A great triumph for Yorkshire on Day 3 of the Ebor Festival with Meccas Angel grabbing the headlines in the Nunthorpe.
I did wonder if the ground would be soft enough for her beforehand but crucially is had no jar in it and it didn’t inhibit her.
What the ground will be like tomorrow will largely depend on if rain arrives overnight. This evening the Met Office suggest a 50% chance of it for a few hours in the early hours.
This will make the difference between it staying slightly on the dead side or it drying out to good decent ground.
The opening race on Friday (run over a slightly shorter trip than Saturday’s Ebor) was dominated by prominent racers. The first three home were in the first 5 turning for home. However, they were following a relatively sedate early pace so we can’t really take this as an indication of what will happen tomorrow. Hold-up horses came good in later races when the pace was stronger.
Onto tomorrow’s big race the Ebor Handicap at 3.45
These big handicaps are never going to be easy but I do have a love for the longer distance ones and the Ebor is my favourite one of the year. It’s been won by some great favourites over the years – Sea Pigeon, Further Flight, Sergeant Cecil and Quick Ransom my favouries in descending order.
The complexion of the race has changed greatly in recent years. We just don’t get low weighted horses any more and there’s very little gap between top and bottom weight these days. Tomorrow there is only 9lbs separating top and bottom. This makes it much harder for the handicap ‘good things’ to get into the race and makes for a much more competitive and trickier to solve event.
A low draw used to be a big advantage when the field would come down the far side of the straight. Now that most races end up in the middle it’s much less of a handicap. I still wouldn’t say a high draw is ideal – particularly for a hold-up style of ride. It probably proved the undoing of favourite Pallasator last year who ended up too far out of his ground from stall 22.
The outside berth this year is occupied by the sole 3yo in the race – Aidan O’Brien’s Fields of Athenry. This one vies for favouritism but I’m not sure he deserves to be as short as he is.
3 year olds don’t run in this race much in recent years. Because of the conditions and the allowances they get they need such a high handicap rating to get into the race.
Back in the 20th century some classy 3yos like Clerkenwell, Sapience and Protection Racket were good winners who subsequently proved themselves at Group level (the latter won the Irish St Leger in the same season) But they won carrying 7 st 11lb, 8st 4lbs and 8st 1lbs respectively.
The last 3yo to win was from the O’Brien stable in 2001. Mediterranean carried 8st 4lbs to victory then with a rating of 101. Since the 2002 renewal and the changing of the race there have been only three more three year olds competing – all from the O’Brien stable:
2009 Changingoftheguard 9st (rating 107)
2007 Honolulu 9st 2lbs (111) 2nd
2004 Mikado 8st 13lbs (106) 3rd
All 3 ran very well and then went on to contest the St Leger. Honolulu went off 13/8 fav for the Leger on the back of his fine run and came home 3rd.
Fields of Athenry is being asked to carry 9st 8lbs with his rating of 118 – a good deal more than any of these. He does have a 5lb claimer on board but that still gives him a bit of a mountain to climb.
While he looks a stayer and shouldn’t mind any cut in the ground, his form doesn’t really equate to the rating he has. His last win was beating a horse rated 21lbs lower at level weights by about 2 lengths. 3 starts ago he failed to give 22lbs to Botany Bay – a horse who runs in the 2.35 earlier as a big outsider with a rating of 85. This, and his other form tends to make me think his rating shouldn’t be any higher than about 105. I think the handicapper has given him a bit of a raw deal
It would be foolish to ignore that the O’Brien stable hope completely but history suggests to me that he will find one or two too good.
I’m also a little concerned that the Coolmore partners sold him earlier this week. If they did harbour serious St Leger claims with him would they have done that??
Challenging for favouritism is the Willie Mullins/Frankie Dettori combo on Clondaw Warrior (also part owned by Ruby Walsh) who creeps into a race at the bottom after the withdrawal of Quest for More this morning. This combination struck with Max Dynamite on Friday and are bound to be popular picks.He’s 10 lbs higher than when successful at Royal Ascot over a much further trip. Both him and the second Fun Mac (4lbs better off for half a length ) came from near last that day suggesting they had gone a bit too fast up front.
