APPARENTLY York is known as the “Ascot of the North”. Racing folk might want to rethink that after this week’s Ebor Festival, which promises to be every bit as good, if not better, than June’s royal meeting in Berkshire. In fact, the quality of the equine talent galloping down the Knavesmire might see Ascot being dubbed the “York of the South”.
The £850,000 Juddmonte International on Wednesday is the highlight and will see Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn lock horns (see what I did there) with Gleneagles. The unexposed Time Test and the admirable The Grey Gatsby add more quality to the contest. If that wasn’t enough, Wesley Ward’s flying filly Acapulco, who was brilliant in the Queen Mary at the “York of the South”, is hot favourite for the Nunthorpe on Friday.
Then there is the Yorkshire Oaks, which has seen Irish Oaks winner Covert Love supplemented. I’ve not even mentioned the Lowther, the Gimcrack or the Ebor itself.
Chief executive and clerk of the course (now that’s multi-tasking) William Derby and his team deserve huge credit for the way they have cemented York’s position as one of the best racecourses in the world that attracts the very best thoroughbreds. The seeds for its international allure were probably sown in 2005 when York successfully staged Royal Ascot.
More than 80,000 racegoers will attend the four-day meeting on the Knavesmire this week and Wednesday’s opening day will also see the unveiling of a statue of the great Frankel, the 2012 Juddmonte winner, and the official opening of gates in honour of the horse’s late trainer Sir Henry Cecil.
Anyway, what about some ante-post York tips, I hear you cry…
ACOMB STAKES (Wednesday): ADVENTUROUS was a bit outpaced in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood but still ran a solid race and this extra furlong should really suit him.
GREAT VOLTIGEUR (Wednesday): Aidan O’Brien has nine of the 13 entries but both Tashaar and STORM THE STARS will prove tough opposition. Preference is for the established form of the latter rather than the huge potential of Tashaar.
JUDDMONTE INTERNATIONAL (Wednesday): Golden Horn should win but Gleneagles will be a tempting bet at around 7/2. The Grey Gatsby and The Corsican also look juicy each-way wagers if there are eight runners or more.
LOWTHER STAKES (Thursday): LUMIERE was ultra-impressive on her debut and Mark Johnston will be dreaming that he has another filly somewhere near the calibre of Attraction on his hands. The unbeaten Illuminate is a formidable opponent.
YORKSHIRE OAKS: (Thursday): COVERT LOVE has been supplemented but will not want the ground to firm up too much. However, she is the best three-year-old middle distance filly by some way.
NUNTHORPE (Friday): Acapulco is a fascinating runner but MOVE IN TIME is an established Group One winner and offers each-way value at around 16/1.
EBOR (Saturday): I fancy SEAMOUR if he takes up his entry and gets a favourable draw, something he didn’t get in the Pitmen’s Derby.