Time to close out the Ebor Festival with none other than the main event, the Ebor Handicap. The Ebor is historically one of the most competitive handicaps in the UK and hoists the most valuable purse of any handicap in Europe. Won last year by the barnstorming Fujaira Prince, he returns for a 2nd attempt after a strong continuation to his 2020 season that saw him finish 2nd in the GI Irish St. Leger. A field of 24 line up for the Ebor with another field of 22 to contest the other major handicap on the card, the Melrose Handicap.
We also have a couple of strong group races on the card leading off with the GIII Strensall Stakes, seeing the return of the red hot Real World for Saeed Bin Suroor and jockey Marco Ghiani. After a gruesome fall at Lingfield last week, Ghiani is declared for this mount and will be looking to continue the strong success found since returning from the Meydan Carnival. It’s been a fun week so far and I will admit I am still not over that performance by Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup yesterday, showing why he is the class stayer that he is.
I hope you enjoyed the coverage this week and I look forward to the rest of the European season and more over the coming months. Until next time (which will most likely be tomorrow at Deauville with two Group Ones on the card), best of luck!
Saturday – York
Race 1 – GIII Strensall Stakes – 1 1/8 Miles, 3 & Up
6 – Real World – Drops slightly back in trip after an impressive performance in the Steventon Stakes last time out. Spent the early part of his career out in Dubai with some decent efforts in handicap company but has made a strong impression on UK soil. The turn of foot this runner showed when winning the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot was very special but I thought that the step up may be a tough test, he handled it splendidly. Following a scary incident at Lingfield last week, jockey Marco Ghiani will be ready to go with a horse he has improved immensely since jumping aboard.
1 – Lord Glitters – Meydan announcer Craig Evans put it perfectly in the GII Singspiel Stakes at Meydan earlier this year when Lord Glitters “Turned back the clock” and blew away the field in the stretch. A winner of two major races during the Meydan Carnival including the GI Jebel Hatta, we have not seen that form translate when coming back to Europe. However, both of his efforts this season in the UK came in Group One company and the effort in the Queen Anne was much improved. I think the class drop and getting back to his ideal distance of the mile and an eighth will give this 8 year old gelding a chance to turn back the clock once more.
4 – Brunch – Had to really work in the stretch to beat a valiant foe in Rhoscolyn to the line of the Pomfret Stakes at Pontefract. It was a step up in class for this runner out of a strong Heritage Handicap in the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot. Happy to see this horse get over some firmer ground which should benefit. Not worried at all about the slight rise in distance but this will be facing a little better opposition given some of the talent in this field.
Race 2 – Melrose Handicap – 1 3/4 Miles, 3 Year Olds
10 – Summer’s Knight – Was a bit confused by the move to drop this horse back to a class 5 handicap after putting together a strong 2nd at class 2 level. That class 2 handicap came over soft ground and Summer’s Knight has shown that firm going is most suitable for him. With that being said, I think it makes even more of an impression as to how good this horse ran that day. When Sir Mark Prescott decided to drop the horse he went on to win his next two starts and now heads back towards this class 2 contest. Maybe this galloper needed a little more time to mature but either way he should be ready to fire moving back up in class.
9 – Golden Flame – Took a shot at the GII Queens Vase two back and it did not pay off, was simply overmatched. Prior to that this son of Derby and Arc winner Golden Horn had put together two very strong efforts, one over the turf and one on the all-weather. Adam Kirby was on that day over firm going at Bath and gets back on today. It has been a bit of a jockey carousel recently but it does not mean anything bad about the horse, in fact most of the jockeys who didn’t ride him the next start ended up back on a start later. Will be a big price and is way over the odds here.
15 – Valley Forge – After having a tough time getting off the duck, Valley Forge was dropped into a class 5 maiden at Ffos Las to get the job done. This will be a major step up in class but the galloper is a bit unexposed so far and has put together good form over firm ground. David Probert rode this one 2 back to a decent effort at Doncaster and gets back aboard today. Carries only 120 and could improve for a nice performance in this spot.
