York Ebor Festival: Day One

Juddmonte day at York and plenty of top horses on show. However there has been some rain in the air around the Knavesmire throwing the participation of Gleneagles into some doubt.

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The going went from good to firm in the morning to good, all round, by 3pm after 8mm. More rain is expected, which is likely to put a dampener on proceedings.

13:55 Symphony Group Stakes

A 5f sprint to start and it’s going to be quick even with the softening ground. Plenty of these have good form coming into this race but it is a job for getting a pin in all honesty.

I’ll start with the Paul Midgley pair as his sprinters warrant respect, as he’s picked up some big prizes this year. Desert Law won the Epsom Dash in June beating stablemate Monsieur Joe. Since then he’s placed twice and won. His win was last time at Nottingham and for that he carries a 6lb penalty here but don’t let that put you off because he has plenty of ability and is very consistent for a sprinter. He also saddles ten-year-old Silvanus here, who has won his last two races at Ripon and Pontefract respectively. For those wins his mark has gone up 7lb to 97 meaning he’ll require a bit more. This is competitive but he may find this a bit too much for him despite the good form shown.

Kevin Ryan has won the last two renewals of this race with four-year-olds. Distant Past fits the same bill here for him but the concern for me would be the form of the yard. In the last 14 days he’s had three winners from 36 runners. This gelding has form on softer ground, so that is a positive if the rain continues to fall. He was a good fourth in the Scottish Sprint Cup Consolation race when staying on well from off the pace and similar tactics will be employed here. He’s had 26 days off to freshen up and when last seen was second to Midlander and that form could be reversed with the weight pull.

There doesn’t tend to be a draw bias at York but looking back at previous renewals it seems that when the ground is on the quicker side a high draw is more advantageous while when on the slower side a lower draw could be more beneficial. However it isn’t the most obvious bias, so not something to take as gospel.

Lucky Beggar is now back on a winnable mark and has been running in better races than this. He finished last season and started this season by competing in Listed races finishing down the field but off marks of 104 and 106 respectively. Now running off 98 he can challenge the frame. He’s placed here at York twice before and shouldn’t mind cut in the ground. This could play out nicely for him, as he’ll be kept off the pace before making a late challenge. There should be plenty of early speed setting it up for a closer despite the softer ground.

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Huntsmans Close has talent but can be quite quirky as we saw when he got loose at Royal Ascot. The majority of his runs have been over 6f but that extra bit of stamina could help him if they go a strong gallop early. He has two Group 1 entries and Roger Charlton regards him highly. He and Dutch Masterpiece are likely to be towards the head of the market. Dutch Masterpiece ran well in defeat at Ascot in the Shergar Cup under Pat Smullen, who takes the ride again today. He ran on strongly to be just held off by Secretinthepark. On this sort of ground I would say that that piece of form could be reversed with Dutch Masterpiece being in contention here.

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Advice: Lucky Beggar (14/1 each-way)

            Dutch Masterpiece (10/1 each- way)

14:30 Acomb Stakes

The first of the Group races of the day and this is a Group 3 contest over 7f for two-year-olds.

Lieutenant General could be worth taking on. He finally got his win when last seen on his fourth start at Leopardstown. He did assert himself to win that race well and he wore a first time tongue-tie, which could have helped him find that bit extra. He was previously third to stablemate Deauville in a Group 3, so does have proven form in the book. However he is a little more exposed and could find something too good.

Recorder is the one that takes my eye; yes another one for Frankie Dettori. He won a nice maiden at Newmarket on soft ground, so should handle these conditions. In that maiden the third beat the second on their next starts while the fourth has also won since. He overcame keenness that day and came off the pace, which was a decent one, to get up to win by a neck. He was well backed that day and he looks a very good prospect. This William Haggas colt holds a Derby entry, so could be one to really watch.

Adventurous ran in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood finishing fourth of eight and was staying on over that 6f trip, so the 7f trip could eek out that bit extra. He may welcome the return to a flatter track, so can’t be discounted. Mohab won by 8l at Catterick like a 1/3F should do. That wasn’t the strongest maiden plus again the yards form can be questioned.

Richard Hannon is represented by Humphrey Bogart. He was third on debut over 6f and then won over 7f when last seen. This trip saw him at his most effective at he could go close at a double figure price, as he shaped well despite the form showing little. Cymric had his first run in the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, so is highly thought of. When seen second time he stayed on well to see off the attentions of Massaat at Sandown, but pretty much made all. This isn’t a track for front-runners plus there are doubts about him on slower ground.

One at a price could be is Bing Bang Bong. He was very impressive when winning at Newmarket on soft ground with the way he lengthened and put 3l between himself and his nearest rival, who was second again next time out. This step up to 7f should suit him and he is proven on softer ground. There are plenty of positives in his pedigree with his dam being a half-sister to Foss Way, who won a Group 2 as a two-year-old over this trip. With three places on offer he is one that is worth taking a bit more of a risk on.

