The Grand Old Duke of York may have had ten thousand men, dear reader, but they were good for nothing by the time he'd marched them up to the top of the hill, and he'd marched them down again. I'll be learning from his military mistake this week as I go looking for some lightly marched (or raced, if you prefer) types to bring home the metaphorical bacon (if you'll pardon the badly blended metaphors).
Yes, as tenuous introductions go, that one's up there with the best of them, but you're probably used to it by now. If not, stick around! 😉
York's four day Ebor meeting starts tomorrow, and there are some great race horses on show; and some great horse races to boot. It will not necessarily be the case that those two statements will go hand in glove as the week unfolds though.
The reason for my somewhat cryptic observation above? Why, tomorrow's Juddmonte International Stakes, one of the features of the week, of course. The brilliant Sea The Stars is due to run, and his presence has scared off pretty much everyone else, with the notable and worthy exception of another awesome 3yo, Mastercraftsman.
The trip looks ideal for the Guineas and Derby winner, and the fact that the O'Brien squad has pacemakers entered will surely only help Sea The Stars stalk and pounce.
In fact the absence of Tartan Bearer leaves just a quartet to go to post, one of which is a hopeless outsider, and another is a secondary 'bunny'. There's Â£32,000 for finishing 4th in this race, and I wish Obvious had an entry. She'd only have to beat one of the hares home to collect!
Nevertheless, the two at the top of the market may have a decent duel. The 'craftsman has put his 5th place finish behind Sea The Stars firmly out of sight since, with back to back Group 1 wins of his own: first the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and then the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he got the better of Delegator in a great tussle. He could relish the extra distance here.
That last race showed he has both class and guts, and it will be interesting to see if he can put the champ under pressure and, if he can, what response there will be.
It's not a race to bet on, and it is only to be hoped that the tiny field produces a true battle between arguably the two best Classic generation horses of 2009 over what looks an optimum trip for both.
So, if that's a race to watch but not to bet on, where's the Geegeez cash going this week?
Well, I think I've found a few worthy of investment in what is - the above contest notwithstanding - a ferociously competitive four-dayer.
Tuesday: first up, I'm going to the Acomb Stakes, and I'll avail myself of the each way fractions, in order to back Mata Keranjang. This one has yet to win a race, but his form is pretty solid despite that. Finishing third on debut in a Listed contest in France over the minimum trip, Paul Cole's colt improved to comfortably beat all bar Xtension in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last time out.
That latter race was over seven furlongs, and the drop back in trip here should be ideal. If there's any draw bias in the race, the results of recent years suggest it favours high, so 9 of 10 will not be a hindrance, at least.
In a race with the usual depth of unexposed types, it'll not be a maximum job, but I can see Mata K running a spirited race and hopefully breaking his maiden tag in the process.
Also on Tuesday, the St Leger winner is likely to be revealed to us. Unfortunately, the more pertinent question is which horse in the Great Voltigeur field this comment applies to.
It looks a hot renewal, with Goodwood winner Harbinger taken on by 'Sir' Henry's Father Time; John Gosden's Alwaary; and Mark Johnston's Jukebox Jury.
I sided with Harbinger at Goodwood, when he had a lot to find on the formbook, and I'm going to side with him again, despite the fact that he again has to improve to beat the proven level of form others have shown. Sir Michael Stoute is a master at improving stayers through their careers, and he'll know precisely where he is with this one.
As well as backing him tomorrow, the 11/2 with Ladbrokes looks too big for the last classic. I've supported him for that event too.
Wednesday's highlight is the richest handicap race to be run in Europe, The Ebor (named after the Roman name for York, Eboratum, as you doubtless knew).
I shall be going racing on Wednesday myself, though - bizarrely perhaps - it will be at Carlisle rather than the Knavesmire, as I'm combining a spot of sport with a bit of business.
No matter, for my eyes will be cast askance to a telly beaming the nags from the more Southerly track.
