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The Ebor Festival. York Races Day 1

Capt. Kneesup

Capt. Kneesup

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York Ebor Racing Festival

There are days when you might think Huzzah, York races and the Ebor will soon be upon us. Your spirits are lifted because the wind is moderate, and all the clouds are louring over someone else’s house and are buried in someone else’s bosomy ocean. True there may not be much sun, but it will come, and besides you have been given a brace of winners at Windsor, and the conviviality that wraps around you, even allows you to show an air of polite concern for friends, family and the occasional stranger. In brief, all is well. It only unravels slightly when you are reminded at midday that on the strength of three bottles of the Infuriator at Sunday lunch, you promised a chum that you would visit this marvellous chap they know who can cure lame chickens, raise cats from the dead and even resolve the Kneesup ailments and most importantly ailments he didn’t necessarily know he had.

I can always sense when Impala are jumpy and when the baboons believe there is something hungry heading their way. I have seen enough Attenborough to know that the head up with squinty eyes, perfect stillness and air-sniffing herald Defcon 4 for almost all species. However, I am especially aware of these signals when girls, women, ladies, Theys and pansexual liberal MPs are skittish. When they sense that what they are doing might lead to an explosion of WTF. They become especially kind and use the soapy voice of matron leading the old men to the Quiet Room at the Soylent Green Factory. It was this stillness I felt when I arrived at the appointed hour. The Plantaganet Madame actually said; “Now for Heaven’s sake, give it a chance.” I was not only still unaware of what IT might be and the thought came that IT might involve some sort of irrigation. I still remember Dominic Cox assuring me as we waited outside the Head’s study for my first strapping, that it was “…bad, but not as bad as you think!” Cox was a blithering idiot. It did bloody hurt – a lot – and ever since I have been loathe to give ITs “a chance”, simply in order to please others.

In any event, it was too late. I was ushered into the Great Man’s presence and to say it was a Wizard of Oz moment is an understatement. He was in fact a not-very-tall-Irishman who was charming in the extreme, knew everyone in The Valley of The Thoroughbred Women and, it later transpired, almost everyone in Occupied Berkshire and beyond. He knew every Irish trainer I’ve ever liked and he liked them too and we both mutually disliked Michael O’Leary. As we chatted about this and that and the dodge-pots and the blistering idiots and my own folies passagères, I suddenly realised that the man had been rubbing my feet and then hit a spot on my left long toe that made me sit bolt upright from the previous chatty, relaxingly recumbent position and yelp.

“Aah” he said, “that is your left eye.” “No”, I said. “That is the toe that the unkind and brusque Pakistani captain Javed Burki reversed his car over, as I tried to get his autograph on my Oval scorecard in August 1962. That is why it is bent at the funny angle and why I yelped.”

I was only young and perhaps I should have realised that the Captain of only the second Pakistani Test team to have toured since the country was formed in the Partition, was under some pressure. He had suffered from Fred Trueman’s removal of 22 Pakistani wickets in just four tests, and he was about to lose the series 4-0 (one drawn). Trying to leave at the end of the hopeless and desultory third day, the thrusted chubby hand and request for an autograph on a scorecard, that was clearly marked with one’s failings, was too much to bear. I didn’t realise my folly then and the result was a crushed toe and a greater understanding of timing.

In the consulting room, that moment had come and my allotted time was up. There was talk of toxins and Epsom Salts, of getting my leg up in order for me to flow, and of walking and drinking more sparkling water, perhaps (how my heart soared), mixed with some flat water. Eventually, we spoke of money.

Suffice it to say, at that moment, I fainted. When I came to, I used the back of a passing envelope and calculated he was earning more than Ryan Moore, and without the aggravation of having to ride. Aah as they say in The Kilkenny Arms, but it was a joy to see a professional at work and indeed everything has flowed since, but that might just be the constant intake of water.

And now for the complete antithesis of professionalism, here are the tips for Day One.

