'I've got so many tickets I can't lose'
Will Hayler blogs live from the final day of the York Ebor Festival, featuring the Ebor Handicap itself.
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1800: The mass exodus to the taxi and bus queues (does York have a higher proportion of racegoers who arrive by public transport than any other track?) begins, just as the race really begins to get going again. It's going to be a wet walk home for some, and to some extent it's an appropriately soggy ending at the end of a meeting that still for some seems a day too long at four. But there have been some fantastic headlines, some results to relish and some thrilling finishes to savour. Judging by your emails, you've backed a few winners as well this week. And that, my friends, is what it's all about.
1745: Sadly the answer is no, as the well-backed Threes Grand, the 5/1 joint-favourite, leads home a finish of market-leaders with his fellow favourite Hoofalong in second. If only it had been so easy all week. I think many punters even after watching the Nunthorpe were left wondering how on earth Jwala could have been located, but such is the nature of the game.
1720: Richard Fahey still looking for his first winner of the Ebor meeting and rapidly running out of bullets to fire. Can Mary's Daughter or Bispham Green deliver the goods?
1715: In case Wayne F is reading this, trainer Ian Williams has just admitted that Genzy might have left the Ebor behind by running at Newbury last weekend. I'm sure this news will prove of comfort to you.
1707: Sennockian Star is denied by Sam Sharp with Richard Fahey's Hi There third. The winner is owned by Noel Martin, a truly inspiring man, and it's a pleasure to see him here to welcome him into the winner's enclosure.
1656: I could see Sennockian Star being hard to pass here if Joe Fanning can get to the front without having to do too much. But I mustn't fall into the traditional major meeting trap of throwing all of the good work out of the window with some reckless bets on the closing contests. No, I mustn't. No. I mustn't.
1650: Word reaches me of a stewards' inquiry - a la that famous Eurovision moment when Terry Wogan announced the wrong winner - of the best-dressed lady competition. The manager of a well-known hotel chain in York managed to award the star prize - an all-expenses stay at his hotel - to the wrong winner, leading to some confusion among the contestants. Hopefully all will be resolved amicably and we won't have any flying stilettos.
1640: Harris Tweed just holds off the persistent challenge of Mount Athos to win at Goodwood. He'd surely have gone very, very close in the Ebor today with the ground right up his street. Bad luck Hadley. Another few strides and you'd have got there.
1635: Lest there be any remaining doubt as to why York racecourse is quite such a great place to come to, I have just returned from the babies and toddlers' room (long story) where I have taken advantage of the free nappies of all sizes provided (courtesy of Tesco) to change my kids because their parents were too busy arguing to pack them anything suitable. They even put a television in the aforementioned room so that I was able to watch Hot Streak (the winner of the much, much talked-about Read Richard Fahey on Sportinglife.com Maiden Stakes on his debut, for which he was picked out as the best-turned-out by one of the shrewdest paddock judges around) take the Roses Stakes from Mecca's Angel. They even had milk, food and sunscreen in there. As if the press don't get well looked enough here, they're even nicking free nappies. What a game.
1610: That's the richest handicap in Europe that is, and the prize money for it is heading into the pockets of the members of Henry Ponsonby's successful syndicate. This is a double win for the lugubrious and likeable Ponsonby, who not only pockets a slice of the winnings, but can expect a few more enquiries from potential syndicate members as a result. "Henry [Cecil] wasn't a Yorkshireman but he thought he was," Ponsonby tells the crowd. "He'd have loved this. He kept telling me before he died 'Ebor, Ebor, Ebor'." Emotional stuff.
1600: Quite a few people are leaving already from the middle of the course. I guess if they were among the ones that arrived on the stroke off 11am, you've probably run your race by now.
1555: Genzy backers, I feel for you. Tiger Cliff backers, I share your delight. But I feel more sadness for the Genzy backers than I feel joy for those of Tiger Cliff. How did he not win? What a cruel game. Tom Queally parades the winner of this year's Betfred Ebor in front of the stands and he gets a far more appreciative and raucous response (for fairly obvious reasons) than any of the previous big-race winners have done so far this week. Yes, it's 5/1 chance Tiger Cliff who cuts down Genzy in the dying strides to win with the heroic Number Theory in third. A good week's work for Tom Queally.
1543: Judging by the looks of things, this year's fashion tip from the Ebor meeting seems to be to have an impossibly thin girlfriend wearing an uncomfortably tight dress. I'm not sure how Mrs H will feel about this when I propose the idea to her the next time we go to Wetherby.
1540: I have now placed about 34 bets on the next race. I refer you to one of my favourite exchanges in the Simpsons (series 8, episdode 17) when Homer buys rather too many lottery tickets. "I've got so many tickets I can't lose." "The first number is 17." "D'oh!" "You can still win money if you have five out of six." "Woo-hoo!" "And the second number is three." "D'oh!" "Yeah, I knew we wouldn't win." "Well, why didn't you tell the rest of us? Why did you keep it a secret!? If you were 17, we'd be rich. But no, you had to be 10."
