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

Sky Bet Ebor Handicap 1m6f York Saturday

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.

The great Vincent O’Brien claimed the spoils in 1958

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.

Saeed Bin Suroor sends out Game Starter

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.

tom dascombe trainer

Tom Dascombe’s Teodoro is fancied to go well

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.

Danger: Teodoro

E.W. : Nakeeta

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