What are the best bets on day four of the York Ebor meeting?
The Betfred Ebor is the feature race on the Knavesmire this afternoon and it is one of four Channel 4-televised races to come under the spotlight here.
2.00: Betfred Mobile Strensall Stakes (Group 3), 1m208yds
A few of these might be inconvenienced by the dead ground but it’s unlikely to bother MONDIALISTE. David O’Meara’s charge has winning form on soft in France and looks to be getting his act together on this side of the English Channel judging by his latest impressive run in a Listed race at Pontefract, where he made all to win by ten lengths from Short Squeeze, who is no mug.
In the post-race interview, O’Meara was inclined to blame himself for the horse’s subsequent defeats after running second in the Lincoln off a big weight on his first run for the stable, saying that he’d run him too quickly and that the horse needed time between his races. This was reiterated in a recent Stable Tour, where he also said connections were looking at running the horse in the top races this autumn and, to quote him directly, “because once horses start improving as he is, then you never know where they will take you.”
The trainer is renowned for improving horses sent to him other stables, some out of all recognition, and it could be that Mondialiste, who was formerly with Freddie Head, could be the latest example. I’m therefore feeling reasonably confident that he can land this Group 3 prize and, with no other obvious front-runner in the race, he may well make every post a winning one. Take the 5/1 on offer at bet365.
2.35: Betfred Melrose Stakes (Handicap), 1m6f
I’m not nearly so confident about this race, with each of the 20 runners having something to recommend them. That said, I do like the chances of the Luca Cumani-trained AL at a tasty 9/1 with Paddy Power. He struck me as an ideal type for this race when storming home by seven lengths over 1m4f at Newmarket on his latest start and, while he’s been hit with a 12lb rise, he may well be improving fast enough to cope – without that hefty hike he wouldn’t be running as he’s crept in near the bottom of the weights.
His trainer, writing in a recent Stable Tour, suggested the horse was likely to continue to improve and he had no qualms about stepping him up to today’s trip, with his German family noted for their staying ability. His decision to employ talented claimer Cam Hardie, who will take a handy 3lb off his back, could well prove decisive and there are no worries over the ground as he appeared to handle a slow surface when fourth in a Nottingham maiden last term – behind a certain Golden Horn!
How the selection got beat in a modest Windsor handicap on his reappearance – when carrying my money – I will never know, but I’m hopeful of getting it back here with interest!
3.10: Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2), 6f
It’s hard what to make of Wesley Ward’s Finnegan, who is disputing favouritism for this Group 2, as he has only raced Stateside, winning a Pimlico maiden by five lengths when last seen out in May. His trainer rates him highly, reporting him to be up there with Acapulco, in which case the others are better off staying at home. Coolmore-owned, he could be the next sprinting star and this race has produced some high-class winners – a certain Muharaar took it 12 months ago.
Still, we’ve had just one winning favourite in the last decade and with Mark Johnston’s Buratino, bet365’s 11/4 joint favourite, attempting to defy a penalty – the last six horses to try have finished 202269 – the temptation is to look elsewhere for the winner. And you don’t have to look far to stumble on William Haggas’ AJAYA, who took another step forward when finishing second in a French Group 2 last time (Areen in third), following on from a maiden success at this track, and represents a massively in-form stable who won this race in 2006 and 2010.
3.45: Betfred Ebor (Heritage Handicap), 1m6f
It’s getting harder and harder for the progressive types to get into this race and improving three-year-old runners are as rare as hen’s teeth. That’s down to the fact three are so many older handicappers rated 100 or higher in training these days and, given most of these are fairly exposed, it’s becoming more about luck in running and what happens on the day, rather than form and ability. It’s no wonder the average winning SP this millennium has been over 20/1.
You’ve probably guessed I’m not feeling particularly confident about solving this puzzle, and I haven’t even got on to the draw. Just one of the last eight winners were drawn lower than 14 – the exception coming out of box 10 – but I’m not sure we can safely put a line through the lower drawn horses. The John Smith’s Cup, run over track and trip a few weeks ago, was fought out by horses drawn one and two, in which case anything can win and the best advice is to ignore the draw altogether.
Selection time and I’m making no excuses for putting up a couple, with Willie Mullins’ County Hurdle winner WICKLOW BRAVE catching the eye at 10/1 (bet365). He’s not even the stable first string, with stablemate Clondaw Warrior preferred in the betting having got in as first reserve, but the layers may well have called it wrong. The six-year-old is potentially well treated on a mark of 102 (he’s rated 150+ over jumps) and can be excused his latest Royal Ascot run as he failed to stay the marathon trip of the Queen Alexandra. Over this shorter trip, he can use his turn of foot to good effect and his burden is lessened by Jack Kennedy’s 7lb claim.
Field Of Athenry, the sole three-year-old runner and current favourite at 11/2, has obvious claims and he will likely attempt to make all, as he did when bossing small fields on his last couple of starts. That won’t be so easy here, especially from his wide draw in 22, and I’d rather back ARABIAN COMET at nearly times his price (18/1 best with Paddy Power). William Haggas’ charge – yes, him again – has been running creditably in Listed/Group contests over shorter this term, shaping like she was crying out for a step up in trip. With her stable in flying, she must give us a good run for our money at least. Split stakes on her and Wicklow Brave.
Back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the above four Channel 4-televised races with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50) on the next race shown live on Channel 4.