It may be one of the biggest Flat handicaps in the UK on Saturday but York’s Ebor handicap could go to an Irish National Hunt trainer or Aidan O’Brien.
Mutual Regard won it for me as a trainer last year. He travelled strongly, stayed two miles well in previous races and that definitely helps when trying to identify the winner.
Even though the race is over 1m 6f they go hard all the way. It’s a long straight at York and you need a horse who runs all the way to the line and doesn’t start sending out distress signals as the tank starts flashing red.
Aidan O’Brien Fields of Athenry is among the market leaders and his son Donnacha takes a valuable 5lb off his back.
He could be a Group horse lurking in a handicap. But as a three-year-old, carrying 9-3, he’ll probably have to be to win this.
Willie Mullins throws two darts at the board with Frankie Dettori on Royal Ascot winner Clondaw Warrior and promising 7lb claimer Jack Kennedy riding County Hurdle winner Wicklow Brave.
It’s hard to believe Clondaw Warrior was running off 52 last year but is now rated 105 after winning some nice races. He probably needs a career best to win the Ebor but if he’s still improving he can make them all go off bottom weight.
Wicklow Brave is talented and you could probably ignore his last run on the flat at Royal Ascot. He travelled well though and has lots of ability and will like any dig in the ground.
Who fits the bill
But I’m sticking with last month’s Galway Hurdle winner Quick Jack (above) as my idea of the winner. He actually beat Friday’s Lonsdale Cup winner Max Dynamite at Ballybrit over hurdles and before that finished second behind Trip to Paris in the Chester Cup.
Tony Martin has a great knack of targeting his horses at the right races and he looks a big player.
Luca Cumani and Godolphin have both had the winner here twice in the last 12 years so you’d have to respect that. Cumani runs Adjar Bridge and Godolphin’s course winner Wadi Al Hattawi looks like he’s been kept with this in mind.
But the Irish challenge look very deep.
Selection: Quick Jack Alternative: Wadi Al Hattawi
The top two in the market are the two highest-rated and BURATINO can make up for his defeat at the Curragh last time – if he takes his chance.
Mark Johnston’s colt bolted up at Epsom before beating Ballydoyle’s Air Force Blue at Royal Ascot but both those wins were on good to firm. Aidan O’Brien’s colt reversed the form on softer ground at the Curragh but there’s a chance Buratino had gone off the boil slightly after a break.
I’d take him to bounce back here but he wouldn’t want anymore rain. Wesley Ward has been bigging up Finnegan but Ajaya has some solid Group 2 form in the book and his trainer William Haggas is flying at York.
Selection: Buratino Alternative: Ajaya