The weather is going to determine where the big prizes go at York on Friday.
Heavy rain is forecast on the Knavesmire so it could be a question of playing the percentages with some of the proven soft-ground performers if and when the storm clouds arrive.
If the forecast is right then conditions aren’t going to be anywhere as fast as it has been particularly when the day’s feature, the 5f Nunthorpe Stakes rolls around at 3.40pm.
I saw the owner of big-race fav Limato in the weigh-room at York on Thursday and he definitely hopes it stays quick for his July Cup winner. Last year’s impressive winner Mecca’s Angel wants a cut in the ground though as she looks to build on her Curragh win last time, after a couple of disappointments earlier in the season.
When they get the conditions to suit, they’re the best in the business. But both of them can’t win, can they?
I’m going to go for the season’s big improver Profitable, who looks equally capable on any surface.
Clive Cox’s speed-ball had won three on the bounce over the minimum trip before finding 6f too much behind Limato at HQ – but he still seems to be underestimated in some people’s eyes.
I’m backing him to run his race no matter what the going is on Friday. He’s a hold-up horse so jockey Adam Kirby can pick his target from stall 13, get a lead, and pounce in the final furlong.
The winner of the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup over two miles could come about by a process of elimination if the going rides on the easy side of good or softer.
Trip to Paris is the highest rated in the field and should come on a bundle after finishing third to Scottish at Newbury after eight months off the track – but he needs top of the ground to show his best.
You can say the same for Pallasator and Quest for More, while Curbyourenthusiasm ran no race at Goodwood last time. He’s previously run well at York but would need the rain to stay away also.
Wicklow Brave is an interesting runner from the Willie Mullins yard. Although he has a bit to find on the book, the Mullins camp did send Max Dynamite over last year and he bolted up in this contest.
But Clever Cookie ticks all the boxes for me. He’s a four-time winner at York and crucially acts on either good or soft ground. With a lot of question marks over the others, Peter Niven’s stable star looks the safest bet.
The Group 3 York Stakes over 7f sees likely favourite Nemoralia drop down in class from Group One company and would be the obvious selection on good ground. But she’s not as effective on soft ground.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Forge was third to Ribchester (winner since in France) at Royal Ascot on soft ground in June but again may want a sounder surface.
I’m going to take a chance on Dean Ivory’s Librisa Breeze in an open-looking race. He’s upped in grade from handicap company but travelled so strongly when winning the International Stakes last time at Ascot that many thought he was the proverbial group horse lurking in a handicap.
He could be a bit of value to continue on an upward curve.
Ignore last run
The opening 1m 4f handicap is a tricky contest where Barsanti takes a drop in class but has to shoulder a welter-weight if he’s to score.
He might just get away with it, but further down the weights is Luca Cumani’s Shakopee. He was impressive when winning at Doncaster over 10f but ran no race at Goodwood when strongly fancied to follow up last time.
I’m prepared to give him another chance and the ground shouldn’t be an issue as he’s won on heavy at Leicester last year and good to firm at Doncaster this season.
If the first race avoids the threatened downpour, than the son of Teofilo, Sindarban, loves to hear his hoofs rattle and could go well at a nice price.