Racing Post Trophy Stakes (Group1) 1m Str Doncaster Saturday

The all conquering Aidan O’Brien, requires just a single further success at the top level to secure his place in the record books as the trainer of most Group1/Grade1 winners in a season, and looks to hold a strong hand in Britain’s Final Group1 of the season, The Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday. He equalled the record last weekend, with the daughter of Galileo, Hydrangea, and another scion of the great sire, The Pentagon, looks to have plenty to recommend him on Saturday.

Like many O’Brien youngsters this year he was beaten on his introduction in June, (7f Curragh Soft) but looked a different animal five weeks later winning his maiden (7f Gd-fm) in good style, and progressed again last time at the end of July to take a Leopardstown Group3 (7f Good). His pedigree strongly suggests that a step up to a mile will bring further improvement as he is out of the Unfuwain mare Vadawina who won three of her four starts for French Maestro, Andre Fabre, including at Group1 level over 1m2 1/2f. None of her five previous offspring have been successful in a Group1, but half brother Vadamar has won at distances from 11f- 14f including at Group2 level, and was an honourable seventh, 4 1/2L behind Pour Moi in the 2011 Derby. Stamina shouldn’t be a problem and further improvement is the more likely outcome for the step up to a mile.

At the time of writing, O’Briens, Saxon Warrior heads the market, and this son of the outstanding Japanese stallion, Deep Impact, (winner of seven Group1’s and sire of over thirty individual Group1 winners) is unbeaten in his two outings. He is out of the outstanding Galileo mare, Maybe, who was undefeated in her five races as a 2yo in 2011, including the 1mile Group1 Moyglare Stakes and was awarded the title of Champion 2yo European Filly. Her 3yo career was less successful but nevertheless managed a third in the 1000Gns and a fifth in The Oaks. She has only produced the two foals to date and unlike his full brother, Pavlenko, who only managed a single success from ten starts, Saxon Warrior’s career has started on a much more positive note. Starting at odds of 8/1 on his debut, (7f yielding Aug 27 Curragh) he looked in trouble two furlongs out, but taken to the outside he fairly found his stride to lead a hundred yards out and went clear to win impressively by 3 1/4L. Four weeks later he again impressed when winning a Group2 over a mile at Naas by 2 1/2L from stable companion Delano Roosevelt on soft ground. Looks the one to beat!

Andrea Atzeni has ridden the last four winners of The Racing Post Trophy, and up and coming trainer, Martyn Meade, was quick to snap him up for his promising colt Chilean. A winner of two of his three starts, the son of Iffraaj was particularly impressive last time when winning a Listed race at Haydock (1m Heavy) by 3 1/2L and 1/2L from Learn By Heart and Dee Ex Bee. As the latter won next time out and then finished 3 1/2L behind the O’Brien trained Kew Gardens in The Zetland Stakes the form has a solid look to it and could get involved particularly if the ground gets testing.

Jim Bolger has never won The Racing Post Trophy but his son of Vocalised, Verbal Dexterity, seems to have plenty of the attributes required to give him a first. A winner of a Curragh maiden (7f Soft) on his racecourse debut in June, he was a good second to the very useful Beckford when dropped back to an inadequate six furlongs next time, and completely reversed the form ten weeks later in a Curragh Group1 (7f Sft-Hvy) winning by 3 1/2L from the same animal. By first season sire, Vocalised, who was best around seven furlongs, out of a mare who was only rated 68 the Bolger colt is certainly not bred on the Classic lines of some of the opposing “Blue Bloods” but the man is such a genius, it wouldn’t surprise to see him break his duck on Saturday.

Sir Michael Stoute has an interesting contender in his twice raced contender, Gabr. He is by another first season sire, Intello, a son of Galileo, who won the French Derby in 2013 and was crowned top French 3yo. He is out of the Group2 winning mare, Spacious and was expensively bought at 300,000gns. He showed plenty of promise on his debut in that very valuable York maiden (7f good) worth over £43,000 finishing second and he gained some further valuable experience five weeks ago when winning a minor contest over a mile at Yarmouth at odds of 4/9. He arrives on Saturday as something of an unknown quantity, but maiden winners, with ten success’s from the last forty renewals, have a respectable record and is worth considering.

