Ever since Primary landed the 1987 version, when three-year-olds ruled the roost, the Ebor Handicap has always been one of my favourite ante-post betting races of the Flat season.
In the following 15 renewals, the classic generation led the way over the older brigade to the tune of eight against seven, but they haven’t troubled the judge since Mediterranean gave Aidan O’Brien his sole win in the extended 14-furlong handicap in 2001.
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It takes an almost Group Two-rated youngster to even get into the field, let alone win the race, and when the value of this contest reached extraordinary proportions the seasoned campaigners monopolised the entries and in turn the winner’s enclosure.
Hamish, the long time ante-post favourite and an unexposed stayer with solid credentials, has been forced to miss the race, but the entry is still as competitive as ever.
That leaves Fujaira Prince heading the market as the ante-post favourite in Paddy’s book. He proved his ability to see out this kind of trip when landing the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot on his first venture at the distance.
Impressive as he was, the son of Pivotal benefited from a shrewd ride by Andrea Atzeni, having his charge right on the pace in a race that turned out to be a sprint from the top of the stretch at the Berkshire track.
Second favourite Trueshan has been aimed at this contest since beating Hamish in a conditions event at Newbury last year and showed him himself still on the upgrade with a strong staying success in the Listed Tapster Stakes at Haydock.
However, his chance firmly relies upon some give in the ground at the Knavesmire and there are plenty of better value plays at each-way prices.
The mare Verdana Blue is also ground dependant but at the other end of the spectrum, she needs it on the fast side, so my idea of the value in this contest is EAGLES BY DAY.
It is worth noting that David O’Meara’s charge is also entered in the Irish St Leger and being rated as high as 111 he would be fully entitled to take his chance in that Group One affair. However, that race takes place some three and a half weeks after the Ebor so there is a chance he could take in both contests.
Winner of the John Smith’s Silver Stakes here at York last month, when he stayed on strongly to beat Communique, his liking for this Marmite track is a huge factor in his favour.
He then ran a cracking race in the Goodwood Cup when five and a quarter lengths off Stradivarius in a contest where he was badly bumped two and a half furlongs out and simply didn’t possess the finishing speed to mix it with his rivals at the business end.
His third in last year’s King Edward VII at Royal Ascot showed us what a classy middle-distance performer the son of Sea The Stars is and an end to end gallop back at York looks just like the perfect set-up for him.
Furthermore, he is guaranteed to get a run in the race off his current mark, last year’s top weight ran off 113 with the bottom weight off 105 and he looks fair each-way value at around the 20/1 mark, especially with Paddy Power paying 5 places.
But at that kind of price we can afford to have a back-up plan. I was attracted to Trueshan, but the going factor is quite off-putting especially as we are having a stellar summer. I was attracted to Micro Manage, but he runs in the Irish St Leger Trial Stakes this Friday so the vote goes to FIRST IN LINE.
He was second over the course and distance in last year’s Melrose, ironically behind Hamish, and is closely matched with Trueshan on Old Rowley Cup form at Newmarket.
Like his conqueror, this has been his aim all season and he had a lovely pipe-opener for this when a two and three-quarter lengths third to that smart stayer Dashing Willoughby in the Listed Buckhounds Stakes at Newmarket. The course was strongly favouring front runners that day so that was a cracking effort first time out after being held up.
All ground comes alike to this son of New Approach and this will only be his fourth start over a staying trip to boot.
*Odds correct at time of publication. Ante-post bets are bets placed in advance of the final declarations for the race. If your selection doesn’t run you lose your stake in an ante-post bet.
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