York Ebor Meeting: Day 2 Preview, Tips
After a pretty good day one on the Knavesmire, despite Kingston Hill being a non-runner, we turn our attention to the second of four days' action, headlined by the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
We get underway just before two o'clock with the...
The sales race, worth a nifty £125,000 to the winner, and a perfectly palatable £6,250 to the sixth placed horse. Valuable sales races are often far less competitive than the numerical presence implies, with qualification being by dint of the ring through which the young nag passed: in this case Doncaster Bloodstock Sales.
Top on official ratings, and in the betting, is Kool Kompany, who cost forty grand and will take his prize money earnings through the £200k barrier if he finishes fourth or better. He certainly should do that and, unless something can improve in the region of half a stone, he could well win.
He's won five of his seven races to date, including two Group 2's, and he has no problem with quick ground as he showed when claiming the first of those G2 pots at the Curragh over six furlongs, the same trip he faces here.
So the question then becomes, can any of his rivals improve the requisite amount? Kool Kompany is more exposed than almost all of his rivals, so the answer is a definite maybe.
The most likely progressives are Kevin Ryan's Fast Act and Willie Haggas' Valley Of Fire. Fast Act has raced four times to date, all over five furlongs, and the extra 20% range he tackles here might eke some more. His trainer is a big player at this meeting every year, and was on target on day one with Blaine, as well as plundering this very prize in both 2011 and 2012.
Willie Haggas had the winner and the third last year, and sends the unexposed course and distance winner, Valley Of Fire, into battle this time. That neck verdict was his only career start and, though the form cannot be said to have worked out brilliantly, he was green that day, and wouldn't be returning unless Wily Willie had him a chunk better than when last seen. He's got a speedy pedigree, and his connections are highly respected.
Both Skybet and Betfair Sportsbook are offering money back as a free bet if the favourite wins, which means you can take Kool Kompany on and, even if he wins and your horse is last, you'll get a chance to claw your cash back later on.
I'm backing Valley Of Fire with Skybet at 8/1.
An above par renewal of the Lowther, and another exposed Hannon juvie heads the market. This time it's the lovely Tiggy Wiggy, already a winner of the Newbury Sales race herself. She's picked up close to the same amount of purse money as Kool Kompany and will also smash the £200k barrier if she's first or second.
Tiggy Wiggy is a very fast filly that has done all her racing at five furlongs. There's the question mark, as the extra eighth of a mile will take her into uncharted stamina territory. She's by Kodiac out of a Kheleyf mare, so the trip ought to be within her compass, and the quick ground will be no issue either.
But she's no penalty kick. Against her are some talented young ladies including Queen Mary victor, Anthem Alexander; and Albany Stakes winner, Cursory Glance. Anthem, one of two Alexander's in the race so watch your bets, had a neck to spare over Tiggy Wiggy in that Royal Ascot pillow fight, and hasn't been seen since. 64 days is long enough away for early juveniles, so while I have utmost respect for the brilliant Edward Lynam, I'm prepared to let his lass beat me if she can, not knowing the reasons for her rest up. She also has a question to answer stepping up to six for the first time since a début tonking (where it was far more likely inexperience than stamina that cost her).
Cursory Glance was winning over six poles at Royal Ascot, so we can take her stamina on trust. She too has been off the track since that win - a comfy two length romp - but her trainer is adamant that she's been working well, and that she's a top filly. Roger Varian would not be one to call a piggie a player, and she looks a very likely type for this.
Sulaalaat can improve on what she's done so far and might be good enough for the frame - especially if either Tiggy Wiggy or Anthem Alexander fail to stay - and Pastoral Girl is another that might be better than the 33/1 being quoted.
I'm not sure I'll be having a bet but if I do it will be on Cursory Glance, who is an 11/4 shot generally. If a quarter the odds a place bookie offers 40/1 on Pastoral Girl, I may also have a florin each way on her.
A really good mile handicap, featuring a number of Group horses from the recent past. Top Notch Tonto was better than all bar Olympic Glory in the Group 1 QEII Stakes just five starts back, testament to the moderate season he's endured thus far in 2014. Energizer was a winner for Germany when bagging the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes in 2012, and had time off thereafter. And Parbold drops out of Group and Listed class for the first time since winning his maiden on début ten races ago.