Selection : Saxon Warrior

E.W. : Chilean

John Gray

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Qipco Champion Stakes Tips (Group1) 1m2f Ascot Saturday

Followers of The Oddsguru blog should have been on good terms with themselves following last week’s Cesarewitch Handicap. Our selection, Withhold came home in front with our E.W. suggestion, London Prize a gallant second, keeping on well at the rewarding odds of 16/1. The winner was backed in from around 10/1 on the day to 5/1 favourite but I hope some readers availed of the much fancier odds available when first advised. The winner won with plenty in hand and is one to keep in mind for next years Cup Races, while the runner up on this performance must still be a well handicapped horse over hurdles, and is one to keep on the right side of in that discipline.

With the market going 3/1 the field at the time of writing, Saturday’s Champion Stakes has quite an open look about it, and there must be at least half a dozen contenders with realistic chances. Sir Michael Stoute with two wins is the most successful handler at the weekend, although we have to rewind seventeen years to the last time he was in the winners enclosure, when his 4yo Kalinisi, came home in front. He is represented at the time of writing by the brilliant Ulysses, winner of this year’s Eclipse Stakes, (Oddsguru’s Selection) and Judmonte International, and an excellent third in The Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe a fortnight ago. He does seem to have an excellent chance on paper, particularly if the rain stays away but with his main objective being The Breeders Cup in just two weeks time it wouldn’t surprise if he didn’t run and Sir Michael relied on his second string, Poets Word.

This 4yo son of Poets Voice, with only eight runs under his belt, has made giant strides this term, and could prove to be a more than able substitute. He started the season winning a Class2 Chelmsford Handicap off a mark of 104, and followed up with a good second in a Chester Group3(10 1/2f Good). He won a Goodwood Group3 (12f Soft) next time, forging clear in the last furlong, and put up a career best last time, when running Decorated Knight To 1/2L in The Irish Champion Stakes. Out of the tough Nashwan mare, Whirly Bird, who won five of her seven starts, Poets Word is on a strong upward trajectory and is well worth considering, particularly if the going is soft.

Since the race was transferred to Ascot The Classic generation have only had a single success, Almanzor last year, but overall the three year olds have a respectable record with eighteen wins since 1980, and the market at the time of writing is headed by one of that age group, John Gosden’s 3yo colt, Cracksman. As a son of the great Frankel out of the Pivotal mare Rhadegunda who was best at distances around a mile, Cracksman is bred to be a miler but has looked to need every yard of 12f when winning his last two races. He might just find himself tapped for a bit of toe up Ascots short straight.

The Richard Hannon (pictured above) trained, Barney Roy kicked off his season winning the 2000gns Trial, The Greenham Stakes, at Newbury in April and could have been an unlucky loser of the Guineas itself as he stumbled going into the dip and lost his action. He recovered, and fought back to go down to Churchill by a length. He went on to win The St James’s Palace Stakes by 1L from Lancaster Bomber and when stepped up to 10f put up a superb effort when going down by a rapidly diminishing nose to Ulysses in The Eclipse. He didn’t get the best of rides when finishing 2L and a neck behind Ulysses and Churchill in the Juddmonte International next time and connections are confident that he will be much closer this time. While the two in front of him that day have been kept busy he has had a nice nine week’s break and will strip a much fresher animal on Saturday.

Surprisingly, a victory in The Champion Stakes is missing from the C.V. of A O’Brien, but with eight entries at the time of writing you would have to think that he is pretty serious about correcting the deficit this time around. A further incentive needless to say is that record of Bobby Frankels which he is so close to breaking. (25 Group1 victories in a season). His best chance probably lies with the doughty Highland Reel. The 5yo son of Galileo has already won six races at the highest level and banked more than six million quid. It will need to stay dry however as he has never won on anything slower than good.

