The third and final day of the York meeting may have a touch of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' about it, what with the overwhelming shadow that the Dante Stakes has cast on the Derby betting. But there are still big fish to be fried and, more importantly, big race winners to be found... (hmm, probably not my best intro ever!)
We start at 1.30 with the Marygate Fillies Stakes over the flying five furlongs, and this is restricted to the baby girls. Two entries are of particular interest to me. Firstly, and most obviously, Miss Work Of Art, the short priced favourite who is on my list of the fifteen fastest juvies to run this season.
At a shade of odds on, she won't be everyone's cup of tea, but her form is the best and, despite the obvious scope for others to improve past her current level, there's still plenty of upside potential with the Work of Art.
Whilst there are others in the race who are obvious dangers - particularly Mark Johnston's Vocational - the second one I'm going to mention, for partisan reasons, is Julia Feilden's Red Hearts. This young lass needed the run badly on debut, when down the field in a Windsor maiden, and Julia's juvies are not known for their 'first time out' precocity.
But Red Hearts improved markedly to claim victory on her second start - where she beat Pitt Rivers (ran with credit yesterday) - and although I don't think she'll win this, I do hope that she runs well. Julia may have a better chance later on the card.
Miss Work Of Art will be tough to beat, and I might 'exacta' her with Vocational and Queens Revenge.
The 2.00 is a seventeen runner mile and a half handicap and no winner in the last decade has been sent off longer than 12/1 so maybe we have a chance after all. Most of the recent winners (five of the last six) were five year olds, so I'm going to somewhat arbitrarily narrow my focus to fancied five year olds.
[If you've a problem with that line of reasoning, fine, skip on to the next race. But I can tell you that generally in flat handicaps I do not have the patience / ability to justify the effort expended for the returns on that effort investment. Hence, I use certain fairly common sense shortcuts to give me an interest bet. Hope that makes sense!]
So I'm honing in on Kansai Spirit, The Fonz, Deauville Flyer, Tepmokea, and Royal Swain as a shortlist.
Kansai Spirit has plenty of weight, because he keeps winning! The last win in a mile and six class two handicap from Red Cadeaux reads very well and, if he's fit first time, I don't think the weight will anchor him (only six pounds higher than that staying win) and he'll go close on ground that suits just fine. Johnny G's horses are in good nick too, with 61% placed in the last week.
The Fonz comes from Sir Michael Stoute's yard and, whilst I don't believe 'Stoutey' will consider himself a Henry Winkler type, I'm sure The Fonz has the thumbs up here from his shrewd handler. The Fonz has run twice over course and distance, finishing second the first time in a Class 4 handicap, and winning in a Class 2 handicap on the latter occasion. That was off 87, and he's got 92 here, so again he's likely to be thereabouts.
Deauville Flyer is another who stays all day and has won over course and distance here. He probably wants a bit further these days, and his win was in Class 4 (Class 2 today), so he might have a bit to find. That said, he has the benefit of a run this season and won second time out last year. He also has a certain Mr Fallon in the driving seat so will get all the support he needs from there. Whether he's quite good enough, I have my doubts.
Tepmokea was progressive last year, rarely running a bad race. He is another course and distance winner, but his victory was on soft ground, and in lower class. He has good ground form, but this looks to be a bit too high a class for him, unless he's improved over the winter (possible).
Finally, Royal Swain, who started his career in bumpers, has been running consistently without actually winning. With two bumper wins, he's another who will stay plenty well enough, but pretty much all of his form is in smaller fields and lower class. He is consequently lightly weighted, and has 'our man' Jimmy Quinn (regular rider of Geegeez Racing Club horse, Khajaaly) in the saddle. I'd love him to run well but I don't think he'll be good enough to win.
So that leaves me with a coin flip between The Fonz and Kansai Spirit. At the prices, slight preference is for The Fonz, who looks a horse to follow whatever he does this afternoon (Royal Ascot to come).
Next is the Yorkshire Cup at 2.30 and our mate Askar Tau goes here. He's a proven Group 2 horse, who won his only start here in the Lonsdale Cup (a Group 2) back in 2009, is in form and will take some beating.
Duncan is stepping up to this trip for the first time and, although he won the Prix Foy nicely last season on soft ground, that was his only Group 2 form, and I have to admit to not being a huge fan of this horse. He doesn't always put it in, he has class reservations for me, and he's tackling a longer trip than ever before.
Although he might improve for the extra distance, 4/1 doesn't interest me in the slightest (cue facile win for Duncan!).
'Sir' Henry Cecil runs Native Ruler, a horse who has only ever won a mile and a quarter Pontefract maiden, and this chap's 7/2. In fairness to Native Ruler, he was a nose second to Dandino on debut this season and that was a mighty run against a markedly improved horse.
It was also Native Ruler's first run for two years, and it was a hard run. As such, there is a possibility that he might 'bounce' here. (If you don't know, 'bouncing' is running flat after a very good performance the time before, and is common in horses having their second start after a layoff).
Even taking the Dandino run at face value and expecting a repeat of it wouldn't make Native Ruler a good thing here, and I still believe he'd have something to find with Askar Tau.
Manighar is the horse in the field with the most air miles, having originally been campaigned in France with Alain de Royer-Dupre to win six races including a Group 2. It may or may not be instructive to note that since then he moved to Luca Cumani's stable, where he's been raced seven times without winning.