1530: Kevin Williams (from Bury) emails in to say: "I'm currently over in Oklahoma City for family reasons so have not been able to view any of the York meeting unfortunately. However the support from your erstwhile contributors for Hanoverian Baron have prompted me to stick my oar in which will probably end it's already slim chances - but it's in there and you never know. Missing the good old English rain, there's no carvery here and no great northern beers but will also be following Ambleside, Wilshire Blvd, Sennockian Star and Lexington Place by virtue of Sporting Life and your excellent blog! Enjoy the day back in dear old Blighty!" I can confirm that Hanoverian Baron has now been added to the growing list of horses I have backed for the great race, which is off next.
1525: The winning times so far today have suggested that the going isn't quite as slow as expected - they were only three and a half seconds above standard in the Melrose. Consequently it isn't the biggest surprise to hear that that the going has now been changed to 'soft, good to soft in places'.
1520: No, sir. Parbold travels well enough until halfway, but lacks the gears of his rivals and the frontrunning Astaire (5/1) keeps finding to win the race for trainer Kevin Ryan for the third time after Amadeus Wolf (2005) and Blaine (2012). I know Graham Cunningham liked the chances of that one, because he kept telling me so last night. I hope he kept the faith. Not sure quite what to make of the performance but I wouldn't rule the runner-up Wilshire Boulevard out from my calculations if he moves up to seven furlongs next time.
1513: Richard Fahey believes. Most of you seem to believe. Does Parbold deliver here? I hope so. David Armstrong's speech could be entertaining.
1510: Weather has always mystified me. It's wet and cool, but at the same time hot and sticky. How is this possible?
1505: The Tony Martin bandwagon is gathering pace now and Ted Veale has emerged as clear favourite for the Ebor. Martin has landed some spectacular paydays in his time, for example with She's Our Mare in the Cambridgeshire and Xenophon in the County Hurdle, but they would both be a decade ago and more. Can he roll back the years?
1500: I hear that Dashing Star's trainer David Elsworth is quite keen on a tilt at the St Leger with the runner-up, believing that the jockey should have kicked early in the home straight and tried to steal the race. Might be worth bearing in mind as a possible big outsider?
1450: What a fool to believe that man Linfoot. Instead it's the back-to-form Tony Martin (who once fried up an egg and bacon sandwich during the course of a phone interview I was doing with him) who triumphs with 8/1 chance Dark Crusader. The quirky Dashing Star looked to have gone off fast enough with Divergence but rallied close home for second, with favourite Havana Cooler taking third. Could Martin be on course for a big handicap double later with Ted Veale?
1430: I'm sticking with Ben 'Value Bet' Linfoot in the next and his outsider Snowy Dawn. Good luck to us both Scoop. Mister Impatience has been notably well backed today and could be the danger.
1418: Tony Hamilton is reportedly none the worse for falling off, which is a bit of good news, although it's not going to save the Placepot. Meanwhile the likeable Amazing Maria takes the Group Three at Goodwood in emphatic fashion again. A mixed start to the day for owner Sir Robert Ogden.
1408: No shocks in the opener - well only for backers of Fort Bastion, as he loses jockey Tony Hamilton almost as soon as the starting stalls opened. Rex Imperator cruised into the lead two furlongs out with the free-running Lightning Cloud burning himself out from the front, but he was cut down in the final strides by Sirius Prospect. But for me the biggest talking point was the way in which winning jockey Robert Winston produced a slice of improvised genius from the saddle when managing to prevent Rex Imperator from rallying by holding him in a pocket behind the loose horse in the last strides. Very clever. So it's Sirius Prospect at 5/2 who takes the opener.
1400: As the runners arrive at the start for the opener, I can just smell a day of boil-overs. I know that Richard Fahey thinks Switcher wants soft ground and Set The Trend should be suited by it too.
1355: Just a quick reminder that Sky Bet are still standing alone in paying out four places to each-way punters on the Ebor Handicap - you can find their betting on the race right here.
1350: Hadley writes: "Its been an emotional festival high low high low high low, lets end it on a high... Van Percy, Parbold, Sheikhzayedroad (toughest choice of the day), Huntsman's Close in the last. Mount Athos Wont lose at Goodwood if your struggling circa 4pm Will. I hope my horse selections are as good as my food, the cavery in the bottom of the grandstand may be triple the cost of 'the Drawbridge' in Rotherham at £10 but was worth the dint to the gambling funds! What's Will's one best bet for the day?" Couldn't agree more about the carvery, Hadley. A fine way to start or even finish the day with proper Yorkshire-sized portions that would embarrass the big tracks in the south. As for my 'one bet', I have backed Music Master at Goodwood and Duke of Clarence at Newmarket, both at double-figure prices. I wouldn't put you off a shilling each-way on either.