The prize has gone across the Channel four times in the last eleven years and

Jean-Claude Rouget, who won with the 3yo Literato in 2007 looks to have a live contender with another 3yo, Brametot. Quite cheaply bought he must have delighted connections when winning the French 2000Gns and followed up in The Prix Du Jockey Club. Given a 73 day holiday he finished fifth at Deauville in a prep race for The Arc and then ran well to finish fifth again in the Chantilly showpiece itself despite a difficult passage. Probably best at 10f he could be involved at the business end on Saturday.

Selection : Barney Roy

E.W. : Poets Word

John Gray

Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap 1m1f Newmarket Tips (Row) Saturday

Sadly, last week’s Ayr Gold Cup was lost to the weather, but happily it has been reincarnated as the 32Red Gold Cup, albeit with a maximum of only seventeen runners, and will be run at Haydock Park on Saturday. I would be perfectly happy that both of last week’s selections, Shanghai Glory and Johnny Barnes, should still have decent chances at the rescheduled venue, but perhaps the Merseyside track will favour the former.

Saturday also sees the 136th renewal of the first leg of the Autumn Double, The Cambridgeshire Handicap, and with the great open spaces of Newmarket Heath at their disposal a maximum field of 35 can be accommodated. Usually run with the throttle full out from flagfall, the contest is invariably won by an animal with a high cruising speed, and has the stamina to last every last inch of the punishing Rowley course, so not surprisingly it is often won by a contender with proven form over further than 9 furlongs. Weight as always is a very significant factor with only six animals in the last forty years winning with more than 9-4 in the plate. Indeed five of the last seven winners carried 8-9 or less. With good recent form a prerequisite, and a proven track record over a straight course, a definite positive, last week’s Newbury winner Brorocco certainly fulfils plenty of the necessary criteria.

Trained by Andrew Balding (pictured) the 4yo son of Shirocco, travelled supremely well in midfield in the 10f Newbury contest, until pilot David Probert asked him to quicken two furlongs out, and he came with a very smooth run to win very comfortably indeed from co/favourite Fidaawy. He is only 4lbs higher on Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 8-7, and so long as the ground doesn’t go against him, (has never won on anything softer than good) must have a great chance.

Should conditions deteriorate Andrew’s other runner, Naval Warfare shouldn’t be too inconvenienced. The 3yo son of Born To Sea thrived on the good/soft ground when winning a 1mile Class2 Newmarket Handicap on the July course in August off a mark of 92, and again looked a useful individual, who needed further, when beaten less than a length in a 1m Sandown Listed race ten days ago. He races on Saturday off 93 giving him a racing weight of 8-7 and is worth considering particularly if conditions deteriorate.

The David Menuisier trained Thundering Blue has gone up 17lbs on official figures over his last three races, and judging by the way he stormed home in the last hundred yards at Sandown four weeks ago there is probably plenty more to come from the 4yo son of Exchange Rate. A slight concern would be that he seemed to need all of the 10f at Sandown but this should be negated by the likely greater pace and softer ground on Saturday. He races off 93 at the weekend only 6lbs higher than Sandown, giving him a racing weight of 8-7 and looks a worthy favourite.

The David Simcock trained 3yo, Bless Him, won the Britannia Stakes over Ascot’s straight mile in June, but wasn’t seen again until contesting a Goodwood Group3 over an inadequate 7f where he made little impact, five weeks ago. However the colt’s win at the Royal meeting was impressive, and as a son of Sea The Stars out of a Refuse To Bend mare, the extra furlong on Saturday May well bring further improvement, and even on a 10lbs higher mark than Ascot is worth considering.

The willie Haggas trained 3yo, Novoman won a 10f York Handicap off a mark of 86 in July, and six weeks later won a 10 1/2f Goodwood Handicap off an 8lbs higher mark. Clearly progressive the son of Sir Prancealot doesn’t look badly treated off a five pounds higher mark and could get involved.

The Michael Appleby trained Big Country put up a very solid performance when running the talented Ballet Concerto To 3/4L in a Twenty runner York handicap in July as the winner won his next two races, both at Group3 level. Very well bred, by High Chaparral out of a Danehill mare he could make his presence felt.

