I always look forward to this week’s York Ebor meeting for two reasons. Firstly, it comes two thirds of the way through the season which means it is desperately hard for both trainer and horse to still be at the top of their trade having been aimed at earlier significant targets.
Secondly, York is without doubt a specialists’ track and for some inexplicable reason suits some horses more than others. So course and distance form is of paramount importance.
Step forward DESERT SKYLINE in Saturday’s Ebor Handicap! The 2017 Doncaster Cup winner has never really gone onto fulfil the promise of that strong, staying success, being unable to add to that victory in 14 runs.
However, there have been signs of late that he retains the majority of his talent at the age of five with a recent third of 13 to King’s Advice at Newmarket over 1m 2f, being the pivotal piece of form. His run behind the same horse at Goodwood is best excused as he wasn’t suited by the run of the race.
A 10lbs pull for that three and three quarter length defeat further highlights his chance here and at the time of writing, 33/1 is available about the gelding who is guaranteed a place in the field from the foot of the weights.
From a class perspective, I will also be having a back-up bet on Raymond Tusk who had yet to be asked a question when turning for home in the Ascot Gold Cup, but simply ran out of steam. A fast-run 14 furlongs could well be his domain and he in turn is preferred to the likes of the well-fancied Ben Vrackie (kept fresh for this) and Baghdad.
The mighty Enable has less in hand than the prices suggest in the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday and the each-way value surely has to be the Epsom Oaks’ heroine ANAPURNA. She has the best part of a stone to find with Gosden’s queen, but this will only be the fifth run of her career and it is entirely plausible to think she will step forward by at least another 7lbs while the favourite and Magical have reached their peaks. And remember, the Knavesmire has been a graveyard for short priced, Group one market leaders down through the years.
For the same reason and on grounds of subjective value, I can’t back Crystal Ocean in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International. You don’t need to be an oracle to know that he is the most likely winner of the feature event of the meeting, but he had a gut-wrenching race in the King George. Stepping up to a mile and a quarter, CIRCUS MAXIMUS appeals as a value alternative.
Aidan O’Brien is also likely to run Japan, but I think that this drop in trip will be too sharp for the Epsom Derby third. The Ballydoyle trainer made the same distance mistake in the Hardwicke Stakes with Southern France and this looks much like the same misfit.
His stablemate though has been crying out for a step up in trip and I shall be surprised, but not shocked, if he side-steps this event if O’Brien simply wants, excuse the pun, to go to war with Japan.
The Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday gives us another opportunity to oppose the over-hyped Battaash, fourth on both his starts at the track. He looks hugely vulnerable to the July Cup winner TEN SOVEREIGNS who can more than match him for speed granted fast ground and can out-battle his market rival when push comes to shove inside the distance. Stablemate and last year’s Lowther Stakes heroine, Fairyland, could also hit the frame at double-figure odds.
As far as the handicaps are concerned I am really keen to give DARK VISION another chance in the 1m Clipper Logistics Handicap (15.00) on Thursday. Mark Johnston’s charge never had a chance from off the pace in the Golden Mile Handicap at Glorious Goodwood where a wide course further compromised his chance. The 14/1 on offer with Paddy merits a strong each-way play for this cracking strength-in-depth event.
*Prices correct at time of publishing and remain under ante-post rules until the final declaration stage.