 on 2 year-olds at York â€“ JUSTINEO
Itâ€™s the nine furlong Strensall Stakes, a Group 3, at 3.05, and this has been something of a Godolphin monopoly in recent years, with the boys in blue claiming no less than four of the last seven reprisals. Maximum respect is due then to Mahmood al Zarooniâ€™s Biondetti, a globetrotting three year old who wasnâ€™t beaten far behind top US juvie, Uncle Mo, in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last November.
Before that, heâ€™d won at Newmarket, Kempton, and the Group 1 Premio Gran Criterium in San Siro, Milan. And since then, heâ€™s had just the one start, when pipped in a French Group 3. Clearly held in high regard, and with plenty of scope to better his public level of form, he looks quite tasty at around 7/1, especially as the ground will hold no fears and he has Group 1 form in his locker.
But itâ€™s a pretty strong race this term, and dangers are many. Amongst them are Goodwood disappointers, Western Aristocrat (only third as 11/8 fav); Green Destiny (nowhere as the 15/8 fav); and Tazahum (only 4th at 4/1).
Western Aristocrat is a horse Iâ€™ve liked for a while, but he is becoming frustrating, and tends not to find as much as he promises off the bridle. Although heâ€™s bred for it, itâ€™s not a â€˜gimmeâ€™ that heâ€™ll enjoy this extra furlong, and Iâ€™m looking elsewhere for my wager.
Green Destiny was highly impressive when winning the John Smithâ€™s Cup here, and the step back up in trip is likely in his favour. The rise in class however has to be taken on trust, and it might be that heâ€™s not quite this good. Saying that, Mr Haggas knows the time of day all right. Kieren Fallon replaces Adam â€˜The Biscuitâ€™ Beschizza, so heâ€™ll not want for encouragement from atop.
Tazahum, like Western Aristocrat, just seems to have disappointed connections in his last couple of runs, having looked very good previously. It might be that he needs a stiffer finish than heâ€™s had on his last couple of starts (previous wins had been at Sandown) and, on that basis, Iâ€™m out (as they say on Dragonâ€™s Den. By the way, am I the only person who gets really irritated by that Deborah Meaden?! Sheâ€™s so patronizing, itâ€™s hard to bear!)
Dux Scholar, Sir Michael Stouteâ€™s other entry, is another improving type, and he looks worth this step up to Group 3 level after doing it nicely in a Listed event over a bit further last time out. With more placed races than winning races, though, heâ€™s short enough at around 3/1.
At the prices, then (around 8/1), Iâ€™m backing Godolphin to register a fifth win since 2003 with Biondetti in a race they target every year. Dux Scholar is feared.
3 of the last 9 went to the favourite
ALL 9 returned 8/1 or LESS in the betting
No winner older than 5 years-old â€“ bad news for
Godolphin have won this in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2010 â€“ BIONDETTI
Frankie Dettori rode the winner of this in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2010 â€“ BIONDETTI
Kieren Fallon won this race in 2002 and 2005 â€“ GREEN DESTINY
6 of the last 9 were OLDER than 3 years-old
Mahmood Al Zarooni is 2 from 4 with his 3 year-olds here â€“ BIONDETTI
Barry Hills is only 1 from 32 with his older horses at the track â€“ CRITICAL MOMENT
William Buick is 6 from 29 (21%) when riding 4+ year-olds here - NATONALISM
Richard Hughes has a 28% record on 3 year-olds at York â€“ DUX SCHOLAR
Next up, at 3.40, is one of the highlights of the week, the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, a Group 1 sprint over the minimum distance.
This has been won by some very fast horses in the past, but you have to go back to 2003 for the last winning favourite, with the list of shock results headed by last yearâ€™s 100/1 bomber, Sole Power.
Sole Power was due to re-engage this time, in a bid to replicate dear old Borderlescottâ€™s back-to-back wins in 2008/9. However, heâ€™s been withdrawn as the word â€˜softâ€™ appears in the going description.
One of the interesting quirks of this race is that itâ€™s been won by all ages, including 2yoâ€™s and 9yoâ€™s! While there are no speedy veterans in here, David Wachman does have the precociously zippy baby, Requinto, down at the bottom of the weights.
Clearly, the weight for age allowance is a factor (the juvies get nineteen pounds from the 3yoâ€™s, and 21 pounds and up from the older horses!), but on form, Requinto is bang there with a chance. Indeed, when Kingsgate Native won this as a juvenile in 2007, he had finished second in the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood the time before. Requinto won the Molecomb by clear daylightâ€¦
[Side note: heâ€™s also owned by the sponsors!]
Let me quickly touch on Kingsgate Native, who lines up again today. Heâ€™s cost me plenty the last couple of starts when Iâ€™ve tried to overlook poor draws and moderate form to make him a contender.
Heâ€™s drawn bang in the middle today, which seems perfect and clearly the track/trip have no worries. Most of his best form is at todayâ€™s five furlong distance, and he was second in the 2007 Prix de lâ€™Abbaye on soft, so there are no excuses whatsoever today. At 20/1, Iâ€™m probably going to chuck a cheeky fiver at him, because I would be royally galled were he to return to form without my support this day!
The favourite is Hoof It, trained for golfer Lee Westwood and his agent Chubby Chandler, by Mick Easterby. This horse is very, very talented and simply ran away from them in the Stewards Cup last time to win easily.