Unraced as a 2yo, The Sir Michael Stoute trained El Hayem won his maiden over Doncaster’s straight mile on his second racecourse appearance as a 3yo, at odds of 25/1, and has put up some decent handicap performances including beating that useful yardstick, GM Hopkins by a neck off a mark of 92 in July (1m). He was only fifth last time in a York handicap (1m) but certainly didn’t help his cause by dwelling in the stalls at the start. Given plenty of time by his canny trainer he looks well treated on a mark of 96 giving him a racing weight of 8-10 and is well worth considering.

Selection: Brorocco

E.W. : Thundering Blue

John Gray

William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Tips (Handicap) Ayr Saturday

Scotland’s richest flat race, The Ayr Gold Cup, takes centre stage on Saturday. It has been won by some very high class animals, by no means the least of whom, was that marvellous mare Lochsong, who won in 1992. She won The Cartier Award as top European sprinter twice and was voted European horse of the year in 1993. Last years renewal saw the Kevin Ryan trained Brando become the highest rated animal to win in the history of the event, and he has gone on to victory at the top level this term, taking the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f at Deauville. Always run at a scorching pace on a tough track, horses need to see out every yard of the trip, and an ability to win over further, particularly if the going turns testing, is a serious asset. With the ground currently described as soft, and plenty of rain in the forecast, any contenders who do stay beyond 6f are worthy of particular attention, and one that catches the eye is John Gosden’s Johnny Barnes.

Largely campaigned over 7f, he has never won at Saturday’s distance, but did catch the eye in last year’s renewal when, despite suffering interference on at least two occasions, he finished 8th, 4 1/2L behind Brando. Considering it was his first run for three months that was a pretty commendable effort. His win four weeks ago from Burnt Sugar over 7f at Goodwood should have teed him up nicely for Saturday, particularly as the runner up went on to land a valuable Leopardstown handicap, and the fifth horse home that day, Masham, collected a £52,000 prize next time out. As an entire son of Acclamation out of a Danehill mare, hopes of a stud career may still be entertained for this well bred animal, and a win on Saturday would certainly embellish, what to date is a pretty pedestrian looking c.v.

The Richard Fahey trained Rene Mathis won that same 7f Goodwood handicap as Johnny Barnes, two years ago, and he went on to finish 7th, beaten 2 1/2L (good) in that years Gold Cup. The 7yo hasn’t been seen since winning over 7f at Thirsk in April, and hasn’t won over Saturday’s trip since his 3yo days, but did give the talented Muthmir a race when finishing 3rd to him over 6f at York in 2014. He can go well after a break and handles soft ground, so could get involved at a rewarding price.

The other Fahey runner that catches the eye, is the 6yo Withernsea. Another who has been campaigned over further and is well suited by testing ground, he has been in great form in his last three races, and ran particularly well in that valuable Leopardstown heat won by Burnt Sugar last time. Given far too conservative a ride, he finished strongly to get third, but could well have gone much closer. If conditions deteriorate one to note!

Following two excellent efforts, in The Stewards Cup at Goodwood, and The Great St Wilfred handicap at Ripon, the Charlie Hills trained Shanghai Glory certainly deserves to win one of these big sprint handicaps. The 4yo son of Exceed and Excel finished a close 5th in The Stewards Cup where pilot Fran Berry felt they should have won. In The Great St Wilfred, where trainer Hills said the horse hated the track, he finished an excellent 3rd despite racing away from the first two. He is only two pounds higher on Saturday, thrives on soft ground and has Jamie Spenser in the plate, so looks a worthy favourite.

The Andrew Balding trained 4yo, Donjuan Triumphant had some cracking form as a 2yo, winning a Maison- Laffite Group2 by 5 1/2L and finishing a close 4th in a Saint-Cloud Group1. He didn’t go backwards last year either, finishing second in the Group1 6 1/2f Prix Maurice de Gheest. He moved from the Richard Fahey yard in April and has taken time to find his feet, but got his head in front sixteen days ago in a conditions race at Haydock. He has a 5lbs penalty to carry on Saturday for that win, but as he has gone up 7lbs in future handicaps he is effectively 2lbs well in. A course and distance winner, he handles easy ground and stays 7f. One for the shortlist!