In Luca's defence, that includes close up runs in races like the Melbourne Cup and the Prix Kergorlay (French Group 2), so he has run with credit. It may be that the shorter field here will help, but he seems to have lost the winning knack and, until he finds it again, I'll look elsewhere.
Pick of the rest may be Electrolyser, who has run well at this level in the past, including twice at York, and from the savvy stable of CC (Clive Cox). 10/1 in a couple of places looks ok.
But I'm sticking with Askar Tau who, after a doldrums season last year, looked right back to his best last time. He won more than once on the spin in both 2008 and 2009, and he can win again today. My only slight niggle is that the trip might be a touch on the short side for him, so I'm hoping there's a bit of pace on early. I'll be having a nice each way bet at the price (6/1).
The Michael Seely Memorial Stakes is next, at 3.00, and Julia runs last time out winner, Emma's Gift. That win was at Ascot, where she seems to run her best races ('won' the race on the far side in the Albany Stakes last season), and she has yet to prove her mettle elsewhere to the same degree.
She's rated 95, which is just a pound shy of the second top rated in the race (Flood Plain) and - on the book at least - gives her a place squeak.
The one they have to beat is Theysken's Theory, a horse who ran creditably all last season before coming unstuck at the Breeders' Cup meeting. Her third behind White Moonstone and Together in the Fillies Mile at Ascot is far and away the best run of any of these, and a repeat sees her win here.
Not all juvies progress as three year olds, and she looks to have less scope than some of these, but it's still actually quite hard to envisage any of her opponents improving the necessary twelve pounds and more to turn her over. I was actually quite surprised to see she's as big as 2/1 and that might be fair enough.
If this was a handicap, Theysken's Theory would be giving lumps of weight away all round. As it is, she's conceding just five pounds, which leaves her seven pounds well in. The mile should be fine for her, as will the ground and, on all known form (she beat 1000 Guineas winner, Blue Bunting, by five lengths to win her maiden!) she'll take some catching here.
a five furlong dash at 3.35 is for braver men than me, and I'll take my shortcutted route again. In fact, the only thing I can tell you is that northern trainers won all four previous renewals, and all four previous winners were first or second last time out over five furlongs at a northern track that same season (i.e. no seasonal debut winners).
With that in mind, I'll take the appropriately named (if you're betting in this) Mr Optimistic, winner of a Haydock five furlong sprint last time to beat all comers. He's clearly progressive, comes from a stable in good form, is ridden by the champion jockey and is available to bet at around 15/2. Stan James will even give you five places!
Onwards, and the penultimate race is a six furlong big field handicap. Good grief! Do not drink and wager this afternoon!!
For all its competitiveness, only one horse bigger than 12/1 won in the last decade, so there is at least the remote prospect of hitting the board with your pick. My two against the field are four year olds, Our Jonathan and Hoof It.
Hoof It actually won the preceding five furlong race last season, and also prevailed on his final start last season in a big field. His only six furlong win was in his maiden, which is a bit of a concern, but he's a year older and stronger now, so should be able to take the bonus yardage in his considerable stride.
Ground is no problem and, if fit enough, he'll run well.
Our Jonathan has Jamie Spencer atop and, despite that 😉 has a chance. Our Jonathan looked to be one of those two year olds who run up a sequence and then struggle throughout their three year old campaign as a result of being too highly handicapped.
He finished his juvie year rated 111, and he's now down to 94. Spencer was third behind Horseradish on him in a similar race at Donny first time out this season, and I reckon this chap is 'expected' this afternoon.
There's no five places concession here, but 13/2 is readily available with four spots to save the bacon.
Closing the York May meeting is... yet another big field handicap, this time back over the mile and a half trip. Bizarrely, there hasn't been a double figure odds winner in the last decade, which is some testimony to the class of the horses who have contested it. The last seven winners have all slotted into a tight weight bracket between 8-10 and 9-03, so I'll focus thereabouts.
Man Of God is the obvious one, from Johnny G's yard, and this chap is bidding for a second win on just his third start. That was over a mile on soft, so conditions are very different here. He is clearly expected to improve for the step up in trip and is bred to.
Communicator and First Battalion are other well-housed beasts with vast scope for improvement. I might slightly prefer Sir Michael Stoute's First Battalion, as he has a little less lead to lug.
The one for all the money this morning is that man Roger Varian's Ittirad (you heard about Roger here first!). Varian won earlier in the week here with Pekan Star in what looked an insoluble handicap and, despite the weight, Ittirad may give him a second notch at the May meeting.
Ittirad was a very warm 1/3 favourite when bolting up, stretched out to today's trip last time in a Newcastle maiden, and - like many of these - he'll improve considerably again. 7/2 is a little on the tight side but, in a race where adventurous investing has historically failed to reward, this chap has a lot of support and that money is talking to me. I'll be on, if I need a result!
This afternoon, I'll be heading to Newmarket to meet up with some of the Geegeez Racing Club 'squad' for drinks ahead of tomorrow's Racing Club day extravaganza. Members of the club don't just own a 2% share of the horse, Khajaaly, but also get the opportunity to attend a day twice yearly where we end up at the track but take in various excursions around Newmarket first.
Tomorrow, we've got the Hamilton Hill gallops, Harraton stables, and National Stud on our agenda, prior to drinking and gambling the afternoon and evening away. Can't wait! 😀
Have a great weekend, whatever you're doing, wherever you're doing it, and whoever is accompanying you, and I'll catch up with you next week.