With York’s Ebor Festival now less than a week away, trainers are finalising plans, and a few surprises are on the cards.
The four-day event is one of the highlights of the summer, taking place on a racecourse widely viewed as one of the best in the country. A feature race on each day helps to attract top class thoroughbreds, as does the record prize money of more than £4 million.
The Group 1 Juddmonte International becomes the richest race ever run at York, with £900,000 going to the winner. The race has attracted one of the highest rated racehorses in Postponed, and he is likely to be a short-priced favourite for the prestigious event.
One that doesn’t make the start for the Juddmonte is the Roger Charlton trained Time Test. The trainer explained the decision on his website yesterday, saying: “Time Test will not be running in the Juddmonte International at York next week. We weren't totally happy with his work this morning. He is likely to be given a short break before any future plans are made.”
Later in the day, Charlton spoke to Racing UK, saying: “He (Time Test) worked with Countermeasure, his normal lead horse, this morning and certainly every time that he's worked this year he moves up on the bridle and then quickens four or five lengths clear and has an impressive turn of foot as he's shown in his races. He moved up as though he was going to go winging past him and in the end didn't. The Juddmonte next week is naturally a proper Group One race with some very good horses in it and there's no point running in a race like that if your gut feeling tells you your horse isn't 100% so we decided to scratch.”
The trainer had better news of his outstanding juvenile filly Fair Eva, when adding: “She worked well this morning and heads for the Lowther at York. George Baker rode her and was very happy. She won well at Ascot in a good time, and the Lowther sits well in the calendar.”
Any disappointment at Time Test’s omission was quickly set aside with the news that Limato may well be supplemented for the Nunthorpe Stakes. It would be an incredible turnaround for Henry Candy’s four-year-old, who started this campaign as a miler, running a promising fourth in the Lockinge Stakes. He was then, somewhat surprisingly, dropped in trip to contest the Darley July Cup. The decision proved a masterstroke, when he romped to success in the six-furlong contest.
It remains something of a surprise that connections should now look to the Nunthorpe over the minimum trip; a race for the ultimate speedsters. He will need to work well this Friday before a decision is made, and will then need his favoured quick ground to make the line-up.
Candy explained when speaking to Racing UK: “Mr Jacobs (owner) is going to see him work on Friday morning and if he works OK and the weather forecast's right, then he will supplement him for £30,000 for the Nunthorpe. That's a fairly bold thing to do because the difference between a six-furlong race at Newmarket and five-furlong race at York is pretty amazing. If he didn't go to York, he would go to Goodwood for the Celebration Mile. Even though he's four years old, we're still learning a lot about him and we've got plenty of options.”
Limato’s inclusion would certainly be a huge boost for the race, and likely set up a clash with this season’s leading five-furlong exponent, the Clive Cox trained Profitable.
A sprint wouldn’t be the same without a Robert Cowell contingent, and he looks set to have several in the Nunthorpe line-up. He spoke of his contenders with At The Races, saying: “Goldream will be a runner if the ground is fast and I was absolutely delighted with how he ran at Goodwood. Having a race under his belt now, I think he's got a live chance wherever he shows up.”
The trainer also spoke of a juvenile sprinter that could take on his elders at the Knavesmire. Cowell’s Norfolk Stakes victor Prince Of Lir, disappointed in France recently, but is very much in the picture for York’s Nunthorpe: “He could well show up. I had a chat with the owner a couple of days ago about him and we're keen to go all the way through to declaration stage and see what the ground is like,” said Cowell. “He won't show up if it's good to firm ground, but he could show up if it's good or softer. I'd put a line through his Papin form. It wasn't him and he scoped a little bit dirty when we brought him back. You'll see a different horse next time up.”
One that is set to side-step the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in favour of York, is the classy filly Nemoralia. Runner-up in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Jeremy Noseda has decided to wait for the Ebor Meeting, and a return to the track that saw her impressive seasonal debut back in May. The Newmarket handler feels that the Group 3 City of York Stakes, would be a more sensible option over the stronger looking Hungerford.