Race 3 – GII City Of York Stakes – 7 Furlongs, 3 & Up
9 – Primo Bacio – After a strong victory in listed company back in May, Primo Bacio made the jump straight up to Group One company and despite finishing no better than fifth in two attempts, ran strong races in both. As mentioned many times before in this column, the form out of the GI Falmouth Stakes has been very strong this year. This will be a bit of a test for the 3 year old filly taking on open company for only the 2nd time, but has that 8 pound weight allowance and shortens up from the mile. This should be a strong opportunity to continue some decent performances with a better end result.
7 – Highfield Princess – Set the pace on the step up to group company and ran a strong third at Goodwood. That effort came over soft ground but her better form has shown that affinity with firmer going. Jason Hart is usually on this runner but decides to go with Safe Voyage instead, so David Allan picks up the ride. Don’t know if she will get the front the same way as she did in the Oak Tree Stakes but she’s a great each way play currently sitting at 20/1.
6 – Space Blues – This ultra consistent galloper comes in for his 2nd start of the season in the UK and ran a strong 4th in the GII Lennox Stakes, a race that seemed to fall apart late when Kinross and Creative Flair came charging late. A winner during the Saudi Cup meeting, Space Blues had produced a string of wins that saw him take out the GI Prix Maurice De Gheest for trainer Charlie Appleby. Does have a win over the course and with just a little improvement could be very tough to beat.
Race 4 – GI Ebor Handicap – 1 3/4 Miles, 4 & Up
2 – Fujaira Prince – Fujaira Prince just continues to impress me with his runs. This will be 2nd up this prep leading into the Ebor, a very similar way to how he was when he won this same race last year. Has never been out of the money in 11 career starts and faced some stiff competition in the past 12 months. Was happy with the first up prep in the GIII Silver Cup Stakes over course and distance. I see very little reason as to why he wouldn’t be ready for another big performance in this historic handicap.
10 – Sonnyboyliston – Put together a strong performance in the Martin Molony Stakes at Limerick two back and continues to show that he can stay all day. Trainer Johnny Murtagh took this race in 2014 with Mutual Regard and has two chances in this field to do it again. Murtagh’s young stable rider Ben Martin Coen comes over from Ireland for the mount he rode 3 back in the GIII Ormonde Stakes at Chester.
16 – Global Storm – This Godolphin runner has performed well throughout the season so far, most of those efforts coming over firm ground. Moved up in trip to this distance a few starts back and has shown an affinity for it, which is a bit of a surprise given his pedigree(By Night of Thunder o/o a Street Cry mare). The dam, a US bred mare named Travel is where some of the staying ability comes from, albeit she never raced outside of lower level handicaps.
Race 5 – Roses Stakes – 5 Furlongs, 2 Year Olds
2 – Boonie – This young colt by Brazen Beau has been extremely consistent this season and has put together a few strong efforts over firm ground. Ran very well to be 3rd in a tough Windsor Castle Stakes, a race that saw winner Chipotle take a shot yesterday as a two year old taking on older in the GI Nunthorpe Stakes. Sticks to that 5 furlong distance and drops slightly back in class, will not be surprised to see a big effort.
10 – Thunder Love – A strong two for two so far in the career, both of which coming over the all-weather at Kempton. Steps on the grass for the first time and gets William Buick in the saddle. In both efforts so far, this runner has been able to put away her opposition without much issue. Still a lot of unknowns with this horse but at 8/1 I would be willing to take the chance that the turf will do her just fine.
7 – Ballet Steps – Not a ton to go off of with this young filly by Dabirsim, a winner in her only start so far. That effort came at Beverley, winning just a neck. Danny Tudhope had the ride last time as Kieran Shoemark took the mount on Attagirl in her most recent start in listed company at Newbury. Those two switch this time around and Shoemark will get this filly 2nd up. I know that’s not a great bode of confidence for this one, however it’s way too early to tell how much talent this girl has and jumping her up to this race, Kevin Ryan must think she can handle it.