The David O’Meara trained 6yo, Intisaab, is another course and distance winner who stays further, and ran a really promising race four weeks ago when going down by a short head and a head to the talented Gifted Master and Steady Pace (6f Newmarket) off a mark of 107. Racing off the same mark, he meets the winner on 5lbs better terms at the weekend, and is capable of making his presence felt, but probably wouldn’t want very soft ground.

Selection : Johnny Barnes

E.W. : Shanghai Glory

John Gray

Racing Tips: 32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (Group1) 6f Haydock Saturday

The Oddsguru’s E.W. selection, Golden Birthday, put up a really impressive front running performance to take last Saturday’s Quadpot Handicap Hurdle at Newton Abbot. He was six pounds higher than when winning very easily at the same venue over shorter a month earlier, and demonstrated an abundance of stamina. He is a half brother to the ill fated, multiple Grade1 winning Golden Silver, who, trained by Willie Mullins, did all his racing over fences at around two miles. Presumably Harry Fry’s exciting six year old’s long term career, with his proven stamina, will be in the staying chase department, but in the meantime he could well pick up another similar contest over the smaller obstacles, if getting his preferred good ground. Haydock Park’s Group1 Sprint Cup on Saturday provides a test at the other end of the racing spectrum and at the time of writing it is Clive Cox’s talented three year old, Harry Angel, that heads the market.

The son of Dark Angel was making only is fifth racecourse appearance when beaten 3/4L by Caravaggio in the Group1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, but emphatically turned the form around, twenty three days later when stylishly taking the Group1 July Cup at Headquarters. While winners of the Newmarket Group1 haven’t the best of records in Haydock’s feature, it’s worth noting that Harry Angel’s CV includes a Group2 successs(course record) over course and distance in the Sandy Lane Stakes last May. With plenty of rain about his win on an easy surface in last year’s Group2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury could also prove relevant.

Another who shouldn’t be inconvenienced by soft ground is the Willie Haggas trained Tasleet as he hosed up in The Group2 Duke of York Stakes on soft ground in May, beating Saturday’s opponent Magical Memory by 2 1/2L. He was a tad unlucky to lose out by a neck to The Tin Man in the Group1 Golden Jubilee Stakes next time, and most recently was a big disappointment when finishing tenth in The July Cup. However excuses can be made as he took a fierce hold in a race lacking pace in the early stages. With conditions likely to be in his favour at the weekend he is definitely worth considering.

Another who will handle soft ground is last year’s Ayr Gold Cup winner, Brando. Always considered a potential Group1 horse by his very talented trainer, Kevin Ryan (pictured above) he showed that he was heading in the right direction when winning a Newmarket Group3 on his reappearance in April. He was sent off the 5/2fav for the Duke of York the following month but unfortunately bled and finished twelfth. Considering the travails of the yard, following a stable wide infection with the dreadful Equine Herpes Virus, it was a superb effort by an unready Brando to finish third,(1 3/4L behind Harry Angel) in The July Cup, nearly nine weeks later. The son of Pivotal was able to show his true colours three weeks later, when winning the 6 1/2f Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. A course and distance winner on soft ground Brando looks as if he is still improving, and we may not yet have seen the best of him.

Last years Gimcrack winner and Dewhurst third, Blue point made a winning reappearance, beating Harry Angel by 1 1/2L in May, but was 1/2L behind the Cox horse seven weeks later in The Commonwealth Cup when finishing third. The son of Shamardal found the ground too firm that day and returned jarred up. He hasn’t been seen since but is an animal who goes well after a break so is not one to lightly dismiss, particularly if the weather improves.

Having won the 2012 renewal with Society Rock, James Fanshawe knows what is required, and tries again with last year’s runner up The Tin Man. Twice a winner at the top grade, he was well beaten on his reappearance in The Duke of York but had clearly benefited from the run when winning The Diamond Jubilee Stakes five weeks later. Failing to get any cover from his outside draw in the July Cup he was well beaten, but that second to the flying filly Quiet Reflection on soft ground in last year’s race is surely significant, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Mr Fanshawe landed his second Sprint Cup with this son of Equiano.

