In my opinion the best four days Flat racing of the summer is here. Twenty four uber competitive contests on the Knavesmire, York’s Ebor Festival. Let’s hope the last ten days homework is about to pay dividends! The Group races attract the very best and the handicaps are a joy to work out.
Let’s start with some general observations.
GOING– Wednesday and Thursday will be run on quick summer ground, officially Good to Firm (watered to maintain). There is a possibility of rain Friday afternoon and Saturday is forecast to be miserable and the ground could go very quickly.
Don’t be surprised if horses who really need Good to Firm ground suddenly bounce back to form having been hampered at Goodwood and a poor run at Royal Ascot on Good to Soft!
DRAW- Confusing at best! Nothing is written in stone. I personally believe you want prominent racers but not necessarily leaders although the week’s hardest handicap, the 8F Clipper Logistics on Thursday, has been won by a horse who at the top of the home straight was in the final three!
From 10F upwards I would totally ignore the draw. It’s a short run to the bend from the 8F start and it’s easier to get a prominent position from a lower draw.
As for the straight course and the sprints there is conflicting evidence. Looking back over the past Ebor’s sprint races on Good to Firm double figure draws have held sway BUT in 2016 there have been eight sprint handicaps and the winners have come from stalls 5,4,2,2,3,9,4 and 5 and double figures are 0 from 68!!
STABLES to WATCH – This is a very important meeting to all Yorkshire trainers. The money will attract Coolmore and Godolphin. Three yards though will have targeted this meeting.
Richard Fahey – Musley Bank is buoyant with the weekend Group 1 success of Ribchester in France. Fahey will have multiple entries in many races and the mounts given to Paul Hanagan, Adam MacNamara (claiming 5lbs) and even Jamie Spencer will be of special interest.
David O’Meara – They also had International success at the weekend with Mondialiste winning the Group 1 Arlington Million in America. O’Meara moved yards last winter and it’s taken him time to get his horses settled and to get the most out of his gallops but the yard is now flying. Like Fahey he will be mob handed in the handicaps but Daniel Tudhope rarely gets it wrong!
William Haggas – He may train at Newmarket but he’s a Yorkshireman to the core. All his runners must be considered as he rarely sends them to this meeting “for the run”.
Others to consider are Kevin Ryan, who rarely leaves empty handed, the Easterbys, who are having a strong season, Sir Michael Stoute, especially from 10F upwards and Luca Cumani, whose patience could pay off this week.
The Aiden O’Brien battalions will be without Joseph O’Brien (retired) and Ryan Moore (resting) and York isn’t an easy course to ride. Seamie Heffernan is 0 from 8 in the last five seasons and Colm O’Donohoe is 0 from 10.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 17th
1.55 C2 5F 0-105 Handicap. Just had a look at Oddschecker and they are 10/1 the field for this twenty runner cavalry charge! History says you want a High draw but on the evidence of this season’s sprint handicaps selections MUST HAVE single figure draw!! (see above)
This race is run over 5 furlongs and 89 yards and those extra yards could be crucial! Three catch my eye, two drawn low and one drawn high. All three handle the ground, have form in the grade and have form at York.
NINJAGO (18) (Paul Midgley/Pat Smullen) OR97 He is on a losing run of sixteen and never won a handicap but looks well handicapped and the trainer specialises in sprinters. Has run well at York before and signs that this intermediate sprint trip is ideal. One star* win @ 20/1 with PP.
ARCTIC FEELING (1) (Richard Fahey/Patrick Mathers) OR89 Creeps in at the bottom of the weights and Paul Hanagan rides for the first time in three years. Drawn 1 and shouldn’t have an issue getting a run. Race seems made for him. One star* win @ 25/1 with WH.
LINE OF REASON (4) (Paul Midgley/Martin Lane) 4yo g OR105 Has been running at a higher level lately but five and a bit furlongs on quick ground look spot on. One star* win @ 14/1 with PP and BetFred.