This is a different kettle of horses, though, and heâ€™ll have to run at least as well as he did there to be in the shake up here. There are also pertinent questions around whether softish turf is right for him, and whether the drop back to five furlongs will inconvenience him. Granted, heâ€™s been in front at the furlong pole in his last two wins, but theyâ€™ll be going a beat or three quicker from the gates today, so weâ€™ll see.
Obviously, Hoof It is a likely winner, but 3/1 allows little margin for error to my eye, so my quest for value continues.
The one I like is Masamah, ridden by Jamie Spencer for Kevin Ryan. Yes, I know Kevin Ryanâ€™s on the â€˜banned listâ€™, but he had a winner yesterday with another sprinter, Bogart, and this fella has been getting better and better.
Forget the time he sank in the Royal Ascot swamp, and heâ€™s won his last three, all in double digit fields, and in progressively higher grade (Class 2, Listed, Group 2). Whilst he likes to go from the front, he is a tad more versatile than that as he showed when missing the break two starts back, and as a pure five furlong horse, this could be his day.
Heâ€™s well worth a dig at top class, and 15/2 about Masamah with Boylesports looks a good bet to me. The price may not last.
1 winning 2 year-old in the last 10 years â€“ REQUINTO
3 of the last 10 went to the favourite
3 year-olds have the best recent record, winning 3 of the last 9 runnings
KINGSGATE NATIVE took this in 2007 and tries again
Dandy Nicholls won this in 2004 â€“ INXILE
Michael Bell is 5 from 24 with his 3 year-olds at the track (21%) â€“ MARGOT DID
Sir Michael Stoute has a 20% record with his older horses here â€“ KINGSGATE NATIVE
Kevin Ryan in only 3 from 81 with his 4+year-olds at York - TIDDLEWINKS
William Buick is 6 from 29 (21%) when riding 4+ year-olds here â€“ SWISS DIVA
Kieren Fallon has a +Â£37 record and a 19% strike-rate on older horses at the course â€“ HOOF IT
Dandy Nicholls is just 8 from 144 with his older horses on the Knavesmire â€“ INXILE
A seven furlong maiden is a bit of a come down after such a lofty lickety-split affair as the Nunthorpe, but themâ€™s the cards thatâ€™s dealt, so letâ€™s crack on with it.
Obviously, Iâ€™ve no strong view on the newcomers, but the best current form is that of my man Brian Meehanâ€™s Burano. Â Second behind Rockinante on debut looks good in the face of that oneâ€™s silver medal in a Group 2 and subsequent win in a Listed Deauville contest.
Then he was fourth behind Entifaadha, who duly won the Acomb on Tuesday. Given that the third from that Newmarket maiden won a Listed race as well, Burano could be argued to have improved â€“ as most of Meehanâ€™s juvies do â€“ and is probably better than the Racing Post numbers imply.
As I say, Iâ€™ve no handle on the newcomers, who could â€“ as the adage goes â€“ be anything. But Meehanâ€™s lad brings a solid level of form to the table, and Burano rates a decent enough each way tickle at around 9/1 (Bet365, best odds guaranteed).
Itâ€™s never been run before so there are few clues aside from what we know of trainers who target the Ebor meeting. Using that as the starting point, Tim Easterby runs his perennial bridesmaid, No Poppy.
This lass has been left at the altar a heart-wrenching nine times in 22 starts, with just the two wins. Sheâ€™s clearly talented enough, as a record of twelve medals from those 22 runs purports, but seconditis is a hideous affliction for a punter, and if you back this girl to win and she finishes second, you have only one person to blame! 😉
For all that, seven furlongs is her trip, the draw looks good, sheâ€™ll have her ground and she has a chance. Placepot material for sure.
Rapid improvement has been the key phrase with Bryan Smartâ€™s Lady Paris. Yes, yes, I know Smart is another on our â€˜swerveâ€™ list and Iâ€™m simply highlighting the case of a fancied runnerâ€¦ ahem.
Sheâ€™s on the hat-trick here but itâ€™s a big leap from Class 4 to Class 2, and from six to seven furlongs. Sheâ€™s laughed at them on her last two runs, but I think that she might be found out this day.
Shesastar is another stepping up in trip, and in good heart to boot. She too may not be good enough to bridge the class gap, but Jamie Spencer is the right man to give it a whirl. Heâ€™s a sound judge of pace, and she was staying on nicely when third last time. Whether thatâ€™s enough here is anyoneâ€™s guess.
Coolminx is interesting. She was a very good juvenile two years ago, finishing second here in the Listed Rockingham Stakes, and she got back to winning ways last time out when routing a reasonable field of handicappers on heavy ground at Newcastle.
Trip and track clearly hold no fears, and as sheâ€™s versatile with regards to ground, she might be worthy of attention, despite coming from the banned list yard of Richard Fahey!
Imaginary World is a consistent type who is not without a chance. She does herself no favours by finishing third a lot, as it gives the handicapper no chance of relenting. Likely to run well but find a couple too good again.
Jeannie Galloway, also from the Fahey yard, has prospects on a number of pieces of form, notably when closing nicely in a similar race to this last time, before fading late. That will put her right for today, and sheâ€™s a player to my eye.
But for the draw, Perfect Silence would have been the pick. Sheâ€™s in good heart, comes from the strong Clive Cox yard, and these are her conditions. But trap 18 is a pretty strong negative, I feel.