There are some well handicapped nags in opposition too, making this a tasty if tricky wagering puzzle.
Top Notch Tonto would carry these on that Champions Day run but, as mentioned, he's been way short of that since. He has dropped from a high of 118 to 108 in the ratings, though, and apprentice Mikey Ennis takes another seven pounds off. The trip is right and the ground is fine. The question is whether the fire still burns. 22/1 with BetVictor is worth a shilling to find out.
Energizer is harder to back, for me at least. Although he ran well in the Listed Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot on his previous start - his first in Britain since the Great Voltigeur of 2012, and only his third race anywhere in that time - that was over ten furlongs, and the drop back to a mile is not an obvious move for a horse whose best form is over a quarter mile further.
Parbold gets the weight for age allowances, which means he sneaks in with a weight of 9-01 for a rating of 105, just three behind Top Notch Tonto (himself set to carry 9-03 courtesy of Mikey's seven). He's a hugely frustrating horse, as a record of six seconds/thirds from nine starts since his maiden victory attests. There is also considerable doubt about his ability to truly get a mile in what looks set to be a strongly run affair meaning that overall, there are too many negatives to back him at around 12/1.
It's 8/1 the field, which brings in Short Squeeze, another that has been mixing black type tilts with strong handicap form. A winner of three in a row last summer on goodish ground over a mile, the conditions here fit well. Trainer Hugo Palmer is in excellent form too (three of his last four runners have won), so a big run looks likely after getting outpaced over seven furlongs here last month.
Right down at the bottom of the weights, Kosika might return to winning ways after her run of three successive victories was derailed unequivocally last time out when stepped up in class. Forgive a horse one bad run they say, and she deserves a second chance to grow into the grade, with conditions bang in her favour. A price tag of 16/1 again affords the prospect that she fails to cut it in a race that is Listed class in all but name.
And of course, no York handicap preview would be complete without mentioning Navajo Chief when he's running. Winner of four handicaps on the Knavesmire (or should that be Navajosmire?), three of them over the mile and one of them in this very race (2011), Navajo Chief is something of a standing dish for the Jarvis's.
Whatever you might think about the boy Timothy taking over the old man's training license but not his huge unpaid debts, there's no denying the joy that would be uncorked should the Chief register a fifth win at the course. He's not weighted out of it, and has a kind enough draw in seven.
Finally, I have to give a name check to Boom And Bust. Drawn in two and a front runner generally, the seven year old has been highly tried this season, and steps down from Group class to a handicap under ideal conditions. He's run twice on fast ground, over a mile and in Class 2 collectively, and won both times. 28/1 will suck a couple of quid from my wallet.
This mile and a half fillies' Group 1 is all about runaway Oaks and King George winner, Taghrooda. Unbeaten in four career starts and favourite for the Arc, she's looked a sensational sort all season. Her Oaks victory was by almost four lengths, and her King George win was by three. Simply put, if she brings her 'A' game, she can't lose. And that's why she's a best priced 1-4.
However, if we take her out of the equation, for wagering purposes only, we have a very interesting 'without the favourite' conundrum... one which allows us to cheer the brilliant Taghrooda, and scream something home at a working man's price for second.
Factoring in the eight pounds weight for age allowance, Tapestry is next best on official ratings. She was a neck behind stable mate Bracelet in the Irish Oaks on her first attempt beyond a mile. That enormous step up in trip looked a good fit on pedigree, and she had worn down Volume by a neck at the line despite her saddle slipping late in the race.
Volume is a key filly, as she looks quite likely to make the pace in what might otherwise be a tactical encounter. But she's susceptible to a finisher, or three, in that hare role, and her trainer would prefer more juice in the turf. She could nick second if she gets a very easy lead, but I expect more than just Taghrooda to go by her.
Picking between the O'Brien pair of Tapestry and Venus De Milo is tough, though the former gets weight for age. Venus for her part is stepping up from ten furlongs and was a good second in this last year. She was three then, so received the eight pounds; but she's four now, and doesn't. I think that will count against her, and suspect that Tapestry will come out ahead.
