York Ebor Meeting: Day 3 Preview, Tips
Into the second half of York's four day Ebor Festival, and we have the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes to look forward to. There is a competitive five race supporting card, so let's get down to brass tacks...
Twenty runners scheduled to race over a mile and a half in a devilishly trappy opener. Two trainers with excellent records in the race, and therefore something of a starting point, are Mark Johnston and Sir Michael Stoute.
Johnston saddles top weight Salutation, a horse that has been running consistently well all season, and who chased home Arab Spring in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot over this trip on fast ground. He's since been campaigned over a quarter mile shorter, and I think the return to twelve furlongs will suit. It will be tough for him with top weight, but he's favoured by conditions, and will make a bold bid from the front, most likely.
Sir Michael lets Stomachian take his chance, with Ryan Moore doing the steering. This fella had a most consistent record before finishing eighth of eighteen in a Glorious Goodwood handicap, but that doesn't really tell the story. Stomachian was drawn wide there, was held up, and was never given a chance to win, staying on well under hands and heels. This extra two furlongs and a middling draw look ideal, and I expect Moore to be involved in the places at the very least.
Of the remainder, Lahaag is starting to look well handicapped again. He's dropped to five pounds below his last winning mark, and Johnny G's team are in great form. A winner over course and distance last October, conditions will obviously suit, and Hills' early show of 16/1 looks big.
Dolphin Village is another on an attractive mark, and favoured by the race make up. Richard Fahey's Cape Cross gelding comes here on the hat-trick after wins in lower class handicaps at this distance, and he's versatile enough pace-wise to make use of an ostensibly good draw in four. He might get outclassed, but 14/1 or so is fair enough.
Although Wigmore Hall is now seven, he's plummeted down the handicap in recent times. Winner of two Grade 1's in his prime (as recently as September 2012), he's gone from 117 down to 94, which reduces still further to 87, with jockey Mikey Ennis' seven pound claim. He showed there remains life in the old dog when second in a distance and class handicap at Newmarket last time and, with the jockey's claim, he's 21 pounds below his mark of just six starts back.
Trainer Michael Bell is in fair form of late - six winners from 25 runners in the past fortnight - so the veteran of the field may show a few of the youngsters the way home.
A wide open race, and there are more with chances, but I'm siding with Stomachian and Lahaag, each way.
The Lonsdale Cup, a good staying race, looks at the mercy of favourite, Cavalryman. Regular readers will know all about my inability to gauge this chap's form, and I diligently ignored his chance the last day at Glorious Goodwood. Godolphin's old statesman had the last laugh by sluicing up in that Goodwood Cup to take his record this year to 1211.
I'm on his side this time. Put simply, he's in great form; he handles the trip fine; he's pace agnostic; and Kieren Fallon will be doing whatever is necessary to cajole him. Short enough for some at 11/4 maybe, but he has a fine chance, though the easing ground is a slight niggle.
The '2' in Cavalryman's seasonal form string was behind Mick Halford's Certerach in the Dubai Gold Cup, but Cav should have won. He was eventually beaten a neck with daylight back to the third, and Certerach has since taken his time to find form back in Ireland. This first trip to Blighty implies he's ready now, so 10/1 could be a touch of value.
The Queen's Estimate is another horse proving hard to peg in a division that is hard to peg. She ran a great race in the Ascot Gold Cup, but a clunker at Goodwood, and I wouldn't necessarily buy the assertion that she resented the track at the latter. It turns out that she was also in season there, which might help to account for the poor run. She is clearly talented - you don't win an Ascot Gold Cup if you're not - but she's out of form and no value at the price.
Dermot Weld's Pale Mimosa is more interesting, though her form is a yard or two behind that of Cavalryman. She too is unattractive at the prices whilst holding a fair win chance. And Times Up won this two years ago, but hasn't been in especially good form this year so far. The ease in the ground gives him a ray of hope, as it does High Jinx, though both are probably past their best.