As youâ€™ll have gathered, Iâ€™ve no idea who is going to win the last, but if I had to make a pick (or two or three), Iâ€™d reluctantly propose No Poppy, Coolminx and Jeannie Galloway against the field.
Iâ€™m away in Dorset on family duty for the weekend, so there will be no Saturday preview from your truly, alas. But keep an eye on the blog, because Andy Newton will be providing his trends analysis for all of the TV racing.
Have a great weekend, and
York Ebor Meeting Day Two (Thursday) Preview
Day Two of the four day York Ebor meeting, and weâ€™ve another sextet of competitive races to work through, starting at 2:00.
But first, what were the lessons from yesterday? Well, the expected high draw bias failed to materialize, with most of the races being run â€“ and won â€“ down the centre to far side of the course.
The times indicated that the ground was more likely to be soft than the advertised good to soft, especially on the round course, and stamina-laden / proven soft ground horses might be in vogue this afternoon.
We start Ebor meeting Day Two with the DBS Yearling Stakes, for horses who were catalogued in the St Leger sales back in 2010.
Recent runnings have seen winners at 18/1, 20/1 and 25/1, but there have also been five winning favourites in the past decade. Indeed, backing the jollies here would have you in front by around 37% of invested stakes.
So what about this year? Well the prize money and entry limitations pretty much guarantee the usual gamut of ability that sales races attract. Thatâ€™s reasonably good news for us, as it ought to enable us to whittle things down a bit.
There have been twelve renewals of this race, and seven of them have gone to last time out winners, a stat that would have won you 19.63 points profit to a unit stake.
All of the dozen victors were placed in the first five last time, which counts fairly strongly against Miss Work Of Art, Electric Qatar, Parc De Launay, Hamza, Apostle, Ponty Acclaim and Bogart.
Striking an early line through those seven leaves us with a mildly more manageable bakerâ€™s dozen and, factoring in a possible low number bias based on yesterdayâ€™s results, Iâ€™ll ignore anything drawn in double figures.
That takes out another seven, including fancied runners with seemingly a lot to do from the stalls, and leaves us with six. Interestingly, nine of the twelve winners had yet to be officially rated, a stat that applies only to four of todayâ€™s runners.
Of the rated horses, none of the three previous winners of this race had a figure better than 91. That excludes four more, and leaves us with three: Gerfalcon, West Leake Dinan, and Moustache.
Gerfalcon has run twice, winning on his second start, and he hails from the stable of Brian Meehan, who has won this race three times since 2003. Although heâ€™s yet to race on ground softer than good, it doesnâ€™t mean he wonâ€™tÂ act on it, and 12/1 seems fair enough for a horse with upside potential and a trainer who targets this race.
West Leake Diman is unbeaten in two runs, but... horses in this race carry a penalty of between three and seven pounds for winning a Class 3 or better race. None of the 28 winners of a Class 3 or better race have successfully lugged that penalty to win this, which is a nail in the coffin of the capable Barry Hills-trained colt.
Moustache completes our trio of possibles, and heâ€™s another who will improve after a narrow success in a Goodwood maiden. He and the runner up pulled clear of the rest, and he might just be better for the deeper ground here.
At around 16/1 and 12/1 respectively, Moustache and Gerfalcon appeal as value plays against the favoured horses, headed by Crown Dependency.
The next race is at 2.30, the Group 2 Lowther Stakes for young ladies (two year old fillies to be exact).
Rarely a shock result, nine of the last thirteen winners won last time out, and 12/1 is the biggest return during those years. Moreover, itâ€™s been the preserve of Southern-based trainers in the last decade with neither Northern handlers nor their Irish counterparts registering a score.
After that, the clues dry up somewhat, and this is a tricky little heat. Gamilati showed sheâ€™s improving quickly when winning the Group 2 Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket last time out and, with the right horses filling the places, that form is probably the pick of whatâ€™s on offer here.
If she can improve on that run, and thereâ€™s a good chance she can, then sheâ€™ll take a bit of catching. On that basis, and in a trappy contest, Iâ€™ll make her my token selection.
David Wachmanâ€™s Fire Lily comes here off the back of Group 3 win from an Oâ€™Brien filly last time, but the bare form may be a shade beneath what Gamilati has achieved, despite the fact sheâ€™ll have no issues with the turf.
Barry Hills, who took this back in 2006, and is in the last week of his stellar training career before retirement, runs the unbeaten in two, Angels Will Fall. She won a weak-ish Group 3 last time, and a literal reading of the form through Russelliana gives her a bit to find with the selection. That said, it is possible (probable?) that Russelliana, who was 10/11 favourite and finished sixth of seven that day, under-performed.
A quick word for Mick Channonâ€™s Lady Gorgeous. Channon has won this three times in the last decade, but on the level of form his filly has shown thus far, she may be overbet today.
At 3.05, a very good mile handicap is ours for the solving, with twenty scheduled to go to post.
Won exclusively by three- and four-year-olds in the past decade, Iâ€™m happy to overlook older horses unless one stands out on all other factors. (In case you wonder why, itâ€™s generally because these younger horses are less exposed and, therefore, have more scope to improve from lower handicap ratings than theyâ€™ll achieve by the time they are five or older. Such races are generally won by an improving type.)
With no 3yoâ€™s in the field, we look to the 4yo brigade, of which there are seven. All of the previous 4yo winners have shouldered at least eight stone eleven and that leaves us with just last yearâ€™s fourth, Navajo Chief; long-term Godolphin absentee, Emirates Dream; and, Totesport Mile third, Pintura.