Tasaday had some good form with Treve last year, albeit at a respectful distance behind her; and she's another for whom the return to twelve furlongs is a plus. But she's another conceding eight pounds and she hasn't really looked a Group 1 filly this year. She too would prefer it softer. And though Talent failed to stay last time at Goodwood, she just wasn't good enough to win a Group 2 the time before and looks a shade (or two) below her three year old form.
Taghrooda looks bombproof for the win, and I like Tapestry in the 'without' market, though the only quote at the moment (15/8 PP) is skinny enough.
For those of you who might like 11/2 Taghrooda to win the Arc, bet365 are offering that price on her winning both this race and that. While it's conceivable she could lose here and win there, that is unlikely, so the price - which is an uplift of about a quarter of a point on the two race parlay - seems fair enough.
An open renewal, as 4/1 the field implies. Willie Haggas might hold the aces, with team tactics aforethought for his pair. Certainly, it looks likely that Queen Of Ice will lead, as she does habitually; and if she goes a good gallop that will suit strong staying stable mate, Arabian Comet, down to the ground.
The Comet was flying late but was denied by the gallant Missunited in the mile and six furlongs Lillie Langtry Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. That was a career best for Arabian Comet, and she has improved a ton - well, 31 pounds to be precise - since winning a Class 5 (!) Wolverhampton handicap in April. Haggas loves a winner at York, and he might get it in the Galtres, to follow up his win in the same race last year.
The three year olds look to have this between them - weight for age essentially making life very tough for the older girls - and Dermot Weld brings the well named Starlet over with a fine chance. She was second to another Weld inmate, Carla Bianca, on fast ground on her début, and that one has since won back-to-back Listed races.
Starlet herself won her maiden next time, by five lengths, and will have plenty more to come.
For each way players, there could be an ounce of value in the price of Momentus, a 50/1 shot when eighth in the Oaks, ten lengths behind Taghrooda. She was a maiden at the time, and duly shed that tag in her only subsequent racecourse appearance. She's lightly raced, and though I can't readily see her winning, she might hit the board at 10/1 (Betbright, only 6/1 with Hills).
It's between Starlet and Arabian Comet for me, and a bit better than 2/1 for that pair on your side looks all right.
Twenty runners are declared for the seven furlong finale, and the draw may play a hand, with low possibly slightly favoured. There have been just three renewals of this race, and Dutch Rose has won the last two. She carries top weight for those former glories, and is only three pounds higher than her last winning mark, recorded over track and trip in May.
She looked under-cooked last time - a mark-manoeuvring effort perhaps? - and she has lucked a single figure draw. David O'Meara continues in great form, and she'll surely be backed when the locals cotton on to her hat-trick bid in the race. I can't see her being sent off 14/1, so that price looks worth taking, each way a pleasure.
The others to prod my peeper are Bragging, Dutch Courage, Ticking Katie and Wedding Ring.
Bragging is favoured by the market after an easy win on just her fourth start in a Newmarket handicap (same distance, class and going), and a ten pound rise in the weights is not swingeing. She's bound to improve again for Sir Michael Stoute and looks a worthy favourite, without offering a shred of value. Dermot Weld's Sparkle Factor is similar: a credible winner at a short price, and not for me on that basis.
Dutch Courage also has form under these conditions, also winning a Newmarket seven furlong Class 2 handicap on good to firm. That was last July and she wasn't seen again until this April, since when she's been taking on black type company with limited success. The drop into handicap grade can effect a hop forward, making 12/1 playable for a well drawn middle runner. Ryan Moore rides, which is worth another three pounds off her back such is his edge over his contemporaries.
Ticking Katie represents the lucrative-to-follow Burke-Haynes partnership (four winners, four more placed, from 19 runners in the past month, for a profit of 40.26 win, 44.16 each way in that time). She too has a course and distance win, albeit in Class 3, and is entitled this step up in grade. Trap 16 may be sub-optimal however for a filly that likes to be close to the pace as a rule.
Charlie Appleby's Wedding Ring has been a tad underwhelming this year, having finished third in the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes last year. That was over a fast seven, and she's not seen that set up much since. Her form on the two occasions she has reads 13, and a truly run handicap looks right up her street. 16/1 is fairly attractive.
In such a big field, I'm happy to take three each way off the tee, all at double digit prices.
Good luck with your Thursday wagers. Who do you like on Day Two? Leave a comment, and let us know.