Saturday marks the final of four fabulous days at York for the Ebor Festival, and I’ve got three selections – including a 9/1 NAP – for the occasion.
1.50 – Flight Plan e/w @ 10/1
In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t oppose short-priced favourite Nostrum for the G3 Strensall Stakes that opens the card. However, amid rumours of a bug in the yard, Sir Michael Stoute is currently operating some way below par and so I think it’s worth trying to get him beat.
The one I’ve – pardon the pun – landed on is Flight Plan each-way (2 places) for Karl Burke.
The three-year-old has always been held in the highest regard at Spigot Lodge – so much so that he was tried in the 2000 Guineas back in May despite failing to win at Listed level prior.
He completely bombed that day, but it’s the only blot on his copybook and it can easily be forgiven due to the deep ground and fact it probably came too soon in his career.
Since then, he’s performed with credit in the G3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot before a career-best showing when going down narrowly to the 109-rated Poker Face at Pontefract just under four weeks ago.
He seems to be getting the hang of things and starting to show his trainer what he’s always seen at home. Hopefully he can show a bit more – which he’ll need to if he’s to win at this level – on ground and over a trip that should really suit.
2.25 – Middle Earth @ 9/1
My NAP for Day 4 of the Ebor Festival is John & Thady Gosden’s Middle Earth in the Melrose – a Heritage Handicap over 1m6f.
To use the old cliché, this three-year-old son of the late Roaring Lion looks very much like a Group horse in a handicap.
He made an extremely promising start to life as a racehorse when second to the 93-rated Westerton on debut at Sandown in the middle of June – a piece of form that’s been well-advertised in the meantime.
After that he went to Kempton and filled the same spot behind stablemate Lion’s Pride, my antepost selection for the Betfred St Leger at Doncaster next month, and just in front of the re-opposing The Goat who won a 0-105 handicap at Glorious Goodwood by an emphatic 12L.
I love that form line and you could argue the selection improved again when he got off the mark in front of the 92-rated, subsequent winner Naqeeeb (a half-brother to Baaeed, no less) at Newmarket around this time last month.
All of the above leads me to believe he’s better than his opening mark of 93 and can go make a bold bid here under Oisin Murphy – and I wouldn’t put anyone off The Goat either, who also has a smashing chance.
4.10 – Gale Force Maya e/w @ 10/1
For my final tip of the day and of the entire Ebor Festival, I’m looking at the Constantine Handicap over 6f.
Usually, I would turn a blind eye to such a race, but there seems to be a bit of a trend lately of older, experienced horses having a lot of success in these contests and I think Michael Dods’ Gale Force Maya can at least go close to supporting that theory.
The seven-year-old has plenty going for him. He loves York, with his form on the Knavesmire reading 313113, quick ground and has proven many times he can back up a quick turnaround, which leads me to believe his latest effort at Pontefract was a bit of a prep run for this.
With Betfred paying 5 places, you’re getting great value for a trainer/horse combo that have been there and got the T-shirt.