I remember the first time I went to the Knavesmire to watch the Ebor, on a Wednesday of course, was to see the three-year-old Kneller, trained by the great (Sir) Henry Cecil land the prize under Paul Eddery – yes not his brother Pat – carrying just 8st 1lb back in 1988.
Times have changed however, and the last winner from the classic generation was Aidan O’Brien’s Mediterranean back in 2001. The lowest weight carried this afternoon will be 9st 2lb and the highest 9st 10lbs. Hardly a handicap – more a Conditions event but it is still a fascinating race and no quarter will be given with such a lucrative first-prize. The Stewards’ will need to be on their toes that is for sure.
My two against the field are Mekong and Mustajeer (3.40) with preference for the Irish raider who looks to have been laid out for the race since finishing fourth in the corresponding race 12 months ago from the same mark. Trained in Ireland by Ger Lyons the selection has had a low-key preparation and I expect him to be ridden more prominently than last year from a good draw in stall two. The each way selection is 16/1 at BetVictor who are betting each way five places.
The opening Gp 3 Strensall Stakes can see last year’s Cambridgeshire winner Wissahickon (1.50) make a winning return to turf having spent a lucrative winter on the all-weather before disappointing in the Winter Derby – not Frankie Dettori’s finest hour – back in the spring. The selection – 2/1 from 13/8 at BetVictor – was pulled out of a recent run at Newbury on account of the heavy ground, but no such concerns this afternoon.
There are several potential improvers for the step up to 1m 6f in the Melrose Handicap for the classic generation including market leader First In Line. The each way vote, however, goes to Starczweski (2.25) who improved for the step up to today’s trip when scoring at Chelmsford last time and a 6lbs rise should not prevent the selection from running a big race from the foot of the weights. Hollie Doyle keeps the mount on David Simcock’s gelding who is 12/1 at BetVictor.
The Gp 2 City Of York Stakes is a cracker with multiple Group 1 winner Laurens taking on the boys under a 5lbs penalty for winning the Prix Rothschild at Deauville on her last start. Sir Dancealot will be more at home on this surface than he was at Newbury in the Hungerford last weekend, but he carries a 3lbs penalty for his Lennox Stakes success. I am convinced this (7f) is the right trip for Le Brivado although he ran poorly in the Prix Maurice de Gheest last time.
Back in fourth in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood was Joseph O’Brien’s Speak In Colours (3.00) who met trouble in running on the Sussex Downs and meets winner Sir Dancealot on 3lbs better terms. The selection has an excellent draw in stall one and I feel connections can race him more prominently today safe in the knowledge that their four-year-old gets the trip.
The selection is 7/1 at BetVictor and is another each way recommendation. Last year’s Commonwealth Cup winner Eqtidaar has had his wind operated on since making a moderate reappearance back in the spring. A check of the market is advised.
Galway Hurdle winner Tudor City looks well treated back on the flat for Tony Martin and he is well drawn in stall three in the Valuable 10f handicap. He is worth more than a second glance but Forest Of Dean (4.45) could be another winner for the Frankie Dettori/John Gosden combination on the Knavesmire.
The selection ran away with a Goodwood handicap last time from a 7lbs lower mark and he looks a most progressive three-year-old. He looked a Cambridgeshire type when scoring last time, but connections are clearly not worried about preserving his current mark. Note the yard’s Wissahickon won the Cambridgeshire from a mark of 107 last season. Forest Of Dean is currently rated 100.
Over at Goodwood and Happy Power finished fourth in the Sussex Stakes last time although I didn’t feel that was the strongest renewal of that Group 1 contest. Duke Of Hazzard (2.05) was an impressive winner of a Group 3 contest over C&D in a fast time on his latest start and I feel Paul Cole’s 3-year-old – 11/4 with BetVictor – can take this step up in class.
The form of Dal Horrisgle’s Gordon Stakes fourth is not working out well and preference in the March Stakes is for Mark Johnston’s Sir Ron Priestley (3.50) who has won four of his last five starts and won a valuable handicap over 12f here last time. Today’s additional quarter-mile is considered a plus.
At Newmarket Moraawed (2.45) is clearly going the right way and he is only 4lbs higher than when scoring at Sandown last time. The second horse home on that occasion has won twice since and the handicapper may not have yet caught up with Roger Varian’s three-year-old.
For all your racing odds go to BetVictor.com