Sky Bet Ebor Handicap 1mile 6 furlongs York Saturday

york eborFirst 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 knavesmire

York’s historic Knavesmire

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.

John GosdenThe 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
John Gray

Racing Tips John Smith’s Cup Handicap 1m2f York Saturday

Trainer Jeremy Noseda goes for glory in Saturday’s big one

As the old saying goes, “you can’t keep a good man down” and, in recording his first Group1 victory on home soil for over three years with the gallant Ulysses in last weeks epic Eclipse Stakes, seventy one years old Sir Michael Stoute equalled Alec Taylor’s longstanding record of six wins in the historic contest. As Oddsguru’s selection, his son of Galileo left followers of the blog on good terms with themselves, winning at the rewarding odds of 8/1. Out of The Oaks winner Light Shift, a step back up in trip to 12f is on the cards, and having broken through the Group1 barrier, the future looks bright for Ulysses and it will come as no surprise if further success at the highest level awaits. It is probably safe to assume that none of the contenders for Saturday’s big handicap on The Knavesmire will be troubling the judges in any Group1 races but nevertheless, as one of Europe’s most valuable handicaps, it is a class event and the last three runnings have been won by animals rated 108, 104, and 111.

Yorkshireman, and York specialist, William Haggas has won two of the last six renewals and his 4yo lightly raced son of Medicean, Victory Bond, has the look of one who has been laid out for this. He only had the three runs as a 3yo, winning a 10f Ripon maiden, finishing 6th over course and distance in The Dante in May, and coming 4th in a Chantilly Group3 the following month after which he was put away for the season. He put up an excellent performance on his return to action in May eight weeks ago, finishing 3rd in a highly competitive 1mile handicap over the course where he was putting in all his best work at the finish racing off a mark of 100. Only 2lbs higher at the weekend and sure to be well suited by the extra 2f he looks one for the shortlist.

Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni teamed up to win this in 2014 with the 5yo Faaraaj and the pair combine this time with the slightly disappointing 4yo, UAE prince. Thought to be a group horse in the making he won a Class3 Ripon handicap on his reappearance in April but then disappointed in a 12f Ascot listed race despite strong market support, and paid the ultimate price by being gelded. Beautifully bred by Sea The Stars out of a Giant’s Causeway mare he may have been unsuited by the Ascot track and back at 10f he is worth considering off his mark of 97 giving him a nice racing weight of 8-12.

Varian has acquired the services of top York pilot, Daniel Tudhope for his second runner, Central Square, who has performed with credit over the course in the past. Last October he gave himself plenty to do when missing the break in a course and distance race but kept on well to finish 3rd off a mark of 104. He ran well again on his reappearance over an inadequate 9f at Newmarket in May finishing 3rd, but again missed the break under Atzeni at Royal Ascot when a well fancied 7/1 shot for the Wolferton, and could only finish 11th, 4 1/2L behind the winner Snoano who he meets on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. With Tudhope in the plate he has to be worth considering!

The Jeremy Noseda-trained Sixties Groove had little luck in running in the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at the Royal Meeting and the 9/2 shot performed well to finish 5th in the 19 runner handicap, racing off a mark of 98. He races off the same mark at the weekend and with top French pilot, Gerald Mosse taking over the steering duties is worth a second look.

Sir Michael Stoute’s 4yo Ballet Concerto has been running as if a step up in trip might suit. He won first time out this campaign over a mile at Doncaster staying on well in the last 100yds to win off a mark of 97 and again put up an excellent effort to finish 4th in the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot off a mark of 102. He was again staying on strongly at the end of the 29 runner event and as a son of Dansili who has sired plenty of middle distance winners including Arc winner Rail Link, (2003) and King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth winner Harbinger in 2010 may well find Saturday’s 10f within his compass.

The Stoute stable also runs the 4yo mustashry and he ran an eye catching race over a mile at last year’s Ebor meeting when running on well from the rear he was only beaten 1/2L by the useful Firmament off a mark of 100.

