What are the best bets at York on Friday?
The York Ebor meeting continues this afternoon with the four Channel 4-televised races coming under the scrutiny of our racing expert here.
13:55 Sky Bet First Race Special Stakes (Handicap), 1m4f
A tricky start for punters but one who should give us a good run for our money is the Luca Cumani-trained SHAKOPEE. He never figured when sent off co-favourite for a handicap at Goodwood last month, but that run is forgiveable as he’s a long-striding sort who struggled to act around that track. He’s best judged on his previous effort, a stylish victory in a Doncaster handicap last month when he was value for more than his length and three-quarters winning margin, having been eased down close home and not suited by the slow early gallop. This is his first try over this trip but he shapes as if he’ll relish it and his pedigree – he’s a son of Derby winner High Chaparral – also suggests stamina won’t be a problem. Off a mark of 85 which almost certainly underestimates his ability and with his stable in cracking form, he’ll do for me at Sky Bet’s 7/1*
*the firm are refunding losing stakes on the second and third in this race as a free bet up to £25
14:30 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup (British Champions Series) (Group 2), 2m 88y
A small field of just seven runners, but an open renewal nonetheless with only rank outsider Suegioo dismissed entirely. The ground could be the key to finding the winner and rain, which is forecast to hit the track around midday, could scupper the chances of Quest For More and especially Curbyourenthusiasm, who needs it rattling fast was given far too much to do in the Goodwood Cup last time, when sent off at just 8/1.
On the other hand, Clever Cookie and last year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner TRIP TO PARIS won’t mind a drop of rain and it’s the latter who gets the vote. Ed Dunlop’s charge was one of the most improved horses in training in 2015 as while he didn’t add to his success at the royal meeting, he ran absolute stormers when finishing in the money in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. The ‘race that stops a nation’ is back on his agenda for later this season and, having warmed up nicely for this with a third over an inadequate ten furlongs at Newbury, he should do far better than last year’s fifth when probably in need of a break and shouldering a penalty besides. Back him at Betfair’s 3/1 as the firm will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £25) if he wins.
15:05 Sky Bet City Of York Stakes (Group 3), 7f
Jeremy Noseda’s Nemoralia brings strong form to the table having finished third in a a Grade 1 at last year’s Breeders’ Cup and runner-up in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes two starts back, with a six-length win in a 1m Listed contest here in between. However, I’m not sure the drop back to 7f is ideal for her and stable form is another worry with just six turf winners on the board in 2016 and a couple of short-priced favourites turned over in the last fortnight. With the prospect of the ground softening too, which would be to her disadvantage, she has to be taken on at the current 9/4.
Some rain certainly won’t harm the chances of Dean Ivory’s LIBRISA BREEZE and while he has a bit to find on the ratings, he is a horse massively on the up having routed a big field of handicappers over this trip at Ascot last time in the style of a Group performer in the making. Previously, he’d found only Portage too good in the 28-runner Royal Hunt Cup despite a poor draw and a Group 1 entry later in the season doesn’t look fanciful. His last run on the Knavesmire produced a head second in a handicap last October and he’s come on leaps and bounds since then. Take Sky Bet’s 5/1 and consider laying Nemoralia as neither Forge nor So Beloved are out of this and I’m convinced she’ll come up short.
15:40 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1), 5f
A cracking renewal of this Group 1 and the big question for punters is: can July Cup winner Limato be as effective over the minimum trip? Henry Candy’s charge, a prolific winner over 6f / 7f, started this term over a mile in the Lockinge and was far from disgraced in fourth. But given his natural speed it was no surprise to see him drop back to 6f last time and he duly routed his Newmarket rivals, including several of today’s runners, and given he was nicely in charge at the furlong pole it’s easy to understand why connections have decided to supplement him for this contest, his first try over 5f. However, the distance aside, he simply must have fast ground to be fully effective and the weather forecast is ominous, with rain expected to hit the track from midday onwards. For that reason, I can’t even consider putting him up as a bet here at just 3/1.
Any softening of the ground from the current good to firm will also dent the chances of Goldream, Easton Angel and Goodwood winner Take Cover, while the likes of Mecca’s Angel and PROFITABLE will relish it. The former is the second top-rated runner in the race (just 1lb behind Limato) courtesy of her win in last year’s race on good to soft, and she bounced back from a poor run at Royal Ascot when beating the reopposing Brando at the Curragh last time (good to yielding). But she was beaten by Profitable in the Temple Stakes back in May, albeit narrowly, and Clive Cox’s runner looks the one to be on at Coral’s 13/2. That won’t last long if the rain materialises (?) as all his best form is on cut and he’s already shown he’s the best older five-furlong horse in the country with three Group wins in 2016, including the Group 1 King’s Stand – his only defeat (a respectable fourth mind) came on fast ground in the July Cup behind Limato.
The presence of a couple of two-year-old runners getting huge lumps of weight adds further intrigue and of these Mark Johnston’s Yalta is respected, but I’m happy to stick with the selection and will be ramping up the stakes if he gets his ground.
York 1.55, Shakopee @ 7/1 Sky Bet (free bet if he finishes 2nd or 3rd)
York 2.30, Trip To Paris @ 3/1 Betfair (free bet if he wins)
York 3.05, Librisa Breeze @ 5/1 Sky Bet
York 3.40, Profitable @ 13/2 Coral
Fancy some free bets? Back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the above Channel 4-televised races with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50 per customer per race) on the next race shown live on Channel 4.