My Stable: York hopefuls
Ben Linfoot, Ian Ogg and Matt Brocklebank select two horses from their My Stable trackers they hope to see at the Ebor Meeting.
American Hope (Mike Murphy)
‘It’s a killer isn’t it?’ So said trainer Mike Murphy after American Hope’s heart-breaking defeat in the one-mile handicap at Ascot on King George day. Yes it was, Mike, yes it was. But we could get our money back at York with the Lemon Drop Kid colt set to lead them a merry dance in the Sky Bet City Of York Stakes. The drop to seven looks perfect for this strong travelling sort who likes to race prominently and in that respect York looks ideal. He first went into my tracker when finishing a close-up sixth in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot despite racing on the wrong side and after his last two starts, his first on turf, he looks every inch a pattern-race performer. He’s already gone close in Listed company on the all-weather and after being robbed last time I can’t wait to see him make amends (hopefully) on the Knavesmire.
Pretzel (John Gosden)
Pretzel is a horse that has been in ‘My Stable’ since he won a maiden on debut at Newmarket last October for Roger Varian. After he was allotted a mark of 83 I was falling over myself to back him for a handicap on the July Course at the end of May but as luck would have it he bumped into another ‘group horse in a handicap’ in the form of Mark Johnston’s subsequent Royal Ascot winner Muteela. Still, losses were recouped in a fashion when he won off 90 up at Ayr at 10/11 on what was his final start for Varian. A step up to Listed company coincided with his first start for John Gosden and he was again a tad unfortunate on the July Course, this time being mugged by Aidan O’Brien’s Table Rock. However, I’m convinced it will pay to keep the faith with this New Approach colt who should now benefit for a step up in trip. Obviously, given his sire, you would expect him to thrive over further and he’s a half-brother to the classy mare Dalvina who stayed a mile-and-a-half. Now rated 109, Pretzel looks the ideal type for the Group Three Betfred Strensall Stakes with the gentle step up in trip to nine furlongs set to unlock further improvement. Gosden has won the race twice before with Lower Egpyt in 1994 and Binary File in 2002, and hopefully he’s got the contest pencilled in for Pretzel as it looks an ideal stepping stone for the progressive three-year-old.
War Alert (David Brown)
David Brown’s filly failed to live up to market expectations on debut at Windsor but she did run a race full of promise in third. The runner-up opened her account two starts later before running a highly respectable fourth in Listed company and the winner, Son Of Africa, could well be up to that class judged by his taking all the way success in a Glorious Goodwood nursery from a mark of 83; a view backed up by his trainer’s assessment and his Champagne Stakes entry. There was no disgrace, therefore, in defeat and the 270,000 guineas purchase duly stepped up on her initial effort to score by half a length back at the Berkshire venue when not looking ideally suited by the drop to the minimum trip. Her handler immediately nominated the Lowther as her next race and, although improvement is clearly required, it will be fascinating to see how this exciting filly copes with the steep step up in class.
Great Hall (John Quinn)
Formerly with Brian Meehan, a bright start to last season saw this son of Halling take his chance in the St Leger but this ‘shell of a horse’ struggled on his first run outside handicap company, beating two home in the Classic and finishing some 15 lengths behind Leading Light. A trip to Dubai for the winter only realised one respectable run from two starts but he returned to action for his new connections with a fine run at York over a mile six last month. He was entitled to need the outing, his first since February, and the run should serve as an ideal pointer for the Ebor. He’s had just nine career starts so has plenty of scope for improvement, even more so when you take into account the comments of his previous connections about his lack of physical maturity. His new team had to dig deep at 140,000 guineas to pick up the four-year-old at the sales but it would be no surprise if that started to look like money well spent in a couple of runs time as Great Hall has plenty of scope for the future.
Pearl Castle (John Quinn)
Pearl Castle is a horse I’ve liked for a long time now and I was present when he bolted up by 16 lengths in a novice hurdle at Doncaster in January, after which I had a nibble for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. A subsequent success back on Town Moor the following month kept the dream alive but it wasn’t to be at the Festival as he came home seventh, over 20 lengths adrift of Tiger Roll. However, he wasn’t disgraced in the top-class event at Punchestown and has made an impression on me since switching back to the Flat. Serena Brotherton used all her experience to guide the four-year-old home in the Queen Mother’s Cup over a mile and a half at York in June and John Quinn’s charge then ran another belter when fourth behind Kings Fete and Mighty Yar over the same course and distance last month. He has been left on a mark of 92 which is a bit of a shame as, currently number 70 on the list, he’s far from guaranteed a place in the Ebor but I’m convinced there’s a big prize to be won with this improving animal and his latest sixth to Thomas Edison in the Galway Hurdle suggests it could come in either code.
Running Deer (Eve Johnson Houghton)
Running Deer was becoming rather frustrating for her previous trainer before winning at York last October, but new handler Eve Johnson Houghton has found the key to the mare this season and it would be no surprise if she returned to the Knavesmire this time. A narrow success on her debut for the yard at Windsor in April was followed by a couple of reasonable efforts before she claimed a valuable pot over 10 furlongs at Chester in June. She disappointed subsequently off a 6lb higher mark at Salisbury but bounced straight back to form with an eyecatching effort at Glorious Goodwood, and there could still be some mileage in her handicap mark of 90. Beaten only by Magique and a couple of improving three-year-olds on the Sussex Downs, Running Deer was doing some good work at the finish of that nine-furlong contest and, having been tried over distances as far a mile and three-quarters by the Cecils, a step back up in trip looks sure to suit next time.
Richard Fahey, David O'Meara, Niall Hannity and Mark Howard are on the panel for a special York Ebor Meeting preview night, to be held at the racecourse on Tuesday August 19.