The Charlie Hills trained Magical Memory was third in a blanket finish for the 2015 renewal, but was out with the washing last year. He has put in some decent efforts this term including a course and distance win in July and a Group3 success at Newbury. He has yet to break through at the top level but trainer Hills is quite hopeful of his chances, and you never know, it may be a case of third time lucky.

Selection: Brando

E.W. : Tasleet

John Gray

Bet Totequadpot Handicap Hurdle 2m5 1/2f Newton Abbot Saturday

With entries from many of the top National Hunt establishments for Newton Abbot’s Class2 Feature event at the weekend, it is a reminder, that the Summer is nearly over, and the Winter game is beginning to get itself into gear. Philip Hobbs won the event last year with Golden Doyen, and must fancy his chances of a repeat with his seven year old, Wait For Me.

The son of Saints Des Saints looked an animal with a bright future when making a winning racecourse debut in an Ascot Bumper in February 2015, but despite winning a couple of Novice hurdles at long odds on, had been a trifle disappointing until coming good on the last day of the season, April 29th. Stepped up to 2m4f for a Sandown Handicap, he looked much more the finished article, winning by six lengths from the Nicky Henderson trained Stowaway Magic off a mark of 135. As the runner up had won four of his seven races, the form looks solid and a seven pounds rise looks fair.

His sire, is a strong influence for stamina, (sire of Djakadam) and his dam is by River Mist, so Saturday’s trip should pose no problems. The only slight concern would be his ability to handle Newton Abbot’s tight circuit as he has done all his racing on tracks more galloping in nature.

Paul Nicholls is represented by the 5yo Trevisani, and this son of Dubawi, is a three times winner on the flat, where he achieved a rating of 88. He has won three of his five races over hurdles, the last twice, Novice events, over Saturday’s course and distance. The assessor hasn’t done him any great favours giving him an opening mark of 130 for this his handicap debut, but it has to be said that this well bred individual has plenty in his favour on Saturday.

The Donald McCain trained 5yo, Dear Sire, has been put up a whopping ten pounds for winning his last race, but to be fair to the Handicapper, it was a Class2 Perth handicap which he won pretty easily by 8L from the useful Caius Marcius. He steps up in trip on Saturday but could be suited, as his sire Al Namix, gets plenty of staying types,

(Saphir Du Rheu for example) and his dam, Polismith is quite stoutly bred.

Dan Skelton’s 5yo, Whatzdjazz, has won four of his six starts and was quite impressive last time when taking a Class2 Market Rasen Handicap, (2m4 1/2f) by 4 1/2L from that good yardstick, Guitar Pete off a mark of 122. As a son of Yeats the extra furlong on Saturday could be ideal and it would not be a huge surprise if the Skelton five year old defied his eight pounds rise at the weekend.

It is 161 days since the Charlie Longsden trained Snow Leopardess beat Copper Kay by 4L in a Class1 Newbury Novices Handicap Hurdle (2m4 1/2f) racing off a mark of 123. The 5yo daughter of Martaline can go well after a break but the 12lbs hike to 135 looks punitive and I would also be concerned about Saturday’s tight track.

The Harry Fry trained Golden Birthday seems to have improved for stepping up from racing around two miles, and really caught the eye when beating Miss Spent over the course (2m2 1/2f) by seventeen lengths off a mark of 126 thirty three days ago. By Poiglote out of a Glint Of Gold mare the extra three furlongs should be right up his street and off a mark of 132 looks well handicapped.

Having won on both visits to the track, last time, eleven days ago, by 2 1/4L from Peruvian Bleu, (2m1f) it’s pretty clear that Anthony Honeyball’s, Coeur Tantre, enjoys the venue. However I’m not convinced that the extra 4 1/2f will be in his favour, particularly racing off an eight pounds higher mark.

Selection : Trevisani (if abs Wait For Me)

E.W. : Golden Birthday

John Gray

Racing Tips Betfred Ebor Handicap 1m6f York Saturday

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

John Gray