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Ebor Handicap preview

The biggest staying handicap in Europe is the Ebor Handicap at York, it's still a great race in its own right and definitely not a procession for favourites. Calum Madell, @calummadell, analyses the race from a trends, rather than form, angle.

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The Ebor Handicap

One of the toughest handicaps of the year but in what will be a different types of preview, I will try and eliminate as many as I can for different reasons, mainly on trends and then on form, ground, trip, draw etc.

1. Ignore front runners and prefer closers

Virtually every one of the last ten winners of the this race have raced off the pace, sometimes well off. The pace is so strong usually in the Ebor that front runners go off too quick and the complexion of the race always changes dramatically. For that reason I'd be against horses such as Bob Le Beau, Sense Of Purpose, Crackentorp, Area Fifty One, Icon Dream (sometimes doesn't), Hurricane Higgins, Hammerfest, Dreamspeed and Royal Diamond.

2. Aged 4-6 years

This takes out Blue Bajan who is 10 and would have to put up something special to win, and Crackentorp, aged 7. All the rest fit this though I would have slight preference for the 5 and 6yos as the extra year can make a big different in a handicap like this. Only two 4yos have won in the past ten years, those being Saint Alebe who was somewhat of a trend breaker and the smart Purple Moon who has a fairly similar profile to Qahriman.

3. Weight no bigger than 9-4

Camborne, Steps To Freedom and Bob Le Beau are all negatives for this reason. Purple Moon and Mephisto both won off 9-4 but there has been no weighted higher since Sea Pigeon in 1979.

After those three factors, we are left with a field of Willing Foe, Alkimos, Number Theory, Tominator, Rock a Doodle Do, Motivado, Harrison's Cave and Qahriman

4. Draw

Although you'd think it wouldn't be a factor, the draw actually is quite significant and the higher the better so that no trouble can be found. 8 of the last 10 winners have come from the top 7 of the high draws. Rock A Doodle Do, Alkimos and Willing Foe all have good draws and that is a real bonus.

5. Betting

Favourites haven't done too well with Purple Moon being the only victor since 1999 while winners have strung from 7/2 to 100/1. Motivado backers cannot be confident with this stat.

6. Form, Trip and Suitability

There's no doubting that favourite Motivado must have a great chance and he comes into the race off a really easy win at Goodwood. However I thought that race was really weak and this is far tougher although with just a 4lb penalty here, he is 6lb well off. I couldn't be backing at the price unless he drifts to around 6/1 then I may be interested. Luca Cumani is a master of York and knows how to get one for a big handicap but it would need to be another stroke of genius for Qahriman to win and his price has disappeared. Number Theory has been specifically running at Haydock lately but did well to just hang on in the Old Newton Cup. He may not be done with his improvement and all ground is fine while the extra 2 furlongs should be okay. I think he can go nicely. Conditions look good for Tominator but I'm not sure he can cope with this mark in this grade as he was beaten in a similar race last year here off 97 too. Godolphin's pair both meet the criteria and both also have good draws and so I'm going to back both WILLING FOE and ALKIMOS. Willing Foe has been thereabouts in big handicaps already and this has looked to be the aim for quite a bit. He was a beaten favourite last time but the winner got a slip on them and he may not have been 100% fit. He will be for this and conditions are ideal. Likewise Alkimos is slipping on to a decent mark and he wasn't beaten far behind Camborne at Ascot and again last time here in the John Smith's. He seems to stay 1m4f well enough and the extra two furlongs shouldn't be much of a problem. If it improves him then he has a big chance while cheekpieces are now also tried. I'm not keen on Harrison's Cave who I find very hard to place and instead the last one to fit trends is the complete outsider ROCK A DOODLE DOO and I must have a tiny e/w on him. He has always promised a big handicap and despite winning at Kempton 3 starts ago, he has been poor the last twice. He is now back onto that winning mark already though. A hood is tried by connections while even though he was beaten here on his last try at 14f, he was hampered and did go off favourite for that race. He can take a hand off this mark with an ideal draw and hopefully a hood to make a big difference. Of the others that didn't pass the criteria, I may be being a little unfair on Icon Dream who doesn't have to race in the rear and is well drawn and not badly treated. Similar could be said for Hammerfest while Camborne fits the bill of a lot of the trends but his weight is a worry. He still looks a group horse in the waiting so it wouldn't be a surprise if he won but he isn't straightforward and could either win or bomb out.

Advice -

Willing Foe 1.5pts e/w @14/1 generally
Alkimos 1pt e/w @33/1 Boylesports
Rock A Doodle Doo 0.5pts e/w @50/1 generally

Read more of Calum's work on this blog, TheYoungRacegoer

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