Selection : Sixties Groove

E.W. : Central Square

John Gray

Melrose Stakes Handicap Betting Tips

Betfred Melrose Stakes Handicap 1m6f York Saturday – With so many higher rated older animals qualifying for the Ebor, it is almost impossible for a progressive 3yo to get into the contest, and as a result the Melrose Handicap, which is run over the same distance, and is confined to the classic generation, has become the target for the improving 3yo stayer. This indeed has resulted in the “Melrose” becoming the classier of the two contests, surely an undesireable situation for the York executive! John Dunlop won the race three times between 1999 and 2009 and Luca Cumani collected on two occasions, but of Saturday’s contenders only Haggas, Johnston, and Stoute have managed to hit the back of the net.

Yorkshireman William Haggas enjoys nothing more than a victory on the Knavesmire, and has high hopes of emulating his 2012 win with Guarantee. He carried 9st 4lbs to victory, and coincidentally, the Haggas contender at the weekend, Dal Harraild, is set to carry the same weight. A winner of three of his eight starts, he impressed when taking a Class3 handicap at Musselburgh off a mark of 87 at the beginning of June. As the runner up, and third both scored next time out, the form looked solid and he was duly sent off a 5/1 shot for an Ascot Class2 handicap next time out. Racing off a mark of 95 in the 12f contest he looked unlucky when going down by a couple of heads, but made no mistake three weeks later when winning a valuable Class2 Goodwood handicap off a mark of 98. He had five of Saturday’s opponents behind him that day, and some of them must fancy their chances of reversing the form on better terms on Saturday, not least Jaameh and Shaaroh.

The former, a colt by Iffraj and trained by Master Trainer, Mark Johnston, finished 4th at Goodwood where he was beaten less than a length despite getting upset in the stalls, and looking ill at ease on the track. He meets Dal Harraid on 3lbs better terms so has to be considered, but it has to be said that the Haggas horse also had to wait, and wait, for a gap, so it wont come as a great surprise if the placings are confirmed.

The Sir Michael Stoute (pictured above) trained Sea the Stars colt Shraooh might prove a tougher nut to crack. Ridden by Frankie Dettori he was only a short head behind Dal Harriad at Goodwood and as it was only his fifth time on a racecourse plenty of improvement can be anticipated. He finished strongly that day and with plenty of stamina on the distaff, the step up to 14f looks sure to suit. Two pounds  worse off and with Dettori again doing the steering on  Shraooh the Haggas runner is going to have to pull out all the stops.

Irish Maestro, Aidan O’Brien has never won this, but two of his three previous contenders have been placed, so any runner from this yard is worth a second look. At the time of writing the Galileo colt Kellstorm is his most likely representative, and this very lightly raced full brother to staying sensation, Order of St George, you would think is highly likely to improve for the  greater stamina test. Unplaced on his only 2yo appearance, he finished 3rd, only 4L behind stablemate US Army Ranger, on his seasonal debut, and followed up with an easy win in a Tipperary maiden. He can be excused his second in a muddling four runner affair at Naas 101 days ago, and gets in here off a mark of 92, giving him a nice racing weight of 8st8lbs. Up in trip and racing on good ground for the first time in his career we might be forgiven for thinking by 3 .O’Clock on Saturday, what a handicap snip he was.

The Willie Mullins trained Laws Of Spin demonstrated that the trip would hold no fears when comfortably winning over a furlong further at Leopardstown sixteen days ago, and this son of Lawman has quite a progressive profile. He won a 10f Ballinrobe handicap (July 18th), despite stumbling over a furlong out, off a mark of 75 but, stepped up to 15f in the Leopardstown contest seventeen days later, he won going away, off a mark of 82. The step up in trip has clearly been the key to this animal and in the hands of this trainer it will come as no surprise to see further progress at the weekend off his new mark of 89.

Unraced as a 2yo the Michael Bell trained Forth Bridge has only had the three runs and showed very little in the first of them, coming home a well beaten third of four in a 10f soft ground Nottingham maiden in April. However stepped up to 12f a fortnight later, he ran a much more promising race when finishing second in a Sailsbury maiden. He was beaten 2 3/4L by Harbour Law, and had the 3rd, Real Dominion, 4 1/2L behind. As all three won next time out the form looks solid. Forth Bridge duly won his maiden in battling style at Haydock thirty nine days later in a contest which hasn’t really worked out but he remains an animal of some potential.

Selection: Shraaoh

E.W.       : Laws Of Spin