Navajo raced off 8-12 that day and, whilst heâ€™s probably improved since, he does have an extra eight pounds to shoulder here. He may also have been favoured by the draw last year, as the first four home included runners drawn 1, 2 and 3. The Chief departed from box two.
Be all that as it may, he also has a significant break of 161 days to overcome, a fitness hurdle that no recent winner has managed to clear. That point also counts against Emirates Dream, who hasnâ€™t raced since finishing sixth at Newmarketâ€™s final meeting of last season, 292 days ago.
Pintura, the third of the shortlisted trio, ran a fine race when snatching bronze in the Totesport Mile, a race which has been a springboard for recent winners here, including last yearâ€™s victor, Ransom Note.
David Simcockâ€™s gelding was well enough drawn in that strong Goodwood race, and has trap one here, which might be an advantage and, at least, ought not to be a disadvantage.
Behind him that day were stable mate, Vainglory; plus the heavily beaten pair, Lovelace and Mont Agel. While Iâ€™m not suggesting either of the latter two can reverse the form with Pintura, they were both drawn out of it that day. Vainglory suffered a troubled trip in the race, and might get closer to his home buddy this time.
But, whilst of course this is a ferociously competitive heat, Iâ€™m going to side with the 4yo that is well weighted, (ostensibly) well drawn, and comes from a fine run in a key prep. Pintura will do for me, with a decent run expected from Simcockâ€™s other entry, Vainglory.
The feature race of the day comes next, at 3.40, and that is the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks over a mile and a half, restricted to fillies and mares.
Itâ€™s a cracking renewal with the first four from the Irish Oaks (and the seventh placed finisher) lining up against some of the best middle distance older mares in Europe (excluding yesterdayâ€™s gallant Juddmonte International second, Midday, who won this race last year).
History dictates to us that a top three finish last time is pretty much a pre-requisite, and that counts against Crystal Capella, Laughing Lashes, Rumh and Brushing.
The last five Yorkshire Oaks winners had already won at least one Group 1 contest, underlining the very high class nature of this race.
Itâ€™s a race where the last two winners were four year olds, conceding the eight pounds weight for age to their younger rivals, and Snow Fairy would have made a bold bid to maintain the dominance of the older generation had she not been scratched due the trainerâ€™s perception (supported by race times) that the ground is riding pretty soft.
So, in Snow Fairyâ€™s absence, what of the Classic generation?
Blue Bunting, the Irish Oaks winner, is probably the flag bearer, having lowered the colours of the titanium-plated Banimpire last time in the aforementioned Classic.
Banimpire for her part promptly went out and recorded another Group race success, the Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes, on her ninth (!) start of the season.
I keep thinking things will catch up with her soon, but Jim Bolger knows a million times more than Iâ€™ll ever hope to know about training racehorses, and he doesnâ€™t come over here for a day out. Sheâ€™ll be ready, and should pick up more prize money.
As tough as she is (and she is exceedingly tough!), she maybe lacks a touch of class at the very top level. That might have found her out against Blue Bunting in the Curragh Oaks, though she had the rest of them beaten off.
In fact, although the winning margin at the Curragh was just a short head, the winner was value for a good length in my book, as she had to switch around horses to make her run. Granted a racing pace and no trouble in running today, I donâ€™t see the form being reversed, and I make Blue Bunting the likeliest winner.
Wonder Of Wonders will also have her supporters, having been beaten three quarters of a length or less in two Oaksâ€™ now, but that serves perhaps to underline her â€˜nearly but not quiteâ€™ prospects in this race.
In her favour, she may be the most inclined to improve, having only had six career runs.
But I suspect it will be Blue Bunting taking the plaudits on what might turn out to be a day to remember for the boys in blue.
We stick with the girls at 4.15, as the Galtres Stakes, a Listed race, also over a mile and a half, offers us a direct time comparison of the form with the preceding Yorkshire Oaks.
The first interesting piece of information is that no winner of this race won last time out in the past thirteen years. I canâ€™t think of a reason for that, aside perhaps from those carrying a penalty for a previous win, which aligns well enough with the fact that the ten penalized runners were all beaten.
The two winners to bookend the last decade were 20/1 and 25/1, but the seven in between (no meeting here in 2008) were all 5/1 or shorter. On balance, then, it is sensible to focus on the top end of the market here. Despite that, it is interesting to note that only one favourite (and a joint favourite) has won this in recent years.
The race has a bit of a lop-sided look to it, with Wild Coco, 7/4 jolly here, disappointing at Goodwood most recently, having been highly progressive previously.
In point of fact, the figures suggest she ran a pretty good race there, almost on a par with her penultimate outing which was her best yet.
With that in mind, it might be that her improvement curve has plateauâ€™d and that that is as good as she is. Another who disappointed in that Goodwood race, Field Of Miracles, also had prior form that gives her a good chance here, notably when a short head runner up to Banimpire in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
That form line is in advance of anything Wild Coco has produced, and on the face of it makes Field Of Miracles a value play at around 4/1.
The rest are headed by Amazing Beauty and Pollyâ€™s Mark, and I canâ€™t really see them being good enough to see off both of the top pair in the betting.
I make this a two horse race and, at the prices and given the recent history, Iâ€™m more inclined to forgive Field Of Miracles her bad run last time than Wild Cocoâ€™s in the same race.
