First run in 1843, with the exception of the war years, 1914-18 and 1940-42, it has been run continuously on York’s historic Knavesmire. It was abandoned in 2008 due to a waterlogged track, but a substitute race was run at Newbury. It is Europe’s richest Handicap, and this year carries a prize fund of £1000,000, with £600,000 going to the lucky winner. With prize money of this order on offer, and 22 closely handicapped horses in contention, it is, unsurprisingly, a difficult heat to predict, and only a single
“Jolly” has obliged in the last 20 years. Long priced winners are certainly not a rarity and a 100/1 shot won 13 years ago. The 1958 winner of The Ascot Gold Cup, the great mare Gladness, won the Ebor for the legendary Vincent O’Brien in the same year, and remained the sole Irish trained winner of the race, until Willie Mullins ended the drought in 2009. The flood gates haven’t exactly opened for raiders from across The Irish Sea, but they have won a further 3 times in the last 9 years, and one that catches the eye from that quarter is the Ger Lyons trained Mustajeer.
The 6yo son of Medicean ran well in last year’s renewal where he finished 4th, 5 1/4L behind the winner. Held up in the rear from his wide draw by pilot Gary Carroll, he was left with too much to do but kept on well under pressure in the final furlong. He only raced once more last season, winning a Naas Listed race with consumate ease in November. His 4 runs this term have all been in Group races, and he acquitted himself well last time, finishing 3L 5th in a Curragh Group2 8 weeks ago. He was only a head behind the 113 rated favourite, Southern France and a strict interpretation of that result would suggest that Saturday’s mark of 108 looks very fair. The Lyons yard is going great guns at present, and with Ireland’s Champion Jockey, Colin Keane doing the steering he has plenty to recommend him.
The Roger Charlton trained 6yo Withhold has won 5 of his 13 starts and considering it was his first run for 269 days, ran a particularly fine race last time making all in Newbury’s Marsh Cup with the steadier of 9-10 on his back,(2m1/2f Gd-Sft). A similar front running performance saw him land last year’s Northumberland Plate in stylish fashion. He is 6lbs higher than last time, and the drop back in trip is a concern, but his relentless galloping style should serve him well and if he gets to the front could be difficult to peg back.
With a win, a second, and a third, from his three course appearances, there can be little doubt that the William Haggas trained Raheen House feels at home on
The Knavesmire. He was only having his second start for the yard when beaten a neck, finishing 3rd, in a group 3 over course and distance 6 weeks ago. He is making his handicap debut on Saturday, off a mark of 111, which seems high enough, but he does meet Saturday’s opponent, Weekender, with whom he virtually dead heated, (got the race in a subsequent inquiry) In an Ascot Listed race 22 months ago on 5 lbs better terms. He didn’t seem to have much left in the locker last time, and there has to be some doubt about his ability to last 14f in a race like The Ebor, but there are some positives from his pedigree as his full brother, Shraaoh, won the 2mile Group1 Sydney Cup at Randwick in April.
Since joining the Mark Johnston operation last February, the ex German/French 5yo, Kings Advice, has won an amazing 8 of his 9 starts, and is now rated 42lbs higher than for his first run for the Middleham yard, at the beginning of March. Last time out he again showed real battling qualities, to get the better of the useful Outbox in a driving finish to Goodwood’s Summer Handicap off a mark of 108. Kings Advice is 5lbs higher on Saturday, but the son of Frankel doesn’t seem to know when he’s beaten, and it won’t come as a great surprise if he lands Mark a second Ebor, to go with Quick Ransom’s win 27 years ago.
Mind you Mark’s second string, Baghdad, is no back number either. Another son of Frankel, he has responded well to the Johnston tutelage, winning 5 of his 10 starts since joining the Middleham Academy, and improving from an initial mark of 74 to 109. He held on bravely at Royal Ascot to land the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes by a short head from Saturday’s opponent, the fast finishing Ben Vrackie, (has disappointed since). Baghdad has run moderately in his last two races both over 12f and there has to be some doubt about his ability to stay Saturday’s trip but that said, Frankels do stay well, and he has an entry in the Irish St Leger.
The regally bred, Royal Line, (by Dubawi out of a daughter of the fabulous Urban Sea) has yet to live up to his regal pedigree, but did look a talented individual when winning Doncaster’s November Handicap last Autumn off a mark of 105. He gave the impression that there could be more to come over further, and having had a nice pipe opener over an inadequate 10f at the beginning of July, Mr Gosden (pictured) can seriously contemplate the prospect of becoming the first handler in the modern era to train back to back winners of The Ebor, (won last year with Muntahaa).
Selection : Royal Line
EW. : Mustajeer