1343: Our foreign correspondent Sam L writes: "Over in New York for the weekend which means watching from afar. Was at York on Thursday and enjoyed a lot but four seconds yesterday mean it is back to retrieval stakes today. Sirius Prospect will appreciate the ground in the opener, unlike Rex Imperator, and is a course and distance winner - always a plus at York. Like many I feel that soft ground, return to York, will result in Parbold getting his head in front again - got 4s earlier so happy about that. I tend to do badly in the Ebor (bar the remarkable Sgt Cecil) but if I had to I would pick Sheikhzahedroad who could be dangerously well handicapped up in trip." I couldn't agree more about Rex Imperator, Sam. Indeed, I've backed Sirius Prospect in a match bet against him. I just don't like his in-and-out profile at all.
1341: Terry was with me on the terraces yesterday and also enjoyed a fine day's racing. He writes: "Good afternoon, I attended yesterday, 12 of us were there for my birthday, had a great time helped by lumping on City Style, it was great not to feel ripped off with the price of the Champagne, unlike at Ascot and Goodwood, backed Mister Impatience and Genzy and Sheikhzayedroad in the Ebor, good luck to all today." The case for Genzy was made most appealingly by our emailer Wayne F on Thursday and he was available at 33/1 then. How I wish I had listened...
1338: Darragh writes: "Having studied each day at York so far in a fair bit of detail, I have managed to get nowhere with my yankees and Canadians all week. Then everything changed for the better yesterday in the space of an hour when I put a £2 single on Jwala at odds of 105 on the exchange (as well as £2 singles on York Glory and Kingsgate Native). I then switched to the 4:30 at Newmarket and had £2 single on newcomer Joe Sugden who was 80-1 but a whopping 350 on the exchange and he only went and won!! Back in business now and ready to slightly deplete my new found wealth on some more speculative Yankees at York! Hope the head's not too sore." What a game, Darragh. Sometimes it really does pay to speculate. I must admit I'd never heard of Joe Sugden's trainer until yesterday, but I hope you've sent her a card.
1332: And with that, the umbrellas come up. Thank goodness for the Yorkshire can-do spirit.
1330: Some technical problems hit me briefly there, but thanks to someone lending me a length of black cable I am back in business. The news, sadly, remains in the same in that I strongly predict further rain to arrive before long.
1250: There are some rather ominous-looking clouds heading this way at present. Oh dear.
1245: The two principal topics under discussion in the press room at present are 1) what is the best motorway service station (betting without Tebay)? and 2) what is the cheese-like substance between the pork and the pastry in the pork pie on offer downstairs? Even the chef doesn't seem sure. It's been a long week, as you can tell. Time to concentrate upon winning the Jackpot now.
1235: Andy keeps his question simple. "Would you say Hanoverian Baron has any chance in the Ebor?". In short, I'd say yes. He's in cracking form this season, he'll appreciate the cut in the ground, he's got a good claimer on board and he went into my notebook last time when he was about the only horse to make up a decent amount of ground from off the pace in the Old Newton Cup - a race in which those ridden handily held a huge advantage. The question is whether he's quite good enough, but I think I'm going to have to include him in my Trifecta permutations.
1230: The crowd is set to swell shortly when Michael McDonnell arrives. "Hiya [Mr] Hayler, my friends and me are on our way there by train, i like the look of Oriental Fox e/w in the Ebor, was unlucky last time, should handle ground and Mark Johnston is having a few winners. By the way, do they sell umbrellas there? Be lucky everyone!" I've got an umbrella in the boot that's yours for a fiver, old pal. But real men get wet, as we all know.
1225: Faith is the strongest weapon in any punter's armoury. (That, and winners). Mark in Norwich has faith. He writes: "Having a very poor week betting wise but thats all going to change today. my York horses are Van percy, Caravan rolls on, Charles camion, Lexington place."
1220: A bit of admin for you. Lightning Cloud will now be ridden by Jamie Spencer and Redcar's meeting this evening has been abandoned due to waterlogging.
1215: Regular readers will know this is the bit where the blog can quieten down a bit as I put my punting boots on. I'm very tempted by the Tote's offer that any single on-course winner of the Jackpot today will win an extra £100,000. That really is an incentive to a) have a go and b) be a bit adventurous with your perms.
1145: Just had a flashback to paying £6.10 for a vodka and red bull yesterday (I asked for a 'red bull and vodka' which made the girl serving at the bar laugh at me, but having never ordered one before in my life I wasn't aware that there was a correct and an incorrect order). An expensive business the stag do business. We did make up for it later by stealing some champagne from an abandoned bottle though. Oh the shame of it all.
