By the standards of recent weekends, seven races is a quiet Saturday afternoon on ITV Racing. Each of those seven races is crammed into less than two and a half hours though as the final day of York’s Ebor Festival takes place at the same time as Sandown’s Summer Celebration.
The bulk of the racing comes from York where the Ebor Handicap is the feature race of the day. It’s well worth keeping an eye on the racing from Sandown as well though as some highly promising horses run in the two ITV races. We’ve made our picks from both York and Sandown for what should be another excellent Saturday of racing with the action coming thick and fast.
1:50 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Strensall Stakes
Group 3, 1m1f
It’s always great when rivalries develop between horses and we have a developing rivalry in the York opener. Mighty Ulysses got the better of Alflaila when they met at Newmarket and the Gosdens’ horse is the 11/8 favourite to come out on top once again.
Owen Burrows and Jim Crowley will feel that the extra run Alflaila had, winning a Listed race against some good opponents at Pontefract, could give him the edge in terms of fitness but the form just isn’t as strong as the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes. Alflaila’s best chance is if Marie’s Diamond sets a strong pace early on but there aren’t any others who like to race prominently so Mighty Ulysses should be able to sit just back of the leaders and then use his finishing speed to full effect and get the job done.
2:05 JRL Group Atalanta Stakes
Group 3, 1m
It has been very interesting to keep an eye on the results of the first-season sires this season. The likes of Sioux Nation, Cracksman and Harry Angel are starting to have some success but they have an awful long way to go before they can compete against sires of Kingman. He continues to rack up the winners and his daughter Laurel won in taking style on her debut last month at Newmarket.
John and Thady Gosden have chosen not to run Laurel in the JRL Group Atalanta Stakes for her next outing leaving another of their charges, Grande Dame, as the favourite to take on some older fillies. Grande Dame had only one runner behind her in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot but bounced back in style over course and distance last month in the Coral Distaff. Grande Dame’s natural ability, her training, and the 6lb three-year-old allowance she gets should level the playing field and let her class show, resulting in a third win of the season at odds of 2/1 which we think are more than fair.
2:25 Sky Bet Melrose Handicap
Class 2, 1m6f
The fact that a £150,000 prize pot is not the richest of the day in a handicap at York tells you just how big the upcoming Ebor Handicap is. The Melrose is a breeding ground for the Ebor as it’s run over the same course and distance but is open only to three-year-olds. That means we are on the lookout for an improving stayer who has been underestimated by the handicapper, although with just one winning favourite in the last 10 years that is no easy task.
William Haggas and Hollie Doyle are hopeful they can end that miserable run for favourites and Soulcombe certainly looks to be well treated off a mark of just 83. For all that he has a favourite’s chance, there isn’t much to like about odds of 10/3, especially when Inverness is available at the incredibly tempting 12/1. Charlie Hills’ charge actually beat Soulcombe at Goodwood last time out. That run came over 1m4f which isn’t long enough for him to be fully effective. An official rating of 89 gives Inverness plenty of scope to run very well so back him each way and hope he goes all the way to win.
2:40 Fasig-Tipton Night Of The Stars Solario Stakes
Group 3, 7f
The Fasig-Tipton Night Of The Stars Solario Stakes is always used as a trial for the following year’s Classics and we have a very interesting contest brewing in this year’s edition as Desert Hero (9/4) for the Queen takes on Godolphin’s Silver Knott (7/2).
The Queen and all who work for her racing operation are always especially keen for a Derby contender and they look to have one in Desert Hero. He can already be backed at 33/1 for the 2023 Epsom showpiece and can build on the very strong impression he gave on debut to take this step up in class in his stride at a nice price.
3:00 Sky Bet City Of York Stakes
Group 2, 7f
Some bookmakers are struggling to separate Sacred and Sandrine in the betting for the Sky Bet City Of York Stakes. Those who have made a decision tend to come down in favour of the former but surely that downplays the chances of Sandrine who can be backed at 9/2.
The battle between the top two comes down to whether or not you think Sandrine’s win at 12/1 in the Lennox Stakes was a bit of a fluke or if it represented a considerable improvement in her form. Those of the former opinion will point out that Sacred had a poor start and came on strongly late on but that suggests that a step up in trip from 7f would be the wise move. Sandrine gives her best over this distance and should have no problem keeping up with the likely strong pace before moving clear to win at a generous price.
3:35 Sky Bet Ebor Handicap
Class 2, 1m6f
A race as competitive as the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap is ripe for profiling. Instead of studiously picking through the form of all of the 22 runners, it makes sense to first rule some out using trends and obvious stats. Thus, those drawn either too high or too low can be jettisoned as the middle of the course is the place to be. Of those between stalls eight and 18, you can forget those who race too prominently while the trends suggest a rating of between 103-108 is the sweet spot.
One interesting runner who ticks most of the right boxes is John Leeper. There is no getting away from the obvious issue with Ed Dunlop’s four-year-old – he has been disappointing this season. However, a step down into handicap company could prove to be a stroke of genius. His genuine class should help him overcome a lack of experience in this sort of race while his ability to work through the pack and score late on over longer trips is perfect for the Ebor so quotes of 12/1 interest for each way support.
4:10 Sky Bet Constantine Handicap
Class 2, 6f
Hold-up horses tend to have the better of it at York but that tendency changes when it comes to the shorter sprint trips. Those who take an early lead, or at least race prominently, are often able to hang on for the win on the Knavesmire and connections of Aleezdancer hope he can follow that pattern to claim a very big result on Saturday.
Winning a race that looks as competitive as the Sky Bet Constantine Handicap is a big ask for the three-year-old but Kevin Ryan knows more than most about getting steady improvement from classy sprinters. Aleezdancer has lots of room for improvement but has already shown that he comes alive on the galloping tracks like York. He’s also had some big results at this time of year and although the win might be a step too far, Aleezdancer looks another very solid each way option at a big price of 14/1.