We close proceedings on day two of the Ebor meeting with a typically trappy York handicap, this time over two miles and a few yards, and there will be in the order of seventeen of them facing the starter.
This is a race which has only been run twice, and itâ€™s gone to one of our six trainers to follow on both occasions. The Johnâ€™s, Quinn and Dunlop, were the men and itâ€™s the formerâ€™s Hawk Mountain â€“ last yearâ€™s champ who runs in the race for the third time, having also been fourth in 2009.
He clearly likes it round here, and hasnâ€™t gone up so far in the weights that he canâ€™t win (won last year off 79, then won since off 81, and been third over course and distance off 90, todayâ€™s mark.)
Howeverâ€¦ he has a preference for good ground or better, and it looks unlikely to be on the jarring side, which leads me to look elsewhere. Eagle eyes will spot he was second over track and trip on good to soft, but that was in a weaker race and off a mark of just 75.
Deauville Flyer ran a mediocre race when favourite in this contest last year, so itâ€™s a mild surprise to see him favoured again, albeit jointly with a number of others. Heâ€™s found life tough since back to back handicap wins (both here) early last season, and his consistency does him no favours with the handicapper, who appears to have the Flyer by the short and curlies.
Iâ€™d not be at all surprised to see him run his race, but surely there will be two or three in front come the jamstick.
The other Easterby, Michael, has LTO CD (last time out course and distance winner) runner, Itlaaq here. That was Itlaaqâ€™s first try at the distance and he cruised into the race that day before only just hanging on.
Itlaaq had all bar the runner up five lengths and more behind, so he ought to be thereabouts again, with no real concerns about the ground, especially given that his rider that day, Graham Gibbons, never once used his whip.
Tuscan Gold is the interesting one. From the uber-wily Sir Mark Prescott stable, this chap ran in the first two in all of his quintet of races last seasonâ€¦ but hasnâ€™t been seen since 4th September.
Now, clearly, Sir Mark can ready one, and the market suggests he may have done so here. Against that are these facts: heâ€™s been off for seventeen days shy of a year; heâ€™s yet to win in a field bigger than six; heâ€™s yet to race, let alone win, on ground softer than good (wins came on good to firm and Kemptonâ€™s standard); and, heâ€™s never won above Class 4 (this is Class 3).
Like I say, he might win, but thatâ€™s plenty of reasons not to back him at around 6/1.
One that could run well at a price is Mark Tompkinsâ€™ Dazinski. Heâ€™s usually thereabouts and has won a Class 2 staying handicap, so this is within his range. The booking of champion jockey, Paul Hanagan, is not exactly a negative either.
Dazinski was a 7/1 shot when running mid-pack in this last year, and heâ€™s a 25/1 poke this time. Worthy of a speculative.
And the final one Iâ€™m considering is Ralph Beckettâ€™s Seaside Sizzler. I stood to win a nice couple of quid if heâ€™d gone one place better than second last time at Goodwood, and this hold up horse should get a lovely tow into the race up the broad expanses of the Knavesmire straightaway.
Two miles is his trip and Iâ€™m very hopeful heâ€™ll go close.
So, an unsurprisingly tough â€˜lucky lastâ€™, in which Iâ€™m siding with the trio of Itlaaq, Dazinski and Seaside Sizzler.
Good luck to all!
York Ebor Meeting Day One (Wednesday) Preview
Six races on the opening day are kicked off by the Symphony Group Stakes, a sprint handicap over five furlongs and a handful of yards. The going is currently good to soft, so there's a fair chance they'll want to come near side, which I believe hands an advantage to high drawn horses. It might be advisable to watch the first race before plunging in here, if you're unsure of the going / draw implications.
This race has only been run for the past two years, and the winning and runner up stall positions were 15,16 and 18,13. I'll be siding high. Incidentally, Barney MacGrew and Hamish McGonagall were the winners, which I thought was quite nice!
Tim Easterby, one of our men to follow, runs three here, none of them especially well drawn, ostensibly at least. Favourite Girl might fare best of his trio, with any ease in the ground in her favour.
But that other Easterby, the redoubtable Mick, may be the man to follow, as his Ancient Cross has a plum stall in 15. Ancient Cross might be seven now, but he seems better than ever judged on two Class 2 handicap wins, both over today's trip, and his subsequent eighth - beaten less than five lengths - in the Stewards Cup over a furlong further.
If he can bag the rail, he's going to be tough to beat, and offers of 12/1 will be accepted from this quarter.
Rain Delayed has found it tough since his 2nd place in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes. In his defence, he's been running in pattern class since, and this represents a fair drop in quality of opposition.
Only beaten three lengths in a Listed contest here, and drawn 16 for the 'trainer to follow' Michael Dods, 33/1 might be too big and merits an each way tickle. [Note, since I wrote this post last night, both horses have been well backed and are shorter in the betting. And no, I'm not on at the fancier offers. :(]
The third of my trio here will be Silaah. He's been tough to win with on turf, but has box 19 of 20 here, and gets the Fallon factor for the first time. A horse who likes to race prominently, and one who stays further (has won four times beyond 5f), Fallon will be trying desperately to outjump Ginger Ted, the only nag 'twixt him and the potential 'golden highway'.
Ginger Ted is a hold up horse, which implies that Kieren will get it his way, and 20/1 will give us something to shout about unless/until the petrol runs out...