Advice: Recorder (5/1 each-way)

Bing Bang Bong (12/1 each-way)

15:05 – Great Voltigeur Stakes

A Group 2 race over 1m4f and one where from a punting view you can take the favourite on.

Storm The Stars does have the strongest form in the book but could be beaten by an improving stayer. This son of Sea The Stars was second in the Group 3 Chester Vase on soft ground, third in the Derby, second in the Irish Derby and third in the Grand Prix De Paris at Longchamp. All of it is good form considering the horses he’s been beaten by. Despite the strong form shown he’s been given a mark of 114 compared to Bondi Beach, who from his three starts is rated 111. Form me the Aidan O’Brien runner is still improving and could provide some value here.

Bondi Beach (purple) under Seamie Heffernan. Image from the Scotsman

Bondi Beach (purple) under Seamie Heffernan. Image from the Scotsman

Bondi Beach
won on debut at Leopardstown on bottomless ground, but it won’t be that bad at York, even though there will be ease under foot. That maiden win came over this trip and he won better than the winning distance suggests considering it was under a hands and heels ride. He followed that up with a good second at the same venue in a Listed race beaten by Dermot Weld’s Radanpour, but was tight for run when wanting to make the his move about two furlongs out. His latest effort was his best and came in the Group 3 Curragh Cup over 1m6f where he beat stablemate Order Of St George. He’s a game type and one that is likely to continue to improve with the main aim being the St Leger.

Tashaar is another improving type and won eye-catchingly at Glorious Goodwood. He’s put good distance between his rivals when winning and this extra furlong shouldn’t be a problem. On debut he beat Count Montecristo, who has finished second on his last four runs and that was one of them. At Goodwood he beat Rhythmical, who was an odds-on shot but was beaten at Newmarket on Saturday however the third Shell Bay did win at the Shergar Cup giving that form some strength. Richard Hannon rates him highly and has taken his time with him, so you can’t discount him.

Another of Aidan O’Brien’s is Aloft, who won the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot and drops back in trip here. From his four starts he’s never been out of the front two. He beat Storm The Stars to get off the mark on his second start, but that was over a mile. He was second to Elm Park on soft ground in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy last year and won the aforementioned Queens Vase on his first start this season. The drop in trip shouldn’t be too much of a problem and the blinkers replace the cheekpieces here too. Balios won the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot where he stayed on strongly to see off Mr Singh. However my concern here would be the ground. He raced in the Grand Prix De Paris at Longchamp too finishing fifth around a ½l behind Storm The Stars, so may not have to find that much to reverse the form. However that was on good ground and his best form comes on quick good to firm. A factor that slightly reduces that concern would be that he is a son of Shamardal, who did win with ease in the ground.

Advice: Bondi Beach (9/2 Win)


15:40 Juddmonte International Stakes

Well all the build up was good however the rain has probably put pay to it all. Just the eight were declared, so if one gets pulled out then we’ll be down to only two places from a punting perspective. Already there has been support for Time Test, which you can understand why.

Let’s start with the main horse here – Golden Horn. He was impressive again when having to make the running in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown. He did look in trouble against The Grey Gatsby but showed his class. It was here at York in the Dante that he caught the eye taking the breath away with how he eased past stablemate Jack Hobbs before repeating the dose at Epsom in the Derby. He is the most likely winner, if he runs. He did win his maiden on good to soft ground, so despite being pulled out of the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes he would go close here.

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The Grey Gatsby has to be the value angle to follow him home. He ran back to his best in the Coral Eclipse. Jamie Spencer should be able to settle him in and wait a little longer before making his move, which should suit this grey colt better than at Sandown. He should have won the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes at Royal Ascot the time before that but was second to Free Eagle. Further positives include his course form; from four starts here on the Knavesmire he has won twice and finished second twice. He should like these conditions, so at a double figure price would be the way to go. I know what I’ve said about the worries of stable form but this horse is one of class and has to be respected.

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The Tercentenary winner was Time Test and I can see why he’s been backed with the manner in which he won at Royal Ascot. However the form coming out of that race doesn’t look particularly strong but he could be still be able to go well. This son of Dubawi is very nicely bred and has continued to improve. Stepping up to a Group 1 he’ll need to do so again here. The ground shouldn’t inconvenience him considering he won his maiden in good to soft conditions. Pat Smullen is an interesting jockey booking but does ride a few in these colours for Khalid Abdullah. He’s a top jockey and can prove it again in this big race.

Gleneagles is now unlikely to run with there being cut in the ground. He was pulled out of the Sussex Stakes quite early despite the fact the Goodwood ground was drying and on the day was described as good, which shouldn’t really have been a problem for him. There have been other rumours surrounding his absence though. Three from three this season over a mile, so will have to prove stamina. Pedigree suggests he should get the trip, as he is a son of Galileo and being related to Giants Causeway. If he does run he’ll have to put in his best to get close to Golden Horn, which I can’t see him doing and I’d fancy him to finish outside the top two.

