2.10 York – 888sport Stakes (Handicap)
The meeting starts with a typically tricky handicap over one mile and two furlongs and the first place to start is with Tres Coronas who just bumped into a progressive rival in Collaboration last week. Normally I would not advise going back to the well so quickly but David Barron’s gelding did so to good effect last year as he followed his Chester win by finishing second here the following week. He found only Clever Cookie too good on that occasion who was something of a handicap blot as a Grade 2 winning hurdler who had only won a maiden on the flat. This time around he races off a 1lb lower mark and despite being drawn out in stall 20, I can see him running another solid race here.
It is little surprise that four-year-olds have done well in this race in recent years and they look to have a strong team this time around, including the likely market leader Mahsoob. John Gosden’s four-year-old is unbeaten in two starts and despite showing signs of greenness last time, he got up close home to deny Nancy From Nairobi. An 8lb rise in the weights is hefty enough for the margin of his victory but you would have to think that there is more to come. He has also been drawn wide in 18 and although he has the right sort of profile for this race, I feel that he is worth taking on.
Andrew Balding’s Field Of Fame chased Mahsoob home at Newbury on his first start for nearly eighteen months. He too had his fair share of bad luck as he was hampered when making ground in the closing stages. He should come on for that effort and has managed to sneak in here at the foot of the weights. He should be able to give the favourite something to think about on the back of that run and looks to have strong claims.
However, it might be best to side with William Haggas’ SATELLITE who was progressive in the early part of last season before his form tailed off towards the end of the season when upped to 1m4f. It looks as though that may just have stretched his stamina reserves and he is of interest for a yard that tends to do well here. He wasn’t beaten far by Cannock Chase on his handicap debut last season and races here off a 3lb higher mark, Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and he looks to have a big chance at around 8/1.
2.40 York – Infinity Tyres Stakes (Handicap)
Nobody has trained more winners on the Knavesmire than Richard Fahey in recent seasons and he looks to have a strong hand in this contest. First of all the eye is immediately drawn to Tatlisu who is to be ridden by Ryan Moore on Wednesday. The five-year-old won on his return to action at Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting and wasn’t far from following up next time when beaten less than a length into third at Ripon. He did have the assistance of Jack Garrity’s 5lb claim on both those starts so he effectively races off 5lb higher but he comes here in good form. Race fitness often goes a long way in these early season sprints and he looks likely to be thereabouts at the business end of proceedings.
However, I marginally prefer the chances of his stablemate Mehdi whose last run over six furlongs saw him finish second in the Ayr Silver Cup in September. His run at Chester the following week probably came a little too soon for him and he was far from disgraced on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock last month. He showed up well for a long way before getting tired late on and it seems sensible that connections have dropped him back in trip. He isn’t the easiest to win with but he showed enough last time to suggest he was in good form and he looks to have good each-way claims back in trip.
Kevin Ryan’s Blaine loves it here at York having won the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes here as a juvenile and he also got his head in front at the Ebor meeting last season. He turned in a good effort to finish third in the Ayr Gold Cup after that before stepping up to seven furlongs on his final start. He was slowly out of the stalls on his reappearance at Musselburgh but was tailed off on his latest outing at Newmarket. He also disappointed on his only previous run at HQ so I would be willing to put a line through that run as it was too bad to be true. He only races off 3lb higher than when he won here in August and I feel the bookmakers may have overreacted to his latest run. He is available at around 20/1 and having finished third here last year I think he has solid each-way claims at that sort of price.
In terms of the win, I am happy to side with Paul Midgley’s ANOTHER WISE KID who finished ahead of Tatlisu in second at Ripon last time. The seven-year-old ran consistently well for most of last season and looks to have started off this campaign in the same vein. His two rivals either side of him at Ripon both had the benefit of a run so I think we can mark his performance up a bit. He has also has the assistance of Graham Lee in the saddle and with few men riding better at the moment I fancy this seven-year-old to go very close.
3.15 York – Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes (Group 2)
William Haggas’ Muthmir is likely to be popular having won the Skybet Dash here in July and having made a mockery of the Portland Handicap at Doncaster in September. There was a lot that went wrong that day but he found a way through and pulled away from his rivals impressively in the closing stages. He has long been thought of as a Group horse but he is stepping out of handicap company for the first time here so it will be interesting to see how he gets on.
Astaire found only Maarek too good when attempting to win this as a three-year-old twelve months ago and he looks to have plenty going in his favour this time around. He looked likely to win at Doncaster on his return to action but he bounced right back to form when landing the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket next time. He managed to assume his favoured front-running position last time and rallied gamely once challenged to hold on. I do feel that he is a better horse when making the running and if he can get his own way here, he looks a likely candidate for the frame.
His conqueror at Doncaster was Marco Botti’s NAADIRR who quickened up smartly that day and it could be that he is coming to the boil at the right time. He won the Listed Garrowby Stakes over course and distance in September and looks to have improved over the winter. It is worth bearing in mind that he was conceding 3lb to Astaire at Doncaster and despite being something of a surprise winner on the day, I don’t think there is much between the pair. He has still only had nine starts to date and given his apparent progression of late, I fancy him to get his head in front.
I also want to mention Tim Easterby’s Mattmu who was a smart two-year-old winning on four occasions including at Listed and Group 2 level. I think connections will be hopeful that he can enjoy another fruitful campaign this term although it can be difficult for three-year-olds taking on the older sprinters at this time of year. He should also be suited by some cut in the ground later in the season but it will be interesting to see how he shapes on his return to action.