Let us start with a couple of observations. Firstly I think we can, fingers crossed rely on the fact that the ground will ride Good – G/F throughout the week. There will be the odd showers, but this is going to ride pretty well perfectly all week. Secondly, unless something has dramatically improved at Coolmore, I do not believe the yard is firing on all eight. In August this year, their UK/Ire strike rate has been 8.8%. Their market favourites are probably running about 3% shy of average, and their June UK strike rate is 4/62 or 6% (55% below the expected strike rate). Overall it feels wrong. I am therefore reticent about selecting his runners – even if they are screaming to be backed.  

13:50 Sky Bet And Symphony GHcap C2, 5f 89y

I think the starting point here might be the elimination of all 3yo as since the race was introduced 12 years ago, every one of them has finished unplaced. Remove everything rated 91 or less or carrying 8st 11lbs or less. Also, remove horses that haven’t raced in the last 25 days and less than 3 seasonal runs. HURRICANE IVOR seems sensible to include having hated the Goodwood bog LTO, but he is 8lbs shy of his last winning mark. I quite fancy MOUNTAIN PEAK, who picked 4lbs for his Ascot win LTO. If he gets a gallop to aim for and the ground remains decent he could be a podium finish. (The third-place Tis Marvelous has won since). EL ASTRONAUTE looks the wrong price at 18s and is now 4lbs better than his last winning mark. However, the last twice he has run markedly right. That worries me. If LAHORE doesn’t get trapped he too is the wrong price. Finally, I like the look of SNAZZY JAZZY who appears to have been doing his best work late the last twice, and the extra 89 yards will possibly help display his race finish.

MOUNTAIN PEAK – LAHORE – SNAZZY JAZZY all e/w

14:25 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes (G3) C1, 7f

Just the five runners, but crikey what a bunch. All improvers, all eye-catchers, all five won LTO. One of them however has the magic Capital P at Timeform which is rarer than hen’s teeth but EHRAZ is still a point below NOBLE TRUTH, who beat EHRAZ on debut. He won an 11-runner maiden at Ascot by 4½l from Buoyant LTO and then there is DUBAWI LEGEND, Hugo Palmer’s highly thought of G1 National entry and related to many classy winners. Hugo said on Friday:

“He’s done two proper bits of work since Doncaster and they’ve gone very well. Everything has been smooth – he’s trained very well, I think he’s come forward and he’s tightened up a bit. I think there is still a great deal to come for him. He quickened twice at Doncaster – he quickened to the lead and he quickened again when James (Doyle) got about him. It’s rare for a horse to be able to quicken once. Very rare – I think – for a horse to be able to quicken twice. He’s always been very natural and has a great turn of foot. Very genuinely, if he wasn’t a Dubawi with a pedigree, he would have been ready to win the Brocklesby. He has been like that from the word go – strong, forward and sharp – and we’ve always liked him very much. We thought he might get a chance to start over six furlongs before Ascot, but he managed to give himself a haematoma on his quarters. That held him up for a couple of weeks, which was probably the making of him. He’s a very fast horse with a very quick action and an electric turn of foot. Everything in his pedigree and everything I know about him points to him being a miler and that’s what we’ll be determined for him to be.”

Frankly, in this race, you pays your money and makes your choice – and no I’m not forgetting the other two. Andrew Balding runs IMPERIAL FIGHTER who has been far from shoddy with his youngsters this year, but his debut victory was by 2½l on Goodwood-soft ground. The other runner is ROYAL PATRONAGE from Mark Johnston but I rather feel that we are – unlike the others – pretty well up to speed with his progress to date and have drawn the conclusion that the others offer more. Hmm…

EHRAZ Win

15:00 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes (G2) C1, 1m 3f 188y

Four of the first six from The Gordon Stakes – not the winner – but since 2002 all 33 runners that ran at Goodwood LTO have been beaten. KEMARI – whatever you read – will NOT be going to the Leger largely because he has been cut. In fact, KEMARI caused something of a chatterati-storm with much discussion about the pros and cons of limiting some Group races to entires.  In simple terms the Bloodstock Industry says “Are you bloody joking” and the punters say “Surely we want to see the best horse win”. Anyway, KEMARI arrives with a Queens Vase 3lb penalty and I personally think he is a Cup-horse in the making.

