Tweed looks good to me
Alex Hammond previews this week's action at York and she has a strong each-way fancy in Saturday's Ebor Handicap.
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The feature race on Friday is the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes over five furlongs. Mike de Kock's runner has come in for support in the ante-post market but Frankie Dettori's mount is plenty short enough in what looks an open contest.
He was beaten by Sole Power in the King's Stand and then finished fourth in the July Cup over an extra furlong in front of the same rival. He deserves to win a top European prize to go with his victory in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March and he's won nearly half of his 21 starts to date.
Sole Power looks like getting his favoured fast ground and is hard to stop over the minimum trip given his optimum conditions. His jockey Johnny Murtagh is making a good job of training horses but is still being called on by other trainers on the big occasion and things are going very well for him in the saddle. He comes to York for some choice rides and is happy and full of confidence at the moment.
Moviesta is an improving three-year-old trained by Bryan Smart for a group of owners that include Harry Redknapp. He's gets a handy 2lb weight-for-age allowance which will help him but I always think it's tough for three-year-old sprinters against their more mature race-hardened rivals. Having said that, he beat older horses in a Group 2 at Goodwood last time out and he goes well here so can make his presence felt.
The horse he beat last time out was Swiss Spirit who has been knocking on the door and John Gosden's charge will pop up in a big race before too long.
Slade Power also represents Eddie Lynam, but I feel that a fast five furlongs on quick ground may suit his stablemate Sole Power better. He's a top drawer sprinter but I feel six furlongs beings out the best in him.
Kingsgate Native won this as a juvenile and has recaptured some of his form for Robert Cowell this season. He was well beaten by Moviesta at Goodwood though but on his day is still very good.
I'm hoping Johnny Murtagh still has the Midas touch and can win again on Sole Power.
The Lonsdale Cup also takes place on Friday and we could see Ascot Gold Cup winner Estimate bidding to follow up her Royal Ascot triumph. She has a 4lb penalty for that win which makes life harder but the drop back to two miles won't be a problem. She is still lightly-raced and there ought to be more to come from the Queen's filly.
Aidan O'Brien looks like running Ernest Hemingway who has won his last two, beating Royal Diamond on both occasions. He was going away at the end of the Curragh Cup over 1m 6f so the extra couple of furlongs should suit.
Willie Mullins looks like running Ascot Gold Cup winner Simenon and he is also a leading contender.
This is the type of race I love and I'll be able to make more of an informed view when declarations are made but at this stage I like Ernest Hemingway.
The Ebor Handicap is the big betting race of the week and is the highlight on Saturday's card. It's such a tough race to call, especially at this early stage, but there are a few horses that warrant particular mention.
Opinion is clearly one of those for Sir Michael Stoute. The horse won the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot and then was well fancied for the Old Newton Cup at Haydock but didn't get the clearest of runs.
The rain may not come in time for Sir Mark Prescott's charge Pallasator. This is the sort of horse it's easy to latch on to. Not only is he trained by the handicap king, but he has a lightly-raced progressive profile that screams 'group horse in a handicap'! However, he is ground dependent and that is the concern.
Trainer David Simcock has a couple of live chances with Sheikhzayedroad and Montaser. The former has seen the back of Forgotten Voice on his last 2 starts and looks sure to appreciate the step up to 1m 6f after his efforts over shorter to date. He's an improving horse.
Montaser was also in the race behind Forgotten Voice at Goodwood last time out, he was fourth there, one place behind his stablemate. He is proven over this course and distance and will appreciate stepping back up in trip.
Roger Charlton's Bishop Roko is a horse with an improving profile but he is very inexperienced having run just the four times. He won a mile and a half handicap at Ascot at the end of last month where he looked brave despite his inexperience and he seems to have a good attitude. He carries a 4lb penalty for that win.
Tiger Cliff was beaten by Well Sharp in the Ascot Stakes last time out and if you backed him you may feel a touch hard done by. He was tackling two-and-a-half miles for the first time there and was given every chance to get the trip. Unfortunately, the race didn't go his way and didn't give the winner anything to worry about. The drop back in trip should suit him.
Jonjo O'Neill's Well Sharp hasn't run since then and the drop back in trip shouldn't be a problem. He has winning form over two miles at this track but may just prefer a bit of give in the ground.
The Peter Chapple-Hyam trained Caravan Rolls On is another deserved of a mention. He hasn't had a busy season with just the three starts. He will be suited by the way this race is run and it was probably the lack of pace that was his undoing last time out.
Harris Tweed is trained by William Haggas who is making a habit of winning decent races at this track. He saddled the first two home in the John Smith's Cup and this horse looks capable of landing another valuable handicap for the Newmarket handler.
The horse may have top weight here, but he is effectively well-in as he only carries a 4lb penalty despite being raised 10lbs for his recent Goodwood win. He has some fair form on the Knavesmire despite his trainer having reservations about the suitability of the track for his six-year-old.
Haggas also has Sun Central in the race. He's a different proposition to Harris Tweed. He's a four-year-old with just the nine starts to his name and he's won four of them. He's a proven performer at York having won over this course and distance last time out. He will enjoy fast ground and has been perked up by the application of cheekpieces.
Anything that Irish trainer Tony Martin runs in these types of races merits plenty of respect and Ted Veale comes here having only run three times on the flat. He was a very smart novice hurdler last season and won the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival back in March. His last start came in the Galway Hurdle where he was 8th behind Missunited. The ground was heavy that day and Martin feels he will be better suited to a sounder surface.
So, not an easy race to call, but I give an each way chance to Harris Tweed despite carrying top weight.
Some classy colts are entered in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes with plenty of trainers heading to York for this valuable prize.
Aidan O'Brien sends Wilshire Boulevard over for the race after the colt won the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh last time out over six-and-a-half furlongs. Prior to that he disappointed in the Windsor Castle and he's by no means one of the leading juveniles at Ballydoyle.
Kevin Ryan won this race last year and he has Astaire and Sleeper King entered in this six furlong event. Astaire is a lovely horse and although he was a bit keen in the July Stakes he bounced back to win a conditions race at Newmarket comfortably making all the running.
Richard Fahey runs Parbold who won here on his debut, he's smart but he is yet to encounter faster ground. He was second to War Command in the Coventry, but that race doesn't look the strongest at this stage.
William Haggas has Saayerr who carries a penalty for his win in the Group Two Richmond at Goodwood last time out.
I think Astaire has every chance of giving Kevin Ryan successive winners in this race.
Sole Power in the Nunthorpe Stakes @ 4/1
Ernest Hemingway in the Lonsdale Cup
Harris Tweed (each-way) in the Ebor Handicap @33/1 with Sky Bet
Astaire in the Gimcrack Stakes