1130: William Derby (the boss) and Anthea Morshead (clerk of the course) are currently walking the track. Sizewise they look a bit like The Krankies (a comment that will mean nothing to most of you). Meanwhile Seb Sanders now rides Number Theory in the Ebor with Sun Central declared a non-runner.
1125: Andrew Heard writes: "Tough card at York today and hard to pick for sure, but i'm all in on Parbold at the 3.15. Richard Fahey thinks so much of this horse will love the ground that has come up, and in the Ebor have gone for an outsider due to testing Ground i have gone for Hanoverian Baron people may laugh at my selection but he will love the ground, and looks like he's been aimed at this for a while hence the time off track, I have also chosen one in the 2.40 named Divergence for Michael Bell hasn't done a lot wrong and just seems a big price, stepping up to class 2 for the first time but will love the ground, do you any thoughts?" I can confirm that Richard Fahey thinks plenty of Parbold and he prickled slightly at my suggestion to him - when I was meeting him to write his column on Thursday - that I was surprised to see the colt dropping back in trip. "You wouldn't say that if you saw him at home," was the response.
1110: The problem with betting on today's Ebor is that it's just too competitive. I can make a really good case for at least eight of the remaining runners. Sheikhzayedroad was eyecatchingly unlucky last time and still progressive, Genzy shaped really well last weekend, Tiger Cliff is still ahead of the handicapper, Saptapadi will come back to his best at some stage, Bishop Roko has much more to offer. What can a punter do (other than have a meaty Trifecta perm...)?
1100: The gates are now open and, as usual, there's a healthy number queueing to get in early and bag the best picnic tables. The truth is that attendances have been a little bit on the quiet side this week, possibly with the exception of Ladies' Day. You can tell by the fact that no crowd figures have been offered to the press. But whether it's two days, three days or four, chucking it down or basking in sunshine, the Ebor meeting will still always be one of my favourite sporting events of the year.
1055: John C is the first on the email machine today - feel free to drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a winning tip for me. John writes: "After managing to make a profit in the first three days at York, hoping to keep up the momentum with Dark Crusader and Caravan Rolls On today. Hope the ground is not as soft as everyone is predicting." It's dry and fairly bright at the moment, John. If we can get through the rest of the afternoon without any more rain, I'd say you might just be all right. York dries so much more quickly than it used to.
1045: There's a man going around the racecourse with a fistful of remote controls, switching the televisions on to various channels. What a lot of fun that could be if you had a sense of mischief (and didn't want to keep your job).
1040: I was on a stag do at the track yesterday, which was entertaining and unusually profitable given that such adventures often lead to financial ruin. Happily the battery on my phone ran out before I was able to give it all back on the evening racing too. I can't say I saw the evening out to the bitter finish as, being a complete wuss, I made my excuses and slipped away into the night as soon as the Jagerbombs appeared. Even the thought of one was making me feel queasy, so I was back at home with a battered sausage and chips before 10pm. I am but a shadow of the young hellraiser I once was. The stag was in good hands though, with a group of his old schoolmates taking on the baton having skipped the races - indeed I think the 'peloton model' is one I would recommend for future stag events. Staggered starts mean that the stag is always surrounded by people who are fresh and up for it, while the early pacesetters can drop back (and go home for a battered sausage and chips).
1035: At the foot of the stairs at the back of the press room is a smashed china plate, a smashed china cup, a smashed champagne flute and two large boiled potatoes. I'm sure there's a story there somewhere.
1030: The non-runners have come in thick and fast already. You can see them here but I've just heard that Tropical Beat has joined the Ebor exodus, meaning there are now six out of the Ebor. Sky Bet are uniquely paying out four places to each-way punters on the race though - you can find their betting on the race right here.
1025: Officially there was 15mm of rain overnight, but I'd wager that the effect of 15mm over a sustained seven-hour period is greater than the effect of 20mm in a dramatic cloudburst on Thursday night was. It's all to do with absorption and stuff like that. On the other hand, York spent a great deal of money on improving the drainage on the course a couple of years ago and it does undoubtedly dry out far, far more quickly than used to be the case. It's officially 'soft' now but we'll get a clearer picture as to where we stand after the first race.
1020: Having arrived nice and early at the course today, I've been able to bag a prime spot in the much-coveted car park reserved for owners, trainers, friends of the car park staff, old blokes who drive straight past the car park staff because they've been coming for years and always park in the same place etc etc, and people who got here early enough to park wherever the hell they like. Getting on a hard surface could pay dividends today as any further rain is likely to turn the main car park into a bit of a swamp.
1015: Good morning from the Knavesmire. Another night of heavy rain sees slightly-depleted fields for the final day of the Ebor meeting, but there are still winners to be found out there. Stay tuned today for everything you need to know live from the track.