Yorkshire’s Ebor Festival Up There With Nation’s Best
Horse racing’s return has been a successful one. After three months of no racing at all we’ve now had Classics, great TV, some memorable races – and a gradual coming to terms of the new system from punters, riders, stables, bookmakers and horses alike.
And while behind closed doors racing isn’t where we want to be, the industry is relieved that racing is going ahead and punters still want to make their horse racing bets as before.
The Ebor Festival in York (19th – 22nd August) has become Yorkshire’s finest and grandest horse racing meeting. Indeed, some commentators have suggested that for sheer quality alone, the meet is on a par with Ascot.
This year’s behind closed doors event is no different, with three Group 1 races and the most valuable handicap in Europe in pure prize money terms.
The Ebor Festival is four days of prime horse racing right on our doorsteps – and ITV Racing’s award winning coverage will be showing five races on each of the four days.
Each day has an elite level race and the eponymous handicap and what a start it promises to be on Wednesday with the Juddmonte International Stakes.
The 1 mile, 2 furlong middle-distancer is considered one of the country’s top races for years three and over. And although there’s little argument in Ghaiyyath topping the betting after what he did in the Eclipse, there’s so much quality in the field punters could be torn between Qatar Racing’s Rose of Kildare or the 4/1 shots, Lord North or Magical.
Whatever the outcome, it’s a great start for a brilliant festival.
On Thursday is the festival’s oldest race, The Yorkshire Oaks. It’s a Group 1 race open to fillies and mares aged three years or older. Past winners include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Dar Re Mi and The Fugue.
The best five furlong sprint in the world sees Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien’s sensational Epsom Oaks and 1000 Guineas winner Love a clear 2/5 favourite. Love trounced the opposition at Epsom, winning by an astonishing nine lengths.
Don’t be put off your each ways though, with James Doyle on Franconia and Tom Marquand on One Voice around 6 or 7/1. Either could still have a big say in the £400,000 purse.
Friday sees the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes – one of the premier sprints of the season. It’s a quickie, though – just five short furlongs at a blistering pace from the off. It’s a real adrenaline rush.
If the ground suits him, course record breaking Battaash (4/9) will be difficult to beat after reaching speeds of 46mph in last year’s victory – and its racing having just recently trashed its own course record at Goodwood’s King George Qatar Stakes. The defending champion looks a class apart, but unbeaten Art Power (11/4) is on an upward curve and could surprise, and Norfolk based A’Ali (7/1), trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, is interesting some smart punters.
“Strength to strength”
Also on Friday, watch out for the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup over two miles. Franie Dettori has the most victories in an ever-improving race run since 1997, with the betting headed by John Gosden’s Enbihaar (2/1) and Nayef Road trained by Yorkshire’s own Mark Johnston.
The festival finishes with a bang on Saturday with the its title race, The Sky Bet Ebor Handicap Stakes. Already the richest Flat handicap in Britain worth over £1 million, there’s a maximum field of extremely high quality stayers ready to battle it out – and the race is always devilishly difficult for punters to pick their finishers.
Recent winners have included a 33/1 shot who hadn’t raced in 18 months and, in 2006, a 100/1 outsider in Mudawin.
This year, Roger Varian’s Fujaira Prince is the early favourite, coming in to currently 7/1. Varian’s stable is a punter favourite this year and the sheer consistency of the horse means sensible betters will be drooling.
But ignore Alan King’s Trueshan at your peril. With a lifetime record of 11 wins in 18 races its proving a revelation on the intermediates and it took the Listed Tapster Stakes on its last outing at Haydock.
Northumberland Plate winner Caravan of Hope is a clever bet at around 14/1 – that win has certainly given trajectory to its chances of success and Verdana Blue (16/1) could feature if the ground is like lightning.
Without doubt the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is one of the highlights of the flat season.
However you’re currently enjoying your horse racing, here’s hoping the Ebor Festival continues to take Yorkshire horse racing from strength to strength. Certainly the sight of two dozen premium horses careening down the Knavesmire should be enough – for now – for any racing lover.
And maybe one day, who knows, even Royal Ascot might need to start looking over its shoulder.