If I had to back one to win it would be Line of Reason and if just one each way it would be Arctic Feeling. I will put all three in my place pot.
2.30 Acomb G3 2yo 7F
BEST OF DAYS – (Hugo Palmer/William Buick) RP gallop report “..cleared away from a 95 rated 3yo!” Quoted on Godolphin.com, Palmer said: “He’s in great nick after his Sandown win. The immediate options are York or Salisbury, but he is a colt with long-term potential. He is a very nice horse and it’s nice to be training another for Godolphin.” Massively impressive on debut when winning by 6L in a 7F C5 Sandown maiden, settled, travelled, quickened. 2nd and 4th have been beaten since but the 5th has won.
LOCKHEED – (William Haggas/F.Dettori) I like this colt. Second on debut to the eye popping Frankel colt Seven Heavens at Ascot in a C3 6F maiden, he then used that experience to win a 7F C2 at Salisbury, quickening up well. I think there is more to come from this colt as he was still green in victory. Two star** win @ 5/1 with PP.
These are two promising colts but the value is with the Haggas horse.
3.05 Great Voltiguer C2 12F 3yo colts
Often seen as THE St. Leger trial but quite a few here won’t be running at Doncaster. Idaho is the class act having been placed it both the English and Irish Derbies but is this son of Galileo a winner? The field of just six could prove awkward. Will there be any pace and who will set it?
Across the Stars won the G3 Edward VII Stakes, the Royal Ascot “Derby”, with a “short of room” HousesofParliament back in fourth. HousesofParliament went onto win the other recognised St. Leger trial, the G3 Bahrain Trophy, with Harrison back in third. Meanwhile The Major General was second and Harrison unplaced in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes behind Ulysses, a stablemate of Across the Stars. The ground will be quicker than most of these have encountered and so the form is tight and there are plenty of questions to be answered.
ACROSS THE STARS After his win at Ascot his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, said ““He can be a little impetuous, but he’s growing up. He’s a big horse with a lot of developing to do, physically and mentally. We’ve always liked him and I liked the way he battled. He’s a good-actioned horse and a good athlete and he’ll get stronger. We paid a lot of money for him and he’s justified it now. He’s run to a pretty good standard today. I would doubt he’ll stay the St Leger trip – I would say that is highly unlikely. We’ll stop and think (about plans). There’s no hurry.”
Quite willing to take on Idaho. Across the Stars two star** win @ 7/2 general.
3.40 JUDDMONTE INTERNATIONAL G1 10F
Delighted to see thirteen going to post although King Bolete is probably a pacemaker. Postponed is unbeaten in his last five and currently 6/4 favourite and the race revolves round him. Play or lay?
RP Aug. 5th “Postponed has been pleasing trainer Roger Varian in his work and will bid to add to his tally on the Knavesmire. “Postponed wasn’t 100 per cent before the King George, so he didn’t run,” Varian said. “I’m happy with him now and he’s on course to run at York. Winning a Group 1 over a mile and a quarter with him is a big objective. If he could win one it would certainly add to his CV.” A tilt at the 1m2f Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot in October is not part of Postponed’s plan this year and he was not among the entries published on Wednesday. “He’s more likely to contest the Arc,” Varian added. “There are lots of ifs and buts about possible races after that, but he could go to the Breeders’ Cup.” I think there are enough reasons to take him on. Is Postponed better over 12F than this 10F? He hasn’t been seen since the Coronation Cup in June at Epsom, is he race fit? Has he fully recovered from the respiratory infection that kept him off the track? The last time Postponed ran on Good to Firm ground he was third to Snow Sky. Eleven horses are willing to take Postponed and so am I. But who with?
The ground is against My Dream Boat and possibly Sir Isaac Newton and Wings of Desire. Further would be preferable for Highland Reel and shorter for Mutakayyef. Almodovar, Arab Spring, Dariyan, Exosphere and The Grey Gatsby are Group 2 at best.
