What are the best bets at York on Saturday?
It’s Ebor day and this historic handicap is one of five races to come under the scrutiny of our racing expert.
13:45 Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Stakes (Handicap), 1m2f 88y
A tough start for punters with plenty fancied, hence most bookmakers are going 13/2 the field overnight. But one that should go well is Luca Cumani’s FALLEN FOR A STAR, who is available at 11/1 with Sky Bet and that comes with the insurance of money back (as a free bet, up to £25) if he should finish second or third. The four-year-old was a shade disappointing at Yarmouth last time, finishing a well beaten fourth after they’d gone a modest gallop, but he was an impressive scorer over this trip at Newcastle previously, where he came through to win readily off a strong early pace. On the assumption they will go a decent gallop here, he looks well worth chancing with his stable in good form and regular pilot Jamie Spencer likely to ride a waiting race before pouncing late. Well, that’s the theory.
14:15 Betfred Mobile Strensall Stakes (Group 3), 1m 208y
David O’Meara is bidding to win his third consecutive Strensall Stakes courtesy of 2014 winner Custom Cut and he’s definitely one for the short list, as is Sir Michael Stoute’s three-year-old Diploma, who is 2-2 on the Knavesmire and is in receipt of the weight-for-age allowance. However, this has been won by Godolphin five times since 2006 by three different trainers, and they look to have a fine chance of adding another with Charlie Appleby’s SCOTTISH. It was slightly disappointing that he couldn’t justify favouritism at Haydock last time, having won a Listed contest doing handsprings at Newbury previously, but he only lost out late to Royal Artillery after making most of the running. In hindsight, that was arguably a career-best effort and dropping back to nine furlongs here should be no problem. William Buick is back on board and he has an eye-catching 26% (20-78) strike rate on the stable runners in 2016, with all his rides yielding a £1 level-stakes profit of £35.80. Take bet365’s 5/1.
14:50 Betfred Melrose Stakes (Handicap), 1m6f
This is ultra competitive but the key may well be a handicap run at Goodwood three weeks ago, in which Shraaoh (second) had the likes of JAAMEH (fourth), Emperor Napoleon (fifth) and Master Blueyes (sixth) in behind. However, Sir Michael Stoute’s charge, who has been put in as 10/3 favourite, is not certain to confirm that form on today’s revised terms and this two-furlong longer trip and more galloping track is ideal for Mark Johnston’s Jaameh. He came from further back than on the Sussex Downs than any of the others to be beaten just three-quarters of a length by the winner Dal Harraild, who is Group class, and he can run off just a 1lb higher mark this afternoon. He’s an 11/1 shot with BetVictor and I rate him a rock-solid each-way way bet at that price.
15:25 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2), 6f
Not the strongest line-up given this is the most valuable Group 2 contest for juveniles run this season, but a couple stand out as potentially top class, with Godolphin’s Blue Point being one. He lost his unbeaten record at Goodwood last time when an odds-on chance, but he was only just touched off by Mehmas, who is very smart, and it didn’t help that he had to make his own running. He’s certainly not one to give up on, but he’s up against William Haggas’ MUBTASIM and he has looked a bit special in winning both his starts, both over 6f in fast ground. His trainer has likely had this race in mind for a while and he knows what it takes it to win it with three Gimcracks to his name in ten years. Odds of 9/2 (Paddy Power) that he can land another look perfectly fair and the ground should be fine for the son of Arcano judging by the race times on Friday, with the rain not having that much of an effect.
16:00 Betfred Ebor Heritage Handicap, 1m6f
After the defection of ante post favourite Ivan Grozny, bookmakers have latched on to Godolphin’s Antiquarium as market leader, with 6/1 the best quote around. That he should be favourite is hard to dispute as he produced a whirlwind finish to land the Northumberland Plate last time and that is the best staying handicap run in Britain this year. He’s up 6lb in the ratings for that but this lightly-raced sort may be capable of rating even higher as he remains unexposed as a stayer.
So it’s a case of all aboard the favourite then? Well, not quite as this race has been a graveyard for market leaders with just one, Purple Moon in 2007, obliging since 1998, and we’ve also seen plenty of shock results in that time – the last 14 Ebors have produced one winner at 100/1, one at 33/1, four at 25/1 and two at 20/1. It’s safe to say then that pretty much any of the 21-runner field can win and I need make no excuses for putting up a relative outsider as my idea of the best best. The beast in question being the Ian Jardine-trained SHREWD, who is now available to back at 12/1, having been as big as 20/1 yesterday and ‘Pricewised’ this morning.
Why do I like him? He’s a horse who hasn’t stopped improving since joining his current stable last September, winning five times (thrice over hurdles) and scoring impressively over course and distance two starts back. He couldn’t follow up when returned here for a better race last time, but they went an ordinary gallop and he’s always been best coming off a fast pace, which he should get today. He doesn’t want it too quick so yesterday’s rain would have been welcomed by connections and they’ve made an interesting jockey booking, securing the services of the in-form Clifford Lee, who is excellent value for his 7lb claim. The draw in stall ten is okay too as last year’s winner Litigant became the first to emerge from a single-figure stall since 2004.
There’s plenty to like then and I’ll be disappointed if he can’t at least finish in the money – bet365 is the place to go to back him as they are paying out on five places!
York 1.45, Fallen For A Star each-way @ 11/1 Sky Bet (money back if 2nd or 3rd)
York 2.15, Scottish @ 5/1 bet365
York 2.50, Jaameh each-way @ 11/1 BetVictor
York 3.25, Mubtasim @ 9/2 Paddy Power
York 4.00, Shrewd each-way @ 12/1 bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.