Nick Wilby from Ebor-Festival.com discusses the the top five horses leading the race for the Ebor Handicap at York.
The Ebor Handicap is the big betting highlight of York's four-day festival of racing in August, and we've identified five horses that have got what it takes to win it.
Ask punters which race they would most like to back the winner of over the course of the festival and it's odds-on most would say the Ebor as the potential reward is huge, with some tasty odds on offer.
Just one horse is being quoted at a single figure price in the current ante post betting list and it won't be much different on the day, with bookmakers going all out to attract your hard-earned. But which horses should you be investing in?
Firstly, a caveat. The race has thrown up its fair share of shock down the years and the victory for 100/1 shot Mudawin in 2006 is still fresh in the memory, while there have been a couple of 25/1 winners since.
That said, this is a race that trainers like to target and that clearly applies to the following five horses who, granted some luck in running, look sure to be in the shake-up – we've included the best prices currently on offer in brackets.
Sir Michael Stoute's charge is already a single figure price, admittedly, but he has the potential to shorten up considerably. A useful sort last season, he's taken his form to another level this term, starting off with a good third in a hot 1m4f handicap at Newmarket, before landing the ultra competitive Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot by two lengths. He wasn't able to follow that up in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock last time, finishing fifth, but had an excuse there. Travelling well in the home straight, he was constantly denied a clear run when trying to mount his challenge and was closing in on the leaders at the line. The extra furlongs at York could suit him ideally.
The four-year-old has twice finished behind Opinion this season but would have needed the run at Newmarket on his reappearance and then was scuppered by a bad draw at Royal Ascot, where he had to make up loads of ground from his wide berth before staying on into second. Lady Luck was against him next time too in York's John Smith's Cup, being drawn widest of all and once again having to make up stacks of ground on a winner ridden much more prominently, so it was to his credit he finished runner-up again. The handicapper has nudged him up but he still looks on a fair mark and, like Opinion, may have more to offer at the longer trip.
Jonjo O'Neill is better known as a jumps trainer but he's making a habit of winning valuable staying handicaps on the flat, including the Ascot Stakes (2m4f) with Well Sharp. The five-year-old lived up to his name at the royal meeting, running out an impressive scorer from the smart Tiger Cliff, which was following on from a handicap success at York over two miles. He's clearly not short of stamina and that could prove a valuable asset in a race which is always run at a good pace. Expect him to come late and fast.
William Haggas' four-year-old is another with strong credentials and gives the Newmarket handler a strong hand, with stablemate Stencive also in the potential line-up. The son of Galileo can also boats some strong course form with a win over course and distance on his CV, that coming in last month's John Smith's Silver Cup, when he had his rivals strung out behind like washing. He's been raised to a mark of 108 as a result but the Ebor weight range is always quite narrow, meaning there's little differential between the top and bottom weight. He's a horse who likes to hear his hooves rattle so the faster the ground the better for him.
Given past results it's definitely worth having a good look further down the betting lists for the winner and one horse who could belie his odds is the Ian Williams-trained Genzy. He was a class act when trained by Jonathan Pease in France, where the pick of his from was a head second to triple Group1 winner Meandre in a Listed race at Longchamp in 2011, and he hasn't done a lot wrong since moving to his current yard. Last time out he was just touched off by a head in a decent 1m4f handicap at Ascot, and he can also boast placed efforts in two Listed races behind the useful Faraaj and Noble Mission. He races as if the step up to 1m6f will show him in an even better light.
The last winning favourite was Purple Moon in 2007 but punters could well be toasting another this time around as the likely market leader Opinion looks to have plenty going for him. He could well a point or two shorter on the day. Genzy looks best of those at bigger prices and is well worth an each-way bet at current odds.