That was run on faster ground than they’ll get here. On the face of it, Fun Mac could reverse the form on these terms but I have a feeling he may be less suited of the pair by the likely slower ground tomorrow. If he does cope with it then 14/1 Fun Mac is much better value than 6/1 Clondaw Warrior but I am swayed against both. They would both need to be ridden a bit more prominently in this race for me and I’m not sure that Ascot form is the strongest guide to this race.
Willie Mullins also runs Wicklow Brave at around 10/1 but this horse is a complete enigma to me. When he’s good (as he showed at the Cheltenham Festival) he’s very very good…but when he’s bad he’s awful! He just seems to need everything to go right for him and I couldn’t back such a horse at such a short price. Added to that I think he could be a very tricky ride for a 7lb claimer. His form is largely over jumps and has so little flat form that it’s hard to judge whether his mark of 102 is good or bad. If he does win I would hope that Stewards have an enquiry to find out the reason for any improvement from his latest two runs.
In his last race, Wicklow Brave was running over hurdles and well down the field behind Quick Jack. Tony Martin has already trained a winner this week and this one is 3rd in the market at around 7/1.
For me, Quick Jack should be favourite. He’s on his highest ever mark on the flat of 101 but has been relatively lightly raced over the past 2 seasons and could still have some improvement in him. Stamina seemed to find him out when he looked likely to win the Cesarewitch last season. He won his last race easily and before that there was no disgrace in failing to beat subsequent Ascot Gold Cup hero Trip to Paris at Chester.
There are far less chinks in his armour – ground should be no problem for him if it rains or not – and I am struggling to see him out of the frame.
Elsewhere, Astronereus is a thoroughly likeable individual whose consistency has seen him rise to a mark of 107 from 93 this season. He doesn’t seem to know how to run a bad race but he’s faced a lot of rivals already this season and formlines tie him too closely with many others for me. Ajman Bridge, Notarised, John Reel, Excellent Result, Arab Dawn (stamina and ground questions on this one)and Watersmeet are all linked on runs this season.
I prefer to seek out something that isn’t quite so exposed on its mark and Arabian Comet fits that bill (put up as recommendation last night).
This trip looks ideal for her as long as there is a decent pace. She’s been given two pretty bad rides from the back at Goodwood this season and it’s no surprise to see Graham Lee replace Pat Cosgrave on board after his last debacle. She was narrowly beaten at this meeting last year and being by Dubawi I would expect her to be still improving – she just hasn’t had the chances to show it this season yet. Good ground seems to suit her fine – I’m not sure whether she was less suited by softer ground at Doncaster last season – or if she was just over the top by then. What we do know is that the William Haggas stable is in fine form this week so I was happy to get involved at 20/1.
Pace of the race will be a big factor tomorrow and the key horse here is Notarised who does like to bowl along up front. Silvestre De Sousa would probably like to control things from there and if his lead was uncontested he could probably do so. However, I think he will be kept honest up front by John Reel in stall 2 – and possibly by stablemate Watersmeet – so am inclined to think that there won’t be an early crawl in the race.
I will give a mention to two others.
Wadi Al Hatawi has never been beaten on his first starts of the season and on his last win at York he would be a contender. The problem is that is the only time he seems to win and we have to wonder if he performs best when fresh.
Nearly Caught wasn’t far behind Quick Jack in last year’s Cesarewitch and ran a fine third in the Northumberland Plate behind Quest for More and Max Dynamite. He was 8th in this race last year when staying on strongly at the finish. If the ground remains on the soft side and there is some overnight rain it will definitely suit him (it was a bit too quick for him here last year)
I find him tempting at 20/1 but if that price is still around in the morning after showers have been declared I’ll be having a saver for sure.
Quick Jack 1.5 pts ew @7/1 (BetVictor, Corals, Betfair Sportsbook..later pay out on first 5 if you can get on with them)
Arabian Comet already recommended 0.75 pts ew @20/1
(and keep an eye on the going for Nearly Caught in the morning!)
latest prices can be found here: http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/2015-08-22-york/14:35/winner
Elsewhere the 2.35 is even more competitive than the Ebor but I’ve been waiting for King Bolete to get away from fast ground and will be supporting at 14/1. He just took an age to quicken up at Haydock last time when strongly supported. I think he needs good ground or slightly softer and the extra 2 furlongs should also help. Luca Cumani is always very positive about this horse on his website and I suspect he’s thought of as a 100+ performer going forward.
Happy Ebor day to all
Thanks for reading