Our racing expert gives his opinion on the televised action from the Knavesmire.
1:55 1m4f (1m3f188y) Sky Bet Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+ 0-105)
Plenty can be fancied in this and First Point, the likely favourite, has to be near the top of any short list as he was an improver in competitive handicaps last season and is sure to be better for his recent reappearance fourth at Ascot. But I’m drawn to one near the bottom of the weights and the only three-year-old runner, Hugo Palmer’s CALIBURN. He’s far less exposed than his rivals after just five starts and could be open to further progress back up in trip today. He won easily over a half furlong less at Haydock in June before his stamina ran out in the 1m5f Bahrain Trophy, having travelled well up to a point in that Group 3 contest, and then found f1m2f back at Newmarket too sharp last time. That run at least proved his versatility over the ground, so any rain won’t bother him, and he’s surely got a big handicap in him off his current mark (93) over what looks to be his ideal trip. He’s an each-way price too at bet365’s 14/1.
2:25 2m½f (2m56y) Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes (Group 2) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (3yo+)
It’s hard to see past STRADIVARIUS and bookmakers agree as John Gosden’s standout stayer is no bigger than 2/5 at the time of writing, having won Cup races here and at Ascot and Goodwood this season. Success at the latter track took him one step away from picking up a cool £1million bonus and few would bet against that happening . He does, however, have a penalty to defy and it’s slightly concerning that only horse has done that in the last decade, that being Opinion Poll in 2011, who was the only horse in that time to complete the Goodwood Cup-Lonsdale Cup double.
According to the official ratings Stradivarius hasn’t improved this year – his mark of 118 is the same now as when beaten into third at Ascot last October – which might suggest his rivals are not entirely without hope here. One in particular who has a chance on bare form is DESERT SKYLINE as he has a 6lb pull for the three lengths he was beaten here in May. He’s not been in quite the same form the last twice but his latest sixth at Goodwood is better than it looks as he was hampered at a key stage. So if he puts his best foot forward he might just give the favourite something to think about and Ladbrokes’ 20/1 is far each-way.
3:00 6f Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2) (Colts & Geldings) (Class 1) (2yo)
This is quite open and the two at the head of the market are opposable: Space Traveller is taking a big hike in class after a couple of novice wins at Doncaster and Hamilton last time when long odds-on, while Shine So Bright looked in need of a stiffer test when third over this trip at Goodwood on his most recent outing.
I’m therefore happy to take a chance on CHUCK WILLIS at a double-digit price. His trainer Charlie Hills is in flying form and won the Group 3 Acomb here on Tuesday with Phoenix Of Spain. His stablemate needs to improve on what he’s shown so far, hence his price, but Hills was sounding positive about his chances of doing just that in his Weekender column this week, saying he’s done some nice bits of work at home of late and could be up to something like this. Promising apprentice Callum Shepherd won on him at Ayr two starts back and it’s great that the owners have stayed loyal.
3:35 5f Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (2yo+)
It’s hard to oppose the red-hot favourite Battaash after his brilliant display at Goodwood last time. Charlie Hills’ stable star tanked to the front by halfway before using his unbelievable speed to burn off his rivals by four lengths or more, and in that sort of form there is not another horse on the planet capable of beating him. But he’s a highly strung sort who can boil over in the preliminaries and that was probably his undoing in this race 12 months ago, when playing his hand too early and finishing a well beaten fourth. Should he go go down to post nice and relaxed, I wouldn’t want to be on anything else but given the concerns he’s no value at the current odds.
Blue Point, the conqueror of Battaash in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot is the obvious alternative and he should appreciate dropping back to 5f after finishing only seventh in the July Cup (6f) subsequently. But he’s just 4/1 and there is better value to be had in backing the Ascot third MABS CROSS at over four times those odds with bet365.
Since winning the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket (a race won by last year’s Nunthorpe heroine Marsha), Michael Dod’s filly has finished within a respectable distance of the market leaders, finishing less than a length behind Battaash at Haydock and within two lengths of Blue Point at the royal meeting. A little more improvement is required but that’s possible as she’s relatively lightly-raced and her trainer is a dab hand with sprinters, famously saddling Mecca’s Angel to win back-to-back renewals of this prize in 2015 and 2016. With the likely fast pace sure to suit – watch her come late on the premises – it’s not hard to imagine her at least finding the frame in a race that has been dominated by her sex in recent times, with fillies and mares capturing six of the last seven renewals.
York 1.55, Caliburn each-way @ 14/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 18.104.22.168)
York 2.25, Desert Skyline each-way @ 20/1 Ladbrokes (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
York 3.00, Chuck Willis each-way @ 14/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
York 3.35, Mabs Cross each-way @ 18/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 1.2.3)
All odds were correct at time of posting.