Three against the field: Rain Delayed, Ancient Cross and Silaah. Big prices all and a place from one will about cover any losses on the other pair.
2.00 - Symphony Group Stakes (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo+ 0-105) Winner Â£19,407 CH4 5f
Only 2 previous runnings
No winning favourite
Tim Easterby won this in 2010 â€“ MIDNIGHT MARTINI, MEDCIC TIME & FAVOURITE GIRL
Michael Dods took the prize in 2009 â€“ RAIN DELAYED
Both winners aged older than 4 years-old
Barry Hills is only 5 from 55 with his 3 year-olds here â€“ SHROPSHIRE & FACE THE PROBLEM
Richard Fahey has a -Â£79 level stakes loss with his 4+ year-olds at York â€“ IRISH HEARTBEAT
Silvestre De Sousa has a 21% (3 from 14) record when riding 3 year-olds at the track â€“ FACE THE PROBLEM
Frankie Dettori is 12 from 52 (23%) when getting the leg-up on older horses here - RITUAL
Kieren Fallon has a 20% record (8 from 41) when riding the older horses at York - SILAAH
Paul Hanagan is just 10 from 145 (7%) on 4+year-olds at the course â€“ IRISH HEARTBEAT
Next up is the Acomb Stakes, a seven furlong Group 3 for the juvies. As I've mentioned already, Brian Meehan is looking for a hat-trick from the last four renewals, and bids to claim it with Archbishop.
With little form to go on, and improvement expected from all runners, I'll revert to some statistics.
Eleven of the last fourteen winners ran between 15 and 60 days prior to this (from 73 starters); 11 (from 70) had had one or two prior runs; 11 of 32 in the last fourteen years were 1st or 2nd favourite; and, 10 of those fourteen winners were 4/1 or shorter.
So it doesn't appear to be a race that will reward 'cuteness'. Of the likely market leaders, Furner's Green comes here having hacked up in a Tipperary (to where, as we all know, it is a very long way) maiden, the form of which is impossible to interpret in the context of this race.
What I can tell you is that there have been seven runners race again since from that maiden and they've all been beaten. Given O'Brien's overall York form, I'd be wary unless there was strong market support.
Against him at the top of the early betting is another once raced unbeaten colt, called Entifaadha. Trained by 'our man' Willie Haggas, this chap laughed at a big field of Newmarket maidens last time, with the third placed horse, Fencing, having subsequently come out and won a Listed race.
Entifaadha looks sure to come on a fair bit for that, and whilst he made have had the best of the draw that day, he may have the worst of it here, having been given trap two of 13.
Balty Boys, owned in part by Sir Alex Ferguson, was a bit skittish on debut, but made no mistake next time out when slamming his Newbury opposition by four and a half lengths. If he can settle better, he has fine prospects from a fine draw here, and the fact that connections were talking about the Gimcrack after than Newbury win show the regard in which this lad is held.
Early shows have him around 8/1 and that's good enough for me, with doubts about the depth of the form or impact of the draw elsewhere.
2.30 - sportingbet.com Acomb Stakes (Group 3) (CLASS 1) (2yo) Winner Â£29,600 CH4 7f
3 of the last 9 went to the favourite
8 of the last 9 winners returned 7/2 or SHORTER in the betting
Brian Meehan took this in 2007 and 2010 â€“ he runs ARCHBISHOP
Sir Michael Stoute won this in 2001 â€“ ZUMBAI
Kieren Fallon rode the winner in 2001, 2005 and 2010 â€“ ZUMBAI
Brian Meehan is 3 from 20 with his 2 year-olds here â€“ ARCHBISHOP
Jockey Richard Hills is 3 from 15 when riding juveniles at the track - ENTIFAADHA
Phillip Makin is only 1 from 28 when riding 2 year-olds here â€“ ROCK SUPREME
No winner in the last 9 years has gone onto win the 2000 Guineas the following season
The 3.05 is one of the feature races of the day, the Great Voltigeur Stakes, over a mile and a half and widely considered to be the number one St Leger trial.
It has the look of a tricky contest this year and won't be a race in which I'm playing - aside from placepotting.
Here's what the stats tell us. Twelve of the last fourteen winners were in the first four last time out. This counts against Genius Beast.
Of the eleven winners in that time to have an official rating, nine of them were rated 107 or higher. This is a mark against Al Kazeem, Hunter's Light, Regent Street, Sea Moon and Thimaar.
Al Kazeem has also been off the track for longer than all of the last fourteen winners, which is another mark down for him.
Although the first three in the market have won eleven of fourteen, the profits are further down the lists. So I'm looking for a horse at a price with a decent handicap mark (i.e. 107+), and who finished in the first four last time.
Whilst no horse perfectly fits that bill, Kieren Fallon rides Genius Beast, a horse rated 110 at odds of 25/1. If you're prepared to overlook his sixth place finish last time, when floundering in the Royal Ascot swamp behind a certain Nathaniel (King George winner since), then the price is big.
He'd probably need a strong pace and, with O'Brien seeming to run Regent Street for the benefit of Seville, he may well get it.
No more than a token selection is Genius Beast for Fallon and al Zarooni.
