Our racing expert attempts to crack the four York races being shown live on ITV4 this afternoon.
2:20 5f Langleys Solicitors British EBF Marygate Fillies’ Stakes (Listed) (Class 1) (2yo)
None of these have encountered soft ground previously and those with winning form have been doing it on good ground or faster, so we’re guessing as to whether they will act in the conditions. Michael Bell’s Main Desire, the likely favourite, seemed to relish the fast surface when scoring on her debut at Nottingham, while the Tom Dascombe-trained Formidable Kitt was well backed when scoring on good to firm at Newmarket first time up. The pair could be a cut above the rest of the field with their respective trainers eyeing up Royal Ascot next month, but they have been well found by the market and I’d rather take a chance on NEOLA at a double-figure price (12/1 Paddy Power).
Mick Channon’s filly was an emphatic winner of a Nottingham novice last time and the ground on that occasion had been changed to good after rain before racing. The form may not amount to much, but she had clearly benefited from the her debut fifth in a maiden over the same track and trip, the form of which has worked out well, and she was recording comparatively the best time on the card. She has an entry in a big sales race at Doncaster in September, so she is clearly well thought of.
2:55 1m (7f192y) Longines Irish Champions Weekend Fillies’ Stakes (Registered As The Michael Seely Memorial) (Listed) (Class 1) (3yo)
Princess De Lune could not have been more impressive when scoring by four lengths on her Newbury debut (good to firm) last month and the fact Roger Charlton has given her an entry in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes tells you she is highly regarded. But soft ground this afternoon is an unknown and while her sire Shamardal won on such a surface, I’d rather back one who is proven on it.
William Haggas’ ON HER TOES won three times as a juvenile and the first of those came on soft, although she proved her versatility over the ground when winning on good to firm at Sandown later in the season. She seemed to to relish the step up to 7f on that occasion, seeing off some talented rivals in good style, and probably ran to the same level of form when finishing third in a 7f Group 3 on her final start, giving the impression she could do with a bit further. Today’s trip could be ideal then and her experience could be the deciding factor against mainly lightly-raced types who are stepping up in class, with the presence of Ryan Moore on her back the clincher for the vet at Paddy Power’s 6/1.
3:30 1m6f (1m5f188y) Betway Yorkshire Cup (Group 2) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Clever Cookie has a good record at York and that includes a win in last year’s renewal of this race. This version looks stronger, though, and he has five ahead of him in the betting. The form pick of these is Sir Michael Stoute’s Dartmouth on his three Group wins last season and a fine third in the King George. He is bidding to give his trainer a third success in the last four runnings and has the services of Ryan Moore, who has won on all three of his Yorkshire Cup rides for the stable since 2009 (Ask, Gospel Choir and Snow Sky). The five-year-old is hard to pass over on that basis, although he’s never won on ground as soft as today’s and is conceding race fitness to his main market rival, MUNTAHAA, who gets the nod at bet365’s 5/1.
John Gosden’s charge went off at just 4/1 for last year’s St Leger, but he was too keen for his own good and having taken himself to the front he had little left when it mattered, eventually plugging on into fourth. It was a similar story on his reappearance at Doncaster where he got into a duel with a stablemate for the lead, which cost them both their chances. However, he was much better without his usual hood in the Group 3 John Porter at Newbury on his latest start, winning gamely by a neck and making his stamina tell over the 1m4f trip.
This is tougher of course, but he’s capable of further improvement now that he has learned to settle better and his recent home work has been most impressive. The ground should suit him too as his action suggests he’s well suited by some juice and indeed Gosden had wanted some appreciable rain for the grey prior to his run in the Doncaster Classic.
4:05 1m4f (1m3f188y) Betway Jorvik Handicap (Class 2) (4yo+)
Bookmakers are taking no chances with Roger Varian’s GIBBS HILL, who has been installed as 2/1 favourite with bet365, and the Stoke-based firm are right to be cautious as he’s chasing a hat-trick after easy handicap wins at Sandown last July and on his reappearance at Wolverhampton last month, where it was impressive how quickly he put daylight between himself and his nearest pursuers. A subsequent 9lb requires more from him this afternoon, but he’s clearly improving fast and showed he handled soft ground at the Esher venue.
His main market rival Fidaawy has done all his recent winning on fast ground and appeared to find conditions too testing when only fifth at Salisbury last September. He could do with the ground drying out a bit, but the softer the better for Cymro, who is back to his last winning mark and will strip fitter for his reappearance sixth at Pontefract. But I’m sticking with the favourite in the hope he drifts out a little on the day.