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We’ve had a lot of interest in our preview of York’s Ebor Festival, and also a lot of people asking why we don’t cover horse racing as much as Sports Betting Tips. Well, if you were subscribed in March, you would have seen our daily free Cheltenham Festival tips. And the truth is, we are very much fans of National Hunt Racing, as opposed to flat racing in the UK. With flat racing, very few horses stick around past their three year-old career – a champion three year-old is worth millions at stud, so many are retired after the Breeders Cups.
However, some do stay in training longer, although these tend to be stayers, or your more ‘journeymen’ horses, not really the cream of the crop. Yes, Frankle did have a four year-old career, but he was a freak of nature! So, anyway, it makes it harder to follow horses in the longer term on the flat. Over the jumps, a horse can start in bumpers at a young age, then progress through the ranks and continue racing until it’s well past 10, barring any injury. So you can keep better notes on form, how it handles various grounds, distances and the like.
However, because of the interest we had in our Ebor Festival preview, we thought we would take a look at the racing, and we’re going to start by looking at Day One of York’s Ebor Festival, which starts on Wednesday 19th August, and the first race is at 1:55.
1:55 Symphony Group Stakes
The first race of the day is a class 2 Handicap over 5 furlongs, and given the field size of 20, it’s a bookies’ benefit to start the four day Ebor Festival. Since it’s the first race, we don’t know if there’s any draw bias, although, to be fair to York racecourse, it’s one of the fairest tracks in the United Kingdom.
The race seemingly tends to favour horses higher up the handicap, probably because they have the best form. On stats, we should be looking at horses carrying something over the 9 stone mark. The last two winners of the race, Blaine (2014) and Bogart (2013), were drawn 15, they were 4 years old and trained by Kevin Ryan. Blaine carried 9st 5lbs, Bogart9st 7lbs. Lucky Beggar is drawn 15, but he’s 5 years old and trained by Charlie Hills, so no hat-trick here.
Our first selection of the day is an each-way bet on the ten year-old Silvanus. The race is a tricky one to work out, which is why there’s little separating most of the field in the betting. Graham Lee is a good booking, Silvanus comes into the racing in some of the best form of his life, so we think he can make it a hat-trick. But this is a race to play carefully on, so a small each-way bet is advised here.
2:30 Acomb Stakes
Ten two year-olds have been declared for one of the biggest races for this age group. It’s an exciting field,with many of the leading them being lightly raced. It’s run over 7 furlongs, and it can be a good pointed for horses to follow in the following year. Although not many go on to great things, if they train on, they will be worth following.
The trends point to a horse that knows how to win, preferably last time out, with a break of around 18 days preferred since its last time out. One horse that fits the bill exactly Humphrey Bogart, so we’re going to select the Richard Hannon trained colt for the Acomb Stakes. He won last time out at Doncaster, his first run at Southwell on the all-weather isn’t bad form either, and this race is wide open to an improver, which Humphrey Bogart looks to be. There’s a bit of value to be had on the price currently, as the bookies are finding it tough to separate the field yet again.
3:05: Great Voltigeur Stakes
Perhaps the second biggest race of the day, the Great Voltigeur is a Group 2 race run over 1 mile 4 furlongs, and there is a field of 7 declared to race.
Like the first two races of the day, this is quite an open race, and the bookies are currently going 3/1 the field. Given the size of the field, it’s quite surprising nothing is standing out to the books. Truthfully, though, this race is all about Storm The Stars, sired by the amazing Sea The Stars. Storm hasn’t lived up to his sire’s billing, winning twice on the turf, but then living up to Sea The Stars was near-on impossible.
It’s hard to find a trend for this race, as previous results have been all over the place. However, the favourite has got up the past two years, which might just point you to Storm The Stars, and there’s no denying he’s a quality horse, going well in several Group 1s, finishing third in the Epsom Derby. But there’s a horse open to improvement that’s caught our eye, which is Bondi Beach. Aiden O’Brien knows how to win the big races, and this lightly raced son of Galileo looks like he is constantly improving. His win over Order of St George last time out at the Curragh has worked out well, and he looks like he can build on that with Joseph O’Brien on-board.
3:40 Juddmonte International
The most anticipated race of the year so far, possibly, as Golden Horn takes on Gleneagles over 1 mile 2 furlongs in what is a classic renewal of the Juddmonte International. The question here is will Gleneagles get the 10 furlongs? We know what he can do over the mile, but that extra two furlongs is an unknown, and to find out against the undefeated Golden Horn looks a step too far.
However, we can’t in good conscience offer up an Epsom Derby winner at odds-on as our selection, so back The Grey Gatsby as a solid each-way bet, as he’s never been out of the first two at York, and we know what he can do over the distance. Sure, Golden Horn has him beat on form, but when you’re looking at a double-figure price on this classy individual, it would be silly not to back him each way, given the fact that the other main competitors have question marks over them. Gleneagles, will he stay? And Time Test’s form lines have not worked out well at all coming out of Ascot. A Golden Horn, The Grey Gatsby one-two would be the prediction here, and if the big grey can actually nip a win, even better.
4:20 Fine Equinity Stakes
A 17-runner 2 mile handicap is just what the doctor ordered after such a high-quality race prior to this. Four and five year olds have the statistical advantage in this race, so we’ll turn our attention there. We also don’t want a horse that won last time out, with preference coming to those horses that have been warmed-up for this race with more of a training run last time out. No trainer or hockey has a real advantage here either, so it’s purely going to be down to form after this.
Sweeping Up looks like a typical Hughie Morrison bolter. Lightly races, tried out in Group territory, dropping down in class and up in trip. His win at Sandown is working out quite well, so it wouldn’t surprise us to see Sweeping Up take the longer race on today’s card down. It’s another wide-open race, but Sweeping Up ticks a lot of the boxes.
4:55 Betway Stakes
Another race for two-year-olds and it’s a 6 furlong spring in what will be Wednesday’s ‘lucky last’. This is only the third running of this race, so we’ve got little historical data to go on. Felix Leiter was an obvious winner on paper of last year’s race, going off 3/1 favourite and winning. Being a two year-old handicap makes it a tricky race to get out of any holes you might find yourself in, and 17 runners makes finding a winner just that little bit harder.
However, Reputation looks to have some stand-out form in an otherwise tricky field. Reputation will be shouldering a feather-light weight of 8st 9lbs, and has only had two runs, both at York over the 6 furlong distance. Last time out, he won by a head from Point of Woods, who went on to win next time out. In fact, from the four horses that finished behind, two have gone on to win next time out. But it’s the experience at York that really grabs us, because at that age, it’s those kind of things that are important to a horse. The saying, ‘Horses for courses’ exists for a reason.
So, that’s our look at Day One of York’s Ebor Festival. It’s a tricky day punctuated by some class races and bookended by a couple of tricky-looking handicaps. We will have more to come during the week, but for now, enjoy the racing.
(Picture credit: York Racecourse)