So am I going to put forward the improving HAWKBILL for the resurgent “Boys in Blue”. The best all aged 10F race so far was the Eclipse at Sandown and Hawkbill was impressive in beating the unfortunate The Ghurka. Unbeaten in six, the worry is the ground but Hawkbill has an American pedigree which gives me hope. One star* win @ 5/1 with PP.
4.20 Fine Equity Handicap 16F 81-100
The Irish have taken a liking to this race in recent years. Rennetti trained by the all-conquering Willie Mullins and ridden by Pat Smullen will surely be popular in the market but I think the horse has his own ideas about the game, talented but with attitude. If he gets the trip the bottom weight, Repeater, could be a player especially as he has a serious claiming jockey aboard in Killian Leonard. Eshtiaal for Gordon Elliott is a better hurdler and Modem is too often a nearly horse.
I am going to back two here. SAVED BY THE BELL represents the O’Meara/Tudhope combo and runs this track and trip better than anywhere else. He may not win but the 18/1 available is cracking each way value.
I am going to trust Jamie Spencer to weave his magic on LIFE LESS ORDINARY who steps up in trip and grade having shown good form at 12 & 14F at C4.
Saved by the Bell one star* each way @ 20/1 with PP.
Life Less Ordinary two star** each way @ 14/1 with Coral.
4.55 Betway Nursery 2yo 6F handicap
A 6F twenty runner Nursery is certainly no getting out stakes!!
Richard Fahey runs three and they are all of interest. SPIN DOCTOR OR83 Drawn 7. Won on debut and was last seen in the G3 Albany at Royal Ascot, maybe a tad too high in the weights. NAVARONE OR80 Drawn 11 Run well on all three starts and a handicapper in the making. This may be a step too far at this stage of his career. Steps back a furlong. THE WAGON WHEEL OR73 Drawn 6 Now this the filly is of interest. The Musley Bank dogs were certainly barking when this young lady made her debut. She answered every call and although winning cosily looked to have plenty left. She could be thrown in here on OR73 with Patrick Mathers carrying just 8st 3lbs. One star* win @ 15/2 with PP.
I will also have a financial interest in NAAFER. The combination of Haggas and Hanagan is tempting enough but his form is solid, including a course win, and at Goodwood last time he really travelled from a dreadful draw and as long as the low draw bias in 2016 hasn’t continued (see 1.55 above) he must have every chance. One star* win @ 9/1 with Coral.
Now I’ve written my piece let’s see what #FantasticMrFahey has said to sportinglife.com.
I gotta Feeling August 16 2016, 14:48 BST
I have to start the column by mentioning Ribchester’s win in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville on Sunday. It was a great day for everyone here at Musley Bank, we’ve long thought he was a proper Group One horse and it was fantastic to see him win a big one – and win it well too. He’s come out of the race brilliantly, he’s really taken his racing very well this year. I’ll need to speak to John Ferguson but the plan before France was to go straight to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and I imagine it still will be. He’s an absolute star and it’s very exciting to think the plan looks to be to keep him training at four too.
Moving onto our York team for Wednesday and Arctic Feeling is first up in the Symphony Group Stakes. The handicapper has finally started to give him a bit of a chance but while he’d appreciate any rain, I can’t see it in the forecast. This is a typical sprint handicap, any one of 15 could win it, and I just hope things fall right for my fellow. We’ve three in the closing Betway Stakes. Navarone is bred to stay but we don’t think he got home over seven furlongs last time so the drop back to six here will suit and we’ll see what happens. Spin Doctor is a filly we liked a lot and we took her to Royal Ascot as a result but she was very disappointing in the Albany Stakes. We’ve given her a break since but she’s back in good form at home again and we’re hoping she bounces back. The Wagon Wheel did well to win over five furlongs on debut at Beverley and this is more her trip. If she’s tough and savvy enough for a race like this on her second start then she should be competitive. If she runs as green as she did the last day she’ll struggle but that experience wasn’t lost on her.