First run in 1843 The Ebor Handicap is now the richest race of it’s type run anywhere in Europe, and this year carries a guaranteed prize fund of £285,000. The legendary Lester Piggott (pictured) won the race five times, but the closest any rider has come to matching
“The Long Fellow’s” record in recent years, is Jamie Spencer, with two victories. Any contenders from the yards of Sir Michael Stoute or Luca Cumani, who share the training honours with three victories apiece, are worth noting, as are any travellers from across The Irish Sea, as Four of the last eight winners have been trained in The Emerald Isle. The market in recent years has been a poor guide with only the one “Jolly” obliging in the last decade, and indeed, only two of those winners were returned at odds shorter than 10/1. Good recent form has been paramount with eight of the last nine victors recording a first or second placing in one of their last two races. Weight as ever, has had it’s say, with none of the last nine winners carrying more than 9-04, and indeed, only two horses have won with a bigger burden since 1945. However it is worth pointing out that in more recent renewals the handicap has become much more compressed, leaving a much narrower weight range, and consequently the higher weighted animals have less poundage to concede, so it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see the 9-04 barrier broken.
Sir Mlchael Stoute’s representative, the 4yo filly Dubka, is certainly bred for the job on Saturday, as she is by the brilliant Dubawi out of the Sakhee mare Rosika, who herself finished second in the 2010 running of the Ebor. Four times a winner over 12f, Dubka, seemed to take her form to a new level when stepped up in trip to 14f, when she was only beaten a hard fought neck in a Goodwood Group3 last time. Having had a far from clear passage, she was ridden to lead a furlong out, and hard pressed, she battled hard, and only conceded in the shadow of the post. With 9-02 to carry on Saturday it won’t come as any great surprise if she manages to go one better than her dam, and give Sir Michael a fourth win in the famous old handicap.
Sir Mark Prescott trains the market leader, Flymetothestars, and this 4yo son of Sea The Stars, has only had five runs, all on the AW. He won the first of his two races this term, a 2m1/2f Newcastle handicap off a mark of 91 very comfortably, and six weeks later, racing off a 9lbs higher mark, was sent off the 11/4fav for The Northumberland Plate. In a slowly run race, he seemed to get outpaced, but finished with a flourish, and was only beaten 1/2L and a neck. Clearly progressive, this lightly raced animal, if transferring his ability to turf is going to be a danger to all.
Since being stepped up in trip to 12f, the Richard Hannon trained Danehill Kodiac has made significant progress and the manner of his win in a Newmarket handicap by 3 1/2L a week ago , off a mark of 97 on soft ground, strongly suggests that Saturday’s extra two furlongs should suit. Only 4lbs higher he is certainly worth a second look.
Mark Johnston won The Ebor with Quick Ransom twenty five years ago and the way his hardy campaigner, Soldier In Action, defied a mark of 106 in a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks ago, suggests that he has a serious chance of landing another. A close fifth entering the final furlong, he quickened impressively to lead in the final stride, and even off a four pounds higher mark, burdening him with the steadier of 9-10 at the weekend it is not too hard to envisage this 4yo son of Soldier Of Fortune repeating the effort.
Following a disappointing campaign over hurdles, the Alan King trained Top Tug looked an improved animal back on the flat when finishing second, off a mark of 97 to the talented Frontiersman over 12f at Newmarket in May, and he confirmed that good impression when taking a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks later off a 2lbs higher mark. He probably found the trip too short in the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at The Royal Meeting next time, but still acquitted himself well, finishing fourth, a neck behind Saturday’s opponent Star Storm. He meets Star Storm on a pound better terms on Saturday and sure to be suited by the step back up in trip, and freshened up with a nice nine week break since Royal Ascot, Top Tug looks one for the short list.
There is nothing Yorkshireman Willie Haggas enjoys more than a win on The Knavesmire and he must be harbouring serious hopes of landing his first Ebor with the classy 4yo
Dal Harraild. Having won a listed contest over course and distance in May on his only course appearance, he ran another solid race when finishing sixth, four lengths behind the winner Idaho, in the Group2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite his burden of 9-11, this son of Champs Elysee has a touch of class and bearing his 100% course record in mind is worth considering.
Selection : Top Tug
E.W. : Dubka