3.05 - sportingbet.com Great Voltigeur Stakes (Group 2) (Colts & Geldings) (CLASS 1) (3yo) Winner Â£89,872 CH4 1m4f
3 winning favourites in the last 10 years
7 of the last 10 winners returned 6/1 or SHORTER in the betting
3 of the last 5 returned a double-figure price in the betting
Godolphin won this in 2004 and 2010 â€“ GENIUS BEAST and HUNTERâ€™S LIGHT
John Gosden landed the prize in 2007 and 2008 â€“ THIMAAR
Aidan Oâ€™Brien has taken this in 2001 and 2003 â€“ SEVILLE and REGENT STREET
Frankie Dettori has ridden the winner in 2004 and 2010 â€“ HUNTERâ€™S LIGHT
Mahmood Al Zarooni is 2 from 3 with his 3 year-olds at the track â€“ GENIUS BEAST
Mark Johnston is only 3 from 80 with his 3 year-olds at York - NAMIBIAN
Silvestre De Sousa has a 21% strike-rate when riding this age group here - NAMIBIAN
Richard Hills is 6 from 26 at the track on 3 year-olds - THIMAAR
Richard Hughes is 4 from 16 at the course when riding 3 year-olds â€“ SEA MOON
3 of the last 10 winners went onto win the St Leger
The 3.40, Juddmonte International Stakes is a race short on quantity but very, very long on quality, as befits its Group 1 status. The mile and a quarter contest has attracted six runners, between them winners of twelve Group and Grade 1 stakes races.
Strange then, perhaps, that the odds on favourite, Await The Dawn, is yet to win at the top class. His main market rival, the mare Midday, has won six top grade races by contrast.
It comes as no surprise to discover that eleven of the last 14 winners won last time out, given the class of the contest, and this seems to reinforce the perception that this is in fact a three horse race between the aforementioned Await The Dawn and Midday, and Sir Henry's other contender, Twice Over.
It's a race that has seen six favourites win in the last decade, including the last four (and two of the last three for Aidan O'Brien), and nine of the last ten were 9/2 or shorter.
Although I believe that Roderic O'Connor is better than the bare figures might suggest this term, and that Twice Over has proved himself to be an acceptable Group 1 performer (there's still a niggle in my mind that he's been very well placed to collect three such contests), I am with most others in seeing this as a match between the potential of Await The Dawn and proven top level class of Midday, over a trip that is probably optimal for the pair of them.
Midday has beaten the best of her sex time and again, but has often been found a little wanting against the boys, and Await The Dawn has been visually impressive but the merit of the form has to be in question, given the ratings of the horses he's walloped (nothing higher than 116, whereas Midday has beaten numerous animals rated 120+).
It's a race to enjoy rather than get involved in to my eye. The Irish raider is clearly held in the highest regard and considered an excellent prospect. He's very lightly raced (just six runs despite being a four year old), and has more scope than Midday. He'll need to have in order to improve the five pounds or so that my reading of the formbook says Midday has on him.
(Incidentally, in my opinion, you can forget the official figures, which have Twice Over rated above both the market leaders. I simply do not believe that is a true reflection of their respective abilities).
My heart says Midday, my head says Await The Dawn. My wallet says await the next race. No bet for me.
3.40 - Juddmonte International Stakes (British ChampionsÂ´ Series) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) Winner Â£396,970 CH4 1m2f
6 of the last 10 went to the favourite, including the last 4 runnings
8 of the last 10 winners returned 3/1 or SHORTER in the betting
All 10 recent winners were aged YOUNGER than 6 years-old â€“ bad news for TWICE OVER and WINDSOR PALACE
Aidan Oâ€™Brien won this in 2008 and 2010 â€“ he runs AWAIT THE DAWN, WINDSOR PALACE and RODERIC Oâ€™CONNOR
Sir Henry Cecil last won the race in 1999 (Royal Anthem)
Sir Henry Cecil is 5 from 19 (26%) with his older horses at the track â€“ TWICE OVER, MIDDAY
Darryll Holland is 0 from 33 when riding older horses at the track - ZAFISIO
Tom Queally is 6 from 37 when getting the leg-up on the older horses here - MIDDAY
A seventeen runner nursery awaits us for the penultimate race, and the same leg in the placepot, and I'm planning on keeping plenty of bullets back for this impossible affair!
Tim Easterby, the old tyke (and Tyke!), has bagged this twice in the last six years, and he's got Nearly A Gift. She might be aptly named given her draw in the rails stall. Her form, a seven length win in a fillies' maiden at Ponty, then a close second in a better race than this at Newmarket, gives her every chance.
The fact that she was beaten by her better fancied stable mate that day gives her an even better chance, and her front running style ought to mean she cedes the rail to nobody. Early odds of 11/1 look perfectly fair for a stable that is in good form, loves a winner at the track, and has a strong handle on nursery form this season.
Easterby, M., runs a trio of contenders too, and they all look attractively weighted down at the bottom of the handicap. I suspect that wily old Mick has "left something to work on" with these, so expect more today.
Dicky Mint, who was a non-runner the other day, looks to have been drawn out of it in two. But On The Hoof and Balti's Sister have fared much better in stalls 13 and 14 respectively. No excuses from there.
Balti's Sister is bred to stay further (by Tiger Hill) and would have appreciated the end to end gallop on the all weather at Wolverhampton two starts back. It's perfectly possible that the slower pace last time did for her, and she might improve from that penultimate race in what looks sure to be an all out gallop from start traps to lollipop. It's possible that she's moderate and I'm inferring too much, but nothing from an Easterby stable winning at York would surprise me.