3.45 York – Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (Group 3)
John Gosden has won this race twice in recent years with smart fillies and he looks to have another prospect on his hands in the shape of STAR OF SEVILLE. She may have been beaten on debut but has not looked back since, getting off the mark at Doncaster in October before routing her rivals at Newbury on her return to action. She beat the colts at Newbury including the runner-up Ooty Hill who is very highly thought of by Roger Charlton. To be honest, with some of her rivals having fluffed their lines in their prep runs I am a little surprised that she isn’t shorter for the Oaks but I think she will shorten after tomorrow as she looks hard to beat in my eyes.
In terms of the market, Aidan O’Brien’s Together Forever looks likely to be her main danger having won her last three starts as a two-year-old including victory in the Fillies Mile at the end of the campaign. She beat the highly-regarded Agnes Stewart that day by half a length and stayed on well close home which suggests that this step up in trip should be no problem. The slight concern I have is that some members of the Ballydoyle team seem to have needed their first run this season but nevertheless, she looks the one most likely to give the favourite something to think about.
Of the rest of the field, Pandora is interesting having been a shock winner on debut at Doncaster but the form of that race is not working out too well so I would imagine this will be a step too far for her. The other two are exposed enough and whilst they may run well, I wouldn’t have thought them likely to do much as time goes on.
4.20 York – Conundrum HR Consulting Stakes (Handicap)
Foreign Diplomat has always been highly thought of, having run in the Convivial Maiden over course and distance on his racecourse debut. He was beaten on his next two starts at short odds but looked to have left all of that behind when winning on his seasonal reappearance at Thirsk. He finished his race off really well despite racing keenly early on and I think a mark of 81 is fair enough. He remains lightly-raced and should be thereabouts at the business end of the race.
Kevin Ryan’s Mount Tahan looked to have benefitted for a break over the winter as he made a winning reappearance at Wetherby last month. He too ran in the Convivial maiden here and having set the pace early on at Wetherby, he stretched clear of his rivals to win by four and a half lengths at the line. There should be more to come from this gelding and I fancy him to go well for a yard that likes having winners here.
However, it might be worth taking a chance on Peter Chapple-Hyam’s MISLEADING who was a good winner of a historically strong maiden at Goodwood last July. He was actually declared for the Acomb Stakes here in the summer but was taken out on account of the fast ground. His final start at two came in Group 3 company at Kempton where he never really got involved. That was over six furlongs so he should appreciate the extra furlong and the fact the likes of Maftool and Home Of The Brave finished ahead of him that day, suggests that the race is worth following. We will have to take his fitness on trust on his first run back but he could offer some value at a bigger price.
4.50 York – British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes
I must say I do enjoy watching two-year-old races and particularly trying to work out which ones will be forward enough to win and which stables seem to have strong crops. Despite having only four runners, most of the top operations are represented here with Johnston, Hannon, Ryan and Fahey all sending horses here.
Mark Johnston’s Ravenhoe won the Brocklesby on the first day of the season at Doncaster before being beaten at Newmarket next time out. However, he got back to winning ways at Newcastle a couple of weeks ago and although he has plenty of experience under his belt, he does have to concede weight to all of his rivals here.
Richard Fahey has been reported to have said that this is his best crop of juveniles that he has had for a while and he sends Black Magic here on the back of a taking debut in which he pulled clear of his rivals in the closing stages to win by three lengths. The form of that run has yet to be boosted but the way in which he did it suggests he could be above average.
The last of those with experience is DHEBAN who most of you will know was beaten by Zebstar on 1000 Guineas day at Newmarket. We all know how well the Hannons do with their juveniles and he ran a good race on debut and was probably just run out of it by a more professional rival on the day. The winner looks set to head to Royal Ascot so if Richard Hannon’s colt can reproduce the form of his first run in receipt of weight he should be tough to beat.
However, despite making his debut here, I wouldn’t write off Kevin Ryan’s Areen who was bought at the Craven Breeze-up Sales for 85,000 guineas in April. His sire Kodiac is already making his mark as a sire of precocious two-year-olds and I feel that horses that have been to the breeze-up sales tend to be a little more forward as they have been asked to more work earlier by their handlers. I think he will have to pretty smart to beat Dheban without a run but nevertheless he shouldn’t be discounted lightly.
5.20 York – AGP Ltd Celebrates Steve Johnson´s 50th Stakes (Handicap)
We have a tricky 1m4f handicap to close the card and the first place to start is with Seamus Durack’s All Talk N No Do who appreciated the return to turf when winning readily at Windsor in April. He made all in the hands of Adam Kirby and despite an 8lb rise, he looks of interest once again. His trainer is confident that he will get further in time so I would imagine that he will try and make a bold bid from the front once again. He comes here in the best of health and looks likely to be thereabouts in the closing stages.
Michael Appleby’s Jefferson City is also of interest having stayed on well to finish third on his first start for this yard at the beginning of this month. He was also trying 1m4f for the first time which seemed to suit the gelding well and the former John Gosden inmate should strip fitter for the run. It is hard to work out where he stands with regards to his mark but his trainer has a good record of improving horses and I’m sure that he will be able to improve on his current mark.
The preference is for Brian Ellison’s SEAMOUR who was a staying on second on his flat debut in August before readily beating some smart rivals including Karezak the following month. He was purchased by his current connections after that and won both of his starts over hurdles starts in good fashion over the winter. He hasn’t been seen since winning at Wetherby over Christmas but he is unexposed and should be able to go close off a mark of 85. His trainer does well with these dual purpose horses and this one could have quite a bit of improvement in him yet. James Doyle has been booked to ride and I would be surprised if he can’t go very close on his return to the flat.