The Ebor has favoured youngish horses, with a progressive profile and proven stamina in recent years. And it has been no respecter of the market price either, with some tidy payoffs for the more adventurous punter. I'll take a chance with a 20/1 shot, trained by that man, 'Sir' Henry Cecil, in the form of Ajaan.
Ajaan's two runs to date this season have been extremely promising. His seasonal debut was a battling neck second in the Chester Cup. Then last time out he was sent off as favourite for the ultra-competitive Northumberland Plate (not that this is any less combative). He finished 7th of 17 that day, beaten around six lengths.
A repeat of either of those two runs puts him bang in contention here, and - as I say - odds of 20/1 (Hills / Stan James) or thereabouts seem generous to me. Each way a pleasure...
In the preceding Gimcrack Stakes, the juvenile winning machine that is Monsieur Chevalier has a tilt at three quarters of a mile for the first time, having raced exclusively at the minimum trip to date.
The way he cruised through from last to first last time out was highly impressive, and - if he can repeat the feat here - he'll deserve his place as one of the top sprinters of his generation this season.
As ever in 2yo Group races, there's lots of horses ready to improve. But this chap's been there and done it, and it's not beyond the bounds of probability that he may continue to improve for the step up in trip (although the fact that he's raced exclusively at 5f does cast a small shadow of doubt over that).
I've no idea what price he'll be at this stage but, at 5/2 or bigger, I'd probably be a backer.
The card on Thursday is headed by the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. This race again looks to be held hostage to the participation of a single entrant - this time it's the brilliant Sariska who may scare off the competition. There are a mere seven entries at this stage, and come post time it wouldn't surprise me if we were down to four again.
No matter, it's not her fault, and she ought to be way too good for these, albeit probably at money buyer's odds.
David Elsworth's doughty and progressive mare, Barshiba, may claim the silver medal.
In the Group 2 Lowther Stakes for juvenile fillies, Mick Channon has bagged the swag three times in the last decade including two wins for leading owner, Jaber Abdullah. No Channon representative this year, but Abdullah does have a runner, Lady of the Desert.
She's a daughter of 2001 winner Queen's Logic, and has the form to go close. It's beyond doubt that she's been trained specifically for this race, and she looks nailed on to run well (at least as nailed on as any two year old filly can be!).
It's a long way to Friday and by then I may be feeling as marched out as a member of the Duke's militia. The Group 1 Nunthorpe is the feature, and - appropriately enough with all these military metaphors - it's a five furlong cavalry charge.
There are plenty of good old sticks in here, none of whom it would surprise me to see come home in front, but all of whom look pretty exposed and fairly beatable.
Kingsgate Native is an exception, and looked back to his best when winning last time out for new trainer Sir Michael Stoute. (Apparently, he's been having, erm, droop problems at stud, and so has had to gallop for a living again - poor chap!)
The Native won this as a juvenile, getting all the allowances, two years ago, and he is one of the likelier sorts for this year's affair.
But it's a horse with a similar profile that I'm going to side with, in the shape of 2yo runner, Radiohead. He gets a whopping nineteen pounds plus from all his rivals here and, whilst that won't speed him up, a weight differential of such magnitude must decelerate some of the oppo.
The form of his facile first (in the Norfolk at Royal Ascot) has been franked since, by the aforementioned French Mister Cavalier (or Monsieur Chevalier, if you'd rather), and the Radiohead is likely to be fully tuned up (or in?) after two months off course. [It's worth noting, lest you didn't know already, that the big sprinters in the States normally have a protracted rest like this prior to major stakes races].
I reckon he'll run a nice race and, in a field with many possibilities (none of them especially robust), he looks the each way play.
Borderlescott was extremely unlucky last time, and could also run into the podium positions. He's finished in the first three in no less than 70% of his 40 turf career starts!
Whichever way your wagers wend this week, let's long for lots and lots of luck.
As the Grand Old Duke had it, when we'll be up we'll be up; and when we'll be down we'll be down. And should we be only half way up, we'll be neither up nor down.
Come Friday, break even may well feel like a reprieve!
p.s. What's your bet of the week? Add a comment and share a tip. 🙂