The blog returns for possibly my favourite Flat meeting of the year – York’s Ebor Festival.
As with last year it’s been hard work to get ahead on the Flat season. Uncertain ground (not helped by some courses being a bit too keen with their watering policies) is a constant issue I keep coming back to – throw in the added complication of draws and it makes analysis no easier sometimes.
I’m certainly finding it harder to get an edge on flat racing these days and am already looking forward to when the jumps return at a good level later this year.
As it was one of the closest tracks for me to visit in my youth, York (the ‘Ascot of the North’), always holds fond memories and is one of the big meetings where I will be hoping that more competitive pricing can give out some value.
As a course, it has its quirks that should be noted. In the past, a low draw in longer races was advantageous when most races remained on the far rail in the home straight. In recent years however this draw bias has been less important as the field often heads for the middle of the track instead.
The sprints over 5 and 6 furlongs could produce winners from all sides but since drainage work was done a few years ago, there do seem to be some channels of ground that are worse than others. I don’t see that many races won on the rails anymore – particularly on the stands side (and consequently a very high draw in big sprints can be a slight negative in my mind)
It’s also a track which did use to favour prominent runners more – although again this factor may be lessened by the racing taking place in the centre of the track. That ‘concertina’ effect can cause some unfortunate traffic problems for hold-up horses though so I’d still prefer something to be sitting not too far from the pace when they turn for home in the longer events
Wednesday’s opening day has one bet for me but first a quick say on the day’s showpiece event – one which should be the highlight of the week and maybe of the season.
3.40 Juddmonte International
It’s very rare we will see a Derby winner and a 2,000 Guineas winner from the same year taking each other on in a race. The fact that neither of them have been first past the post in every race of their careers to date mean that at least one will taste defeat for the first time.
John Gosden’s Golden Horn was the Epsom Derby victor and upheld that form in Sandown’s Eclipse when proving too good for the reopposing 4yo The Grey Gatsby (2nd in this race last year).
He had to make his own pace there which made the win all the more meritorious. This time he has a pacemaker in Dick Doughtywylie. Add front running filly Arabian Queen into the equation and we should for once have a top class race this season where we can guarantee a good gallop from the start.
It’s hard to find negatives about this horse and with trip, ground and pace all looking ideal for him, he deserves his place at the head of the betting.
Supporters of The Grey Gatsby will be hoping he can do better on a course he has performed so well at before (lets not forget that Golden Horn won the Dante here easily though). He certainly may not have to take the race quite so early to Golden Horn as he did at Sandown and I would expect him to be challenging late on the scene. Strictly speaking it’s hard to see him turning the form around but he could profit from others battling too early here and pick up some pieces
The likely strong pace will be there to seek out stamina limitations in Aidan O’Brien’s 2000 Guineas victor, Gleneagles. He’s yet to race over more than a mile which at the time of his Classic win seemed to be suggested as his ideal trip. His sister Marvellous showed her best form over a mile but looked not to stay 12 furlongs. She never tried todays trip of 10 furlongs so we can’t really gain much from that. Gleneagles’ sire Galileo is a stamina influence but his dam was best at sprint trips.
He will get his desired ground and will be a tough opponent if his stamina holds but I just have a couple of niggling worries here aside from that.
He was pulled out of the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood far too early for my liking (excuse of soft ground given – it had dried out by day of the race) and I just wonder if all was 100% with him.
He’s also without the services of injured Ryan Moore now. Joseph O’Brien resumes the ride he had last year but I’m afraid I just don’t rate in him in the same class as Moore on these big occasions when the difference between winning and losing can be so fine.
There is a fourth major player here though. Royal Ascot winner Time Test was immensely impressive in a fast time there and deserves his step up to this stage. It really is anyone’s guess as to how good this one is and he’s the real dark one of the race who could well have the ability to surprise the Classic winners.
The likely fastish ground is probably going to be against Aussie hope Criterion. He showed at Ascot that he’s a few lengths below this class on quick ground and all reports suggest he needs a softer surface to bring his A game into play.
It’s a fascinating race in which I would be struggling to pick out the winner with any great conviction.
The prices on offer are about right for me and so I won’t be getting involved but just watching the race.
If 8 runners do line up for the race that means 3 places will be paid and I think there might be some each way value in The Grey Gatsby at around 12/1 then. If there is a non –runner and we go down to a field of 7, only 2 places will be paid and the value of that bet would diminish considerably
The rest of Tuesday’s card I find quite tricky.
Bogart is a bit of a cliff horse for me in the opener and has place chances under what seem to be close to his optimum conditions.However, all too often he seems to fade away in the last 50 yards these days so I would need a decent double figure price with 5 places to be attracted.
In the main back up race, the Great Voltigeur, at 3.05, I can make a case for all bar one of the 7 runners (Medrano needs much softer ground at this level to have any chance). I will happily pass that one by!
It’s the last race on the card where my one bet of the day is to be found.
Sir Roger Moore is one of 4 runners in the 20 strong field that has Group race entries. He is entered at Group 1 level along with Whitman and Kassia (Dream Destination has a Group 3 entry). He ran an encouraging 3rd on his debut back here in May.at the Dante meeting The winner of that race, Seastrom, hasn’t raced since and the second hasn’t really advertised the form. A few that were behind him that day have gone onto show the worth of it though. (Another Touch for instance was behind in 4th that day and was an impressive Nursery winner off a mark of 7 earlier this month).
Charlie Hills colt was considered good enough to head for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot on his next start. Not surprisingly he wasn’t good enough and his stall 1 berth did this free going sort no favours. He wasn’t able to get cover early there and wasted too much energy too early.
He still finished in front of Qeyaadah though who reopposes here on 10lb worse terms here!
He then dropped back in grade for a Goodwood maiden. Very little went right here but I’m quite glad that the Racing Post didn’t seem to fully notice what a horrendous passage he suffered as this probably helps with his price here.
Again he was slightly keen early but Graham Gibbons soon got him settled before starting to make a run. He was then almost knocked off twice when trying to find a passage before being allowed to coast in in his own time in 8th.
I think he would have gone very close to winning that race that day with more luck in running and on previous formlines his opening handicap mark of 81 could be a little lenient.
In stall 6 this time, I’m hoping he can get some early cover again to get him settled early. Then given the usual luck needed in a 20 runner race I think he has an excellent chance to prevail and go some way to justifying his Group race entries. Early money for John Quinn’s Reputation suggests he could be on a lucrative mark and perhaps the biggest danger – Kassia has performed well at a better level than this but is at a disadvantage for a filly in having to give weight to the selection
(Noticeable that connections pulled out Sir Roger Moore from what looked an easy winning opportunity at Windsor on Monday night (ground excuse given) to go for this)
1.5 pts ew Sir Roger Moore @14/1 (Skybet, BetVictor, Pady Power, 888)
Current prices available here : http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/2015-08-19-york/16:55/winner
Thanks for reading as usual
Good luck all!
(comments as usual are always welcomed)