On The Hoof is owned by golfer Lee Westwood and his agent, Chubby Chandler, the same owners as Hoof It, winner of the Stewards Cup and favourite for Friday's Nunthorpe Stakes. This young man has been getting closer and may well have aÂ good bit more to offer just yet.
Away from the punting stables, Barry Hills' West Leake Hare ran a cracker at Goodwood in a similar sort of race. Although well drawn, I'd be far from certain that this very different test would suit as well. At 5/1, I'm happy to look elsewhere.
In a truly unfathomable race, I'll side tentatively with a few well-drawn potential 'plot' horses, in Nearly A Gift, Balti's Sister, and On The Hoof (which may very well describe my tipping by 4.20 or so!)
2 of the last 9 went to the favourite (1 joint)
4 of the last 9 winners returned a double-figure price
6 of the last 9 carried 8-13 or LESS
Kevin Ryan took this 12 months ago â€“ he runs INDEPUB
Eve Johnson Houghton won this race in 2009 â€“ LUNAR DEITY
Tim Easterby won the prize in 2004 and 2007 â€“ NEARLY A GIFT
Mark Johnston won the race in 2005 â€“ CRAVAT and ES QUE LOVE
Kieren Fallon has ridden the winner in 2003 and 2004 â€“ BOMBER JET
Michael Easterby is only 1 from 41 with his 2 year-olds at the track â€“ BALTIâ€™S SISTER, DICKY MINT, ON THE HOOF
Brian Meehan is 3 from 15 with his juveniles here - SANAD
Champion jockey Paul Hanagan is 14 from 70 (20%) on 2 year-olds at York â€“ OUR BOY JACK
Silvestre De Sousa boasts a 21% (5 from 24) record on juveniles here â€“ ES QUE LOVE
We close the opening day of the Ebor meeting at 4.50 with a mile and a quarter handicap. It may be that high draws are favoured again here, with middle to high taking the win and place spots in the two seasons since the redevelopment, so I'll attempt to simplify things by opting with those chaps (all the while mindful that as they turn in, they're likely to switch across to the stands rail. Confused? Me too!)
Incredibly, despite the preposterous advantage the classic generation get from weight for age, their record in this contest is meek. No winner since 2002, and plenty have tried.
Sir Michael Stoute is the man here, with three victories since 2002, and he saddles the unbeaten in one start, Eagles Peak, who is... of course, a 3yo! Now before we get the red pen out, Sir Michael was the last man to win this with a horse of that age, and a mark of 98 may (or may not) be lenient.
The runner up (Thimaar) has come out and won since, and runs in the Great Voltigeur earlier on the card. And the fifth placed horse has also won his maiden since, on the all weather at Lingfield. That these form boosters are trained by Johnny G and Sir Henry respectively adds some further ballast to the bare form and, whilst 3/1 (now no bigger than 5/2!) in a handicap is skinny at the best of times, it's far from tricky to see Eagles Peak running away from them at the death.
It's also worth noting that if the weight for age scale was scrapped, Eagles Peak would be the third highest weighted in the contest. But with WFA in situ, he saddles eight pounds less and is the joint fifth lowest weighted beast. Drawn two though may be far from ideal for an immature sort who may require trackcraft to get a racing position from there.
The one that seems to tick all the boxes for me is James Bethell's Arlequin. A four year old, drawn 15, who is a ten furlong specialist, and has won over course and distance. I do have a slight doubt about whether he'd want the word 'soft' to appear anywhere in the going description, and he's also racing off a career high mark (last and best win was off 91 last time out, races off 96 here).
But, despite those reservations, he's looked progressive this season, and will not have to waste any energy to get a position, a comment that probably y doesn't apply to the favourite.
Finally, and forgive my paranoia here, but there is an Easterby (M) runner down at the bottom which sticks out a little. Space War could be the outsider of the field and may finish last, but he's not been beaten far in recent starts and has a lot of scope to improve at the trip. He's got the pick of the draw and could run well at a juicy price.
Of course, Easterby's other runner, Barren Brook is ridden by Kieren Fallon, reprising a trainer/jockey combo that is three from six this year and showing a healthy level stakes profit. A middle draw and significant scope for improvement at the trip (won last time on first attempt at ten furlongs) means he'll be the one I'm cheering.
4.50 - Patrington Haven Leisure Park Stakes (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo+ 0-105) Winner Â£12,938 RUK 1m2f
3 of the last 9 runnings went to the favourite
ALL 9 recent winners were aged 5 or YOUNGER
8 of the last 9 carried 9-2 or LESS
3 returned a double-figure price
Sir Michael Stoute won this in 2002, 2003 and 2007 â€“ EAGLES PEAK
Michael Dods won this 12 months ago â€“ TIGER REIGNS
Jeremy Noseda and Frankie Dettori teamed up to take the prize in 2009 â€“ CLUB OCEANIC
Richard Fahey won the race in 2005 â€“ INGLEBY SPIRIT, KAY CEE BE and OUR JOE MAC
Mark Johnston is just 2 from 63 with his older horses at York â€“ MASTER OF ARTS
Michael Dods is only 2 from 47 with his older horses here â€“ TIGER REIGNS
Luca Cumani is 2 from 6 with his 3 year-olds here - NAQSHABBAN
Frankie Dettori has a 23% record when riding older horses at the course â€“ CLUB OCEANIC
If you finish day one in front, you've done well. But before you congratulate yourself too much, remember that there are three more rounds to go!