Advice: The Grey Gatsby (12/1 each-way or 7/2 without Golden Horn)


16:20 Fine Equinity Stakes

A staying handicap over 2m and with conditions as they are there could be some value in Gabrial’s Star, who relishes soft ground. Despite the lack of headgear he looks to be off a good mark with Jack Garritty claiming 3lb too. He went close at Wolverhampton in February off this mark and with conditions in his favour he could prove to be a good price. His form figures may not be the most appealing and they have been in this company but there was some encouragement by how he ran in the Chester Cup finishing fifth of 17, so this is more speculative than a strong fancy.

Gabrial's Star goes well with cut in the ground. Image from Skysports

Gabrial’s Star goes well with cut in the ground. Image from Skysports

I’ve put up Taws on the last couple of runs but she is one that preferably wants further, as she is a galloper who lacks the gears if this came down to a sprint later on. Conditions could suit her as it will be a stamina test and she has that in abundance. Rod Millman yard is in good form at the minute and she could continue that as she always gives her running but at this trip others are preferred.

A couple have come across from Ireland and one catches my eye. That is Cardinal Palace, who is 2lb lower than when a well-beaten second to Wicklow Brave on heavy ground at Listowel. He followed that up with a win over hurdles at Aintree. Since switching from John Joseph Murphy to James Nash he has ran in some competitive races. In the past he has been as highly rated as 100 on the level. The tongue-tie is on for the first time and that could help him at this trip, which he is yet to encounter on the flat. It’s another chance to be taken but this is a wide-open handicap, which could fall apart due to non-runners in these conditions.

Big Thunder has the David O’Meara factor, so is likely to be over bet because of that and his reputation. The horse beat Saved By The Bell over course and distance last time out but that was in different conditions. This grey gelding has only gone up 4lb for that win but is a player if handling conditions although the majority of his form is on quick ground. The final one that could be interesting on this ground is Groovejet. She was second at Doncaster last year on good to soft over 1m6f in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes, so if running somewhere close to that form she could go close at a big price.

Advice: Gabrial’s Star (20/1 each-way)

            Cardinal Palace (16/1 each-way)

16:55 Betway Stakes (Nursery)

This looks a really competitive nursery where there is plenty of potential lurking.

Qeyaadah and Sir Roger Moore are two of three tracker horses in this race. Firstly Qeyaadah won on debut at Newbury and did it well. He beat a Richard Hannon newcomer in Nelspruit, who was well backed and has won since. He didn’t really go on from that but did go well when second at Haydock over a furlong further 12 days ago against an improving Sir Mark Prescott type in Alinstante. Should go well but Paul Hanagan prefers Tawwaaq. The other track horse is Sir Roger Moore, who is still a maiden after three starts. He is interesting back at the scene of his best run, which came over course and distance on debut. Considering Charles Hills already has him entered into a Group 1 suggesting he must work well at home. Off a mark of 81 in this contest may see him running close.

Dark Defender is the third tracker horse and I somehow missed him before he won here over course and distance in a nursery last month. In that win he beat Mr Lupton, who followed that up with a second in the Super Sprint at Newbury. That victory followed up a win at Ayr and both wins have come on good ground, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Phillip Makin has had plenty of success at York recently and he could add to that here for Keith Dalgleish.


Dark Defender has course form. Image from Joyce Manson

Dark Defender has course form. Image from Joyce Manson

Shawaahid re-opposes Dark Defender but you feel that form can be confirmed, as they run off level weights here and last time Dark Defender won giving weight away. This Richard Hannon colt will handle the conditions with both of his wins coming with some rain in the ground. He won a four-runner nursery at Newmarket when last seen on soft ground and was going away, so he’ll relish this ground and has that extra stamina if they go at a strong pace.

Sandahl was one that I put up at Glorious Goodwood but disappointed on the quick ground and unconventional track. The return to York and this flatter track plus in first time blinkers could see him back to somewhere near his best and he looks overpriced considering he won a hot maiden that has seen plenty of winners coming from it since.

Of the rest Mark Johnston’s Whitman is worth considering as he goes for the hat-trick here. Both of his wins came on good to firm ground, so that would be a concern here for the top weight. He beat a decent horse in Holy Grail by 2l last time for which the handicapper has put him up 12lb, so it’ll be interesting to see how he goes. Reputation won over course and distance on his last start after being beaten on debut but the penny did drop late that day. The cheekpieces are on for the first time here, so they may eek out a bit more. He is more of a watching brief on this ground. Mick Channon is banging in the winners and saddles Kassia here. She was beaten by Besharah on debut and she has since proved to be decent after winning a Group 3 at Ascot in July, where Kassia finished sixth. That day she didn’t quicken on the soft ground, so that would be a concern in these conditions. However she does have some strong form in the book after finishing fifth in the Queen Mary. She could prove to be better than her mark of 85.

Advice: Dark Defender (16/1 each-way)

            Sandahl (28/1 each-way)


Good Luck and be careful with the going changes!


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