His stablemate YIBIR is also running and he really hacked me off at Goodwood when 2nd Fav in the Gordon Stakes, pulling like a bloody train, with poor William Buick eventually giving up after five furlongs to let him stride on and lose.

APO’B runs HIGH DEFINITION who you will remember I was at one time hugely keen on for The Derby, which he skipped, ran in the Irish Derby, clipped heels and finished in the car park. His Dante run (3rd 2l) behind Hurrican Lane who did win the Irish Derby and the G1 has always hinted at huge talent – but is AP over the problems? SIR LUCAN gets Frankie back, still one of the few jockeys who can carry a no-hoper over the line. He ran in the Gordon Stakes finishing 2nd and going down by ½l but on ground far slower than he’ll find today. It’s a really tricky race, but I think I’m going to suggest…

KEMARI Win

15:35 Juddmonte International Stakes (G1) C1, 1m 2f 56y

On paper this is between MISHRIFF, LOVE and ALCOHOL FREE – but all of them have flaws. MISHRIFF has no European wins to his name this season, LOVE’s victory in a dawdling Prince of Wales has produced no meritorious runs since. ALCOHOL FREE needs rain, and one has to question whether she will manage the extra 2¼f. However, MISHRIFF tried to give Adayer 11lbs (WFA) in the KGQE and only went down by 1¾l, and that is why he deserves to be favourite. It is possible that LOVE’s Ascot performance was a reflection of AP’s summer, but I don’t need to pay to find out I was correct, by losing. There is one possible alternative of course, and at 6s, MOHAAFETH is a fair price to show that his run in the York Stakes was more to do with a poor racing strategy than a lack of ability. I suspect Jim Crowley will not drop him right out this time but instead keep him handy for a run that hasn’t burned out ¼f from home.

MOHAAFETH Win

16:10 Sky Bet Hcap 29 Runners, 2m 56y

The 12 year trends leave me with ELYSIAN FLAME – THEMAXWECAN – PRINCE IMPERIAL – RAJINSKY – PLATFORM NINETEEN. The first of those ran well in Goodwood’s Friday 2½m handicap, coming from off the pace and battling well to the line. The ground was GS that day and some think he’ll prefer softer ground. The fifth from that race was PLATFORM NINETEEN whose race suggested this drop back in distance will be a benefit. There are several others from that race entered here, but unless fast ground is going to make a huge difference, I think their chances are pretty well known by now. Interestingly THEMAXWECAN is tried with first-time cheekpieces.

PLATFORM NINETEEN Win – THEMAXWECAN e/w

16:45 Ire Incentive, It Pays To Buy Irish Stakes (Fillies’ Hcap) C2, 5f

Oh Hooray, a 5f Fillies Handicap. What could possibly go wrong? TWEET TWEET will be looking for a three-timer and her trainer Declan Carroll has done a fine job of placing her effectively. However, I suspect she is best in a small field so she’s a No. TENAYA CANON has to be fancied with Saffie Osborne’s 5lb gift, but Saffie must run her from the front, a tactic which often works at York – but will also be attempted by several others. EY UP MAGGIE will like the drop back to a fast five, and the cheekpieces have certainly helped to focus her mind. She’s only 2lb wrong of her last York mark and could easily make the podium. PRINCESS POWER is now 5lb better than her last winning mark and has some tidy form.

EY UP MAGGIE Win

17:20 Sky Bet Nursery C2, 6f

I really liked FRANKELLA’s Newmarket win in early July, a race where five of the top nine have won since. 83 I believe is a huge underestimation of her potential and with Oisin taking charge, 12/1 is a ludicrous price. Given his Mill Reef entry,  INSTINCTIVE MOVE must be highly regarded back home, and his Listed debut at Sandown was run on unsuitably soft ground. A mark of 86 also looks generous. PAPA COCKTAIL is being backed – consistently, and I suspect the drop back to 6f after his disappointing run in the Superlative where he set the pace until weakening, will see Jack Mitchell try to use that tactic again.

PAPA COCKTAIL Win – RANKELLA e/w – INSTINCTIVE MOVE e/w

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