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Ebor Handicap preview

The Ebor
1m6f, York
preview by Chris Day, @chrisday100


Run over 14 furlongs at a searching pace on the last day of York’s Ebor meeting, the Ebor Handicap is doubtless one of the hardest races of the year to win, targeted by every trainer of a 90 plus staying handicapper in the land from the start of the season.

One who loves to win these big pots with well handicapped runners is Sir Mark Prescott and his Pallasator’s odds have done nothing but contract since he dished out a stylish beating to the subsequent Goodwood winner, Opera Buff, at Ascot at the end of July. Carrying a 4lb penalty for that excellent run cannot be considered punitive but the weights have risen, he’s now got joint top weight and the outside draw to contend with. Tough to beat, no doubt, but not as tempting as he may have been had the top weights stood their ground and he been drawn better.

The other joint top weight is Andrew Balding’s Whiplash Willie, who you could argue has an equal level of form in the book and has won three of his last five races but that does take in over three years. Presumably connections feel he’s worth persevering with and a Salisbury handicap win off a stone lower mark plus a Group 3 placing from two starts this season have vindicated their persistence. Still needs to improve to win this from 107, though.

Winning hurdler, Clever Cookie, is next in getting 5lbs from the top two and has been well backed this week but his form doesn’t appear strong enough in comparison and, at the prices, he’s overlooked for betting purposes although he clearly likes York and should run his race.

Gabrial comes here off a five month break since Meydan and possibly has other targets in mind but Mutual Regard could go well, his two length beating of Edge of Sanity being well advertised over 2 miles here on Wednesday. Connections have booked a good 5lbs claimer but he’s 11lbs higher than his last winning mark and has a difficult draw to overcome. Others appear better treated in comparison.

Bold Sniper, in common with so many of his trainer’s older handicappers, has been beaten favourite in his last 4 handicaps but should improve for the step up in trip and is one I can see going well at each way prices. Placings in the John Smith’s Cup here, Wolferton at Royal Ascot and big handicaps at Newmarket and Goodwood suggest he’s in the ball park and he should be coming home very well from his wide draw. Definite possibilities.

Repeater doesn’t appear reliable enough or well enough handicapped, Suegioo arguably needs further and is badly handicapped after his Chester Cup win and Nearly Caught is a stone higher than his last handicap victory, while Sir Walter Scott may have southern hemisphere targets later in the season and Aussie Reigns has shown nothing to suggest he has a race like this in him.

Great Hall may soon be winning but probably not in this, Elidor seems in the handicapper’s grip, Wadi Al Hattawi ran moderately at Ascot after an eye catching victory over two furlongs shorter here in May and could have more to give over the extra yardage, Van Percy won a Goodwood handicap noted as a trial for this but carries a penalty, Retirement Plan showed improvement for a step up to two miles at Ascot and Ted Veale is only 1lb higher than when fourth in last season’s renewal but has a good 7lb claimer on board. Whether a victory in a Galway chase is ideal preparation could be questioned but his trainer is one of the sharpest and you couldn’t rule this 7 year old out with any certainty.

Of the two reserves, Havana Cooler is much preferred to Glorious Protector but it’s selection time and I’m having three darts in this but only because I’ve backed my main fancy, Mighty Yar at 20-1 a few weeks ago, after seeing him just failing to concede 18lbs to King’s Fete over 12 furlongs of the Knavesmire in mid July. The performance was all the more meritorious given that he almost fell coming out of the stalls but stayed on takingly, looking like he was crying out for the Ebor distance. Not only has King’s Fete franked the form with an excellent Goodwood second despite a slightly injudicious ride, but the third, Whispering Warrior, won at Doncaster next time out, fifth Itlaaq won here on his next start and sixth home, Nicholascopernicus won from an 1lb lower mark at Windsor recently.

His Newmarket victory in May was possibly one of the hottest pieces of handicap form all season and he’s only 9lbs higher, which I believe renders him well in. The trainer won last year’s renewal and the stable have always known what it takes to win the great race. Creeping in off bottom weight and a nice low draw are the icing on the cake for a colt considered to be Group class at the start of the current campaign.

Dangers obviously abound and De Rigeur, from a stable mopping handicaps up with alacrity, actually beat the favourite last time at Haydock yet is 2lbs better in, has a good draw, a rider with a great record in big field York handicaps and winning form over 2 miles. What’s not to like? I have to admit to having taken some 16-1 each way on Wednesday but 12-1 is acceptable for a horse likely to be seeing the race out as well as any.

My final selection and a horse not seen for 77 days, Dare To Achieve, was second favourite when appearing not to handle Epsom last time but he’s only 3lbs higher than when making a winning reappearance at Hamilton and has always been highly thought of by big race York specialist, William Haggas. He hasn’t got the best draw but was favourite in his first five starts and could outrun quotes of 20-1 each way.

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