It's not a race I'm especially comfortable with, but I hope that Cavalryman can lead the charge.
The biggest field for more than a decade is scheduled to line up for this seven furlongs Listed contest, and the fact they bet 15/2 the field tells its own story. With three year olds having a moderate recent record (7% win rate and just one winner since 2001, compared with 19% for 4yo's and 13% for 5yo's), I'd normally be happy to look to established older horse form.
However, those with the snuggest profiles are from the younger horse brigade and I cannot discount them on the basis of the performance of their peers, regardless of the stats. So, three to pay heed to are That Is The Spirit, Ertijaal, and Mushir.
That Is The Spirit has been nicely progressive this term, winning a Doncaster maiden on his racecourse bow, and then bagging a course and distance handicap and a Listed race at Epsom. All three wins were over seven furlongs, as was the first of his two more recent defeats, in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. It's possible that race came too soon after a hard encounter with Parbold at Epsom, and he ran solidly in a three length loss over six at Newmarket.
Back to seven and on a strip he knows, That Is The Spirit can get in the frame.
Ertijaal is trained by Willie Haggas, which is an immediate tick in a box. As regards his performance history, he's shown his best form at seven furlongs, and ran a nice prep in a six furlong Chester Listed race. With just seven starts to his name, he's capable of more.
Mushir probably has a bit to find from a class perspective, but seven is his trip and he's in good form, as he showed when winning a Class 3 Thirsk conditions event the last day. He'd been second and third in Listed races on his previous two starts at the distance, and 14/1 is solid if unspectacular value about his chance.
Of the older mob, Heaven's Guest is a seven furlong specialist, and he's been in fine form in recent weeks. Winner of the Bunbury Cup, he followed that up with a good fourth (of 29) in another heritage handicap at Ascot. SHe was never in the race from a poor draw in the Betfred Mile at Goodwood last time, but should be able to stalk down the middle off a strong gallop here, with the longer straight in his favour.
True, he has something to find with the pick of the field, but that man Ryan Moore levels things somewhat with his brilliance - did you see his ride on Tapestry yesterday? Gravy of an altogether different kind.
It really is wide open, and these are just a few with chances. I might be tempted into a small bet on That Is The Spirit, but I might just try to get through the placepot...
A great spectacle is on the cards here with some of the fastest horses in training going head to head to head to head over the minimum distance. Keep in mind that in the last four years there have been winners at 20/1, 40/1 and 100/1, and that the hundreds poke was actually Sole Power himself!
Sole Power is the clear market leader, and deserves to be after taking the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. That five furlong Group 1 aligns pretty well with this one, though in the intervening two months Sole Power has had some ringworm apparently. He's been back in training for a fortnight, and it is presumed would not be running if not 100%.
I'd want to see the market vibes before considering a bet on him and, in the meantime, will consider the case for some of his rivals. It is also fair to say he'd not have wanted the rain that has softened the York turf.
The second highest rated horse is a French raider and, as is generally the case with those trained overseas, his price is fatter than it should be. Rangali won his first and only attempt at five furlongs last time, in a Chantilly Group 2, and he won it easily, with fair UK markers Stepper Point and Justineo well beaten off. Stepper Point is 20/1 in this field, just four points bigger than Rangali, and that looks plain wrong.
Rangali had previously shown form from six furlongs to a mile, and his ability to sit and stalk, coupled with that stamina and ground flexibility makes him a very interesting each way play. He's drawn next to Sole Power, a horse with a similar hold up run style, and they'll both be barrelling home late. I've backed the French horse, at 16/1 each way with Ladbrokes.
Take Cover and Hot Streak offer different ends of the age spectrum, at seven and three respectively, and both like to get on with things and have been in fine form at five furlongs this year. Hot Streak is a little marooned in the widest draw of all, but Take Cover is drawn bang in the centre and looks set to lead the charge for as long as he, and pilot James Doyle, can.
