With £500,000 on offer, (to be increased to a million next year) Saturday’s Sky Bet Ebor is Britain’s most valuable Handicap and in recent years it has also proved to be one of the most difficult to solve. To find the last successful favourite we have to go back eleven years when Luca Cumani’s Purple Gem brought home the bacon, and in that same period five of the winners have been returned at odds of 20/1 or longer. Cumani and Stoute are the only handlers to have lifted the trophy twice, and in Sir Michael’s case we have to go back to 1996 to find his second winner, so following previous winning stables hasn’t been a particularly brilliant strategy.
However it’s worth noting that Irish yards, who only managed two victories prior to 2009, (Gladness, in 1958 trained by the great Vincent O’Brien, and Mediterranean in 2001 trained by his namesake Aidan) have won four of the last nine renewals, and Willie Mullins mounts a strong looking challenge this year from his County Carlow base, led by the current favourite, Stratum.
Assuming that the son of Dansili gets into the race, (at the time of writing he needs three above him in the handicap to come out) the 5yo has plenty to recommend him. A winner of 3 of his 13 races, his sole success from 9 starts for John Gosden, came in a Class 5 Windsor Maiden, but since joining the Closutton yard of Willie Mullins he has really started making hay. He won the first of his three starts over hurdles, but it is since being returned to the flat in his last two races, that he has really blossomed. An excellent 3rd/19 in the 2 1/2m Ascot Stakes at The Royal Meeting, was followed by a facile victory last time in the JLT Cup over 2m1/2f at Newbury 5weeks ago, under an excellent ride from Robert Winston off a mark of 94. Clearly improving at a rate of knots Saturday’s 8lbs rise is unlikely to be the limit of his progress and with the excellent Winston booked again connections will be very disappointed if they don’t get a run.
The Saeed bin Suroor trained, 4yo, Game Starter, has only had four races but has won three of them, giving him a very progressive profile.
His only start as a 2yo in a lowly Class 5 Redcar Maiden, resulted in a moderate 2nd but his career took off at three, winning all starts, culminating in a convincing victory over Amazing Red in a Class2 Newmarket Handicap off a mark of 100 last September. The way he won at Newmarket suggests that Saturday’s trip will suit as do entries in the Irish St Leger (14f) and The British Long Distance Cup (16f), and the main concern would be his ability to handle the demands of a 20 runner handicap around The Knavesmire. However his in form trainer has won the race before, (All The Good 2008) so knows what is required, and off his mark of 108 is worth considering.
The John Gosden trained, Weekender, has won 3 of his 9 starts, (2 on the AW) and put in an excellent effort last time when going down by a hard fought neck over course and distance to the talented Marmelo in a Listed heat. As the winner went on to win a Longchamp Group2 next time the form looks strong and despite having to shoulder the steadier of 9-12 as top weight his mark of 112 is fair and with Frankie Dettori doing the steering has to be a danger to all.
The Tom Dascombe trained Teodoro has never raced beyond 12f but the manner of his victory over that distance at Newbury in June suggests that Saturday’s trip might be within his compass.
Tracking the leader he took it up 3f out and when asked drew clear to win readily by 6L in a decent time. He can be excused his 4th in the Old Newton Cup where he never looked comfortable in a muddling contest and last time when ridden more prominently he made all to win a Class1 Haydock Handicap, (1m2 1/2f) off a mark of 101. Only 4lbs higher at the weekend the son of Teofilo could be interesting if seeing out the trip.
The Ian Jardine trained 7yo, Nakeeta, won last year’s renewal and followed up with an honourable 5th/23 in The Melbourne Cup. All three of his starts since have been at 2m+ and none of them inspire much confidence but his handicap mark has been protected and he goes to Post on Saturday only 4lbs higher than last year and back at 1m6f it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him involved.
Selection : Stratum.
E.W. : Nakeeta