Named after the patron Saint of the charming North Yorkshire Cathedral City of Ripon, it hasn't always been the most punter friendly contest, but with three of the last five Jollys obliging, we backers have had the best of the more recent arguments. With David O'Meara hitting the back of the net three times, and Malton Maestro, Richard Fahey scoring twice, between them they have had a near monopoly of the last six renewals, and both are strongly represented again.
O'Meara won with Out Do three years ago off a mark of 94, and racing on Saturday off a 10lbs higher mark certainly isn't out of it. He showed himself to be as good as ever when winning this year's renewal of the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot off a mark of 99, so Saturday's 5lbs higher mark doesn't look impossible, and he is the intended mount of Daniel Tudhope who has ridden three of the last six winners. Keep a weather eye out though, as all his best form is on good or faster ground.
Rain won't be a problem for Mr O'Meara's second runner, Al Qahwa, and he can easily be excused his 23rd in The Steward's Cup last time out. Racing off a mark of 97, he was one of the best backed runners on the day but suffered repeated interference in what was a pretty rough contest. He has been a bit disappointing since his reappearance win at York in May, (6f soft) off a mark of 94, but it wouldn't come as any great surprise if he was involved at the business end at the weekend, particularly if it comes up soft.
Having finished less than a length behind the winner in the Stewards Cup off a mark of 99, the Richard Fahey trained Growl heads the market. He had previously run an excellent 6th in the Group1 July Cup at Newmarket finishing less than 2 1/4L behind the exciting winner, Harry Angel, and less than a length behind Brando, who went on to win the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville next time out. His new mark of 109, giving him a racing weight of 9-10, looks challenging, but this classy animal is a serious contender.
Brando's talented trainer, Kevin Ryan had his stable virtually closed down for much of the season with the devastating disease, Equine Herpes, but is now beginning to hit a rich vein of form, and is represented by the 3yo, Tommy Taylor. His poor performance last time at Newmarket was almost certainly down to the situation in the yard but previously he had put up an excellent performance when beaten a head by Ekhtiyaar at headquarters in a valuable Class2 handicap racing off a mark of 95. The son of Mizzen Mast handles most ground, and with the stable now clear of that ghastly infection, might well prove up to defying his mark of 100.
Not all horses handle Ripons undulations so the fact that Tim Easterby's 4yo Flying Pursuit boasts a record of two wins and a place from five course appearances speaks strongly in his favour. The son of pastoral pursuits looks progressive, and put up an excellent performance last time winning off a mark of 90 by 2L from Al Qahwa (York 6f Good-Soft) three weeks ago. A six pounds rise looks fair and must give Tim a serious chance of emulating his success with Pipalong way back in 1999.
Roger Varian runs the lightly raced 5yo son of Kodiac, Atletico, and if getting into the race, (at the time of writing needs nine above him in the handicap to come out) could be interesting. Placed on his only previous visit to Ripon, Atletico won nicely at Windsor on July 24th off a mark of 87 and probably, turned out too soon only a week later, was beaten 2L, when finishing 5th at Goodwood off a mark of 93. He has attracted interest in the market, and coming from this powerful yard is worth a second look racing off a mark of 92.
The Charlie Hills (pictured above) trained Shanghai Glory put up an excellent performance for a 3yo when winning a listed 6f contest at the Curragh last October. He was well beaten on his reappearance in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, but then ran a very solid race to finish 5th, (3/4L behind Growl) in The Stewards Cup at Goodwood racing off a mark of 101. Jockey Fran Berry felt that he was unlucky in running at the Sussex track, and as he does like to get his toe in, the son of Exceed and Excel, racing off the same mark of 101, definitely needs considering if turning up, (also engaged Doncaster Saturday).
Selection : Shanghai Glory (if abs) Flying Pursuit
E.W. : Al Qahwa