At bigger prices, Cougar Mountain ran a great race for one so inexperienced at Newmarket last time, finishing fifth in the Group 1 July Cup. Whilst he is obviously a huge talent, I wouldn't be certain that the drop back to five is in his favour even though he was weakening late in that last eighth of a mile. That said, the slightly softer ground will make for a slightly stiffer test, which could be to his advantage. I'm happy for him to beat me if he's good enough, but I'll be watching him with an eye to the future. Like I say, he's a real talent.
Extortionist has been in blazing form with his last four runs returning figures of 1212, and he should have probably won last time in a (very, very) rare misjudgement by Ryan Moore. In fairness to Ryan, they went off really quick and he may have been outpaced by Take Cover, who vanquished him by a fast diminishing neck.
They'll not go any slower in the early part of this burn up, and if Extortionist shows similar slovenly tendencies after the gates open, there will be no winning late rally for him. I'm a big Olly Stevens fan, and if there's a trainer who deserves a Group 1 win this season, he's at least on the shortlist.
And of the bigger prices, G Force will be happier with the rain than many, and might give a run for small money at 25/1 or so.
Sole Power is comfortably the most likely winner and, if over his health scare, should prevail. But I'm happy to back the French horse who will try to be his shadow, at 16/1, each way.
Convivial it may be, but it's a maiden race all the same, and I haven't got enough moles in enough camps to know who might win. I can tell you that Richard Hannon('s dad) had the winner in two of three years he saddled a runner, so Acaster Malbis might be of interest.
I can also recount the hunger of Willie Haggas and David O'Meara to get Ebor Festival scores, so Foreign Diplomat and All About Time might also be of interest - the former especially so, as it is owned by the people who sponsored the third race yesterday.
And I can tell you that all four winners to date had already had at least one run, which might focus attentions on the experienced subset of the field.
But that's about all I can tell you. With those possible pointers, you are on your own. Good luck!
Fifteen 3yo's over a mile, so don't worry about the fourth place. There's one in here, Munaaser, as short as 2/1, and that looks tight despite him absolutely dotting up last time. A mile is his trip but he was well beaten the time before that last day win, and there was no obvious excuse for that. Saying that, I read a quote which said he was gelded after the poor run, and it was hoped that would "be the making of him".
Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, he's clearly respected - trainer won the competitive last race on Thursday with a shortish priced favourite - and is placepot material for sure. But I like a bit more juice on my handicap plays, even if that means wiping my mouth when the obvious horse wins from time to time.
Against him, Maverick Wave looks a pretty good each way alternative. Trained by Johnny G, who is not having the best of weeks so far, this son of Elusive Quality may not have enjoyed the tactical nature of a four horse race last time and could also not have been favoured by the soft ground. If either of those suspicions are correct, he has a good chance of making the frame. If both are correct, he has a good chance of winning, and 8/1 looks better than 2/1 in a race like this.
Hugo Palmer's team are in absolutely sensational form, with his last seven runners finishing 1115121, including a winner and a second, both at 8/1, here yesterday. He runs Extremity, a good winner last time on fast ground over a mile. Ryan Moore keeps the ride, and Extremity's hold up style could be suited to the run of the race. 6/1 is skinny enough but there are lots of positives if you like him.
The scuderia Marco Botti is also in excellent form, and Mohaarib comes here off a career best, despite losing for the first time in three starts. That third place in an Ascot handicap has been franked, with the fourth and seventh both winning since. Again, conditions look right, and he's another with strong place claims in a more competitive heat than 2/1 the field suggests.
At bigger prices, Willie Haggas' Perfect Persuasion may appreciate the extra furlong for the first time, and has largely progressive form. It would be no surprise at all if Haggas had saved a bit for the Knavesmire with this filly. But, having backed the wrong Haggas horse *twice* yesterday, I'm not at all sure I have a handle on the yard!
Good luck with your Friday wagers.
p.s. the latest horse to wear the geegeez colours, Nonagon, is declared at Newcastle tonight. But he won't run on account of the ground. We want a bit of give for him, and they're good to firm, alas.