Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to the Sky Bet Ebor on August 24 and reckons a long-term plan can come to fruition at York.
Recommended bets: Sky Bet Ebor, August 24
Sky Bet Price Premium Price Boost
Big-race sponsors Sky Bet have enhanced the price of Raheen House exclusively for Sporting Life readers and this Premium Price Boost will be available for a limited time only - £50 max bet (5 places 1/5 odds).
In what promises to be the most competition edition of great race, RAHEEN HOUSE appears to have just about everything in his favour to win the Sky Bet Ebor for Yorkshire-born trainer William Haggas.
The Ebor has eluded the now Newmarket-based Haggas to this point and he’s not had a single runner in the famous mile and three-quarter handicap since Arabian Comet’s mid-field finish behind Litigant in 2015.
However, during the last off-season he was sent a made-to-measure Ebor candidate in Raheen House, and it’s become increasingly obvious that his whole campaign has been geared around the end of August on the Knavesmire.
A winner on his previous visit to York when landing a juvenile maiden in October 2016, the five-year-old has had just two starts under Haggas' name, both over the Ebor course and distance, and on each occasion the horse has shown that he retains every ounce of ability.
There was definitely a question mark over him coming into the year – he'd gone five starts without a win for Brian Meehan, lost his form through 2018 and been gelded at the end of last year.
But Haggas has evidently rejuvenated the son of Sea The Stars, who was fourth in the Group One Racing Post Trophy on his final start at two and has the distinction of being one of only two horses to have ever finished in front of Enable.
That came on his three-year-old debut when runner-up to Shutter Speed at Newbury but his very best efforts came later that year, including a fourth to Permian in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, a Group Three victory in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket, and Listed defeat of Weekender back at Ascot.
Two of those three career-best efforts came around the mile and three-quarter mark so when it comes to his Ebor credentials he’s a horse who loves the trip, has tons of back-class, and is proven at the course.
This season’s efforts have been of a high calibre, too, a second to Gold Mount in mid-June followed by a neck third to Red Verdon – where he closed the gap from two and a quarter lengths to a neck on runner-up Gold Mount – in mid-July.
He was held up and ghosted into the race on both occasions, Jamie Spencer arguably overdoing the waiting tactics early on last time although it was by no means a bad ride. In truth it was the perfect prep for this horse’s major end-of-summer target and, while there may be no prizes for originality, at 14/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral) he's the one to be backing at this stage.
At considerably bigger prices, Desert Skyline (50/1, General) makes some appeal. His form ties in with the selection, having followed him home in the 2017 Bahrain Trophy, while early last season David Elsworth's charge was finishing just a couple of lengths behind Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup.
It's been a downward spiral since then, the Gold Cup at Ascot the following month seemingly taking it out of him, but there were green shoots of recovery at the July Festival recently.
Dropped into a handicap for the first time since his three-year-old days, Desert Skyline stayed on from the back under Gerald Mosse to take third behind King's Advice which was a promising effort, especially when you consider most of his previous best efforts had come with dig in the ground.
If it were to turn soft on the Knavesmire, he could be a player despite being nudged back up 1lb to a mark of 108.
With a total prize pot of £1million, it’s no surprise to see the strength in depth to this year’s race and perhaps the only slight surprise is that Aidan O’Brien has just the one entry in the out-of-sorts Cypress Creek.
The Irish challenge in general, though, appears really deep once more and it is noteworthy at least that half of the past 10 winners were trained in Ireland.
Willie Mullins set that ball rolling with Sesenta scoring in 2009 and Stratum catches the eye for Ireland’s champion jumps trainer.
Owned by Tony Bloom who boasts an enviable hand in the staying division with market leader Witthold - an impressive winner on his belated seasonal return at Newbury over the weekend - another real money-spinner already, Stratum has unfinished business in the Ebor having been sent off the 3/1 favourite last year.
He was beaten nearly 10 lengths in the end but that doesn’t tell the whole story as he was badly hampered at a key moment in the straight and was left with next to no chance of winning.
He suffered trouble in running last time out too, ending up 10th in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, though he appeared to be just starting to struggle when that instance occurred. The Tapeta surface riding very deep at Newcastle may be a more legitimate excuse for his defeat (again sent off favourite).
That run came on the back of an odds-on hurdles win at Ballinrobe when he looked on good terms with himself so the fact he's now gone four Flat starts without threatening clearly isn't a sign that he’s fallen out of love with the game.
A couple of other Irish horses who should come under consideration if making the cut are Joseph O'Brien’s Downdraft and the Gordon Elliott-trained Lethal Steps, who remains a fascinating prospect in both codes, but I’d rather look higher up the weights for something guaranteed a start.
It's not yet known whether O'Brien jnr's Latrobe is an intended runner. He's not tasted success since his Irish Derby heroics last June but clearly benefited from the return to more of a test of stamina when going down narrowly to Twilight Payment in the Group Two Curragh Cup last time.
He ran in the Juddmonte International won by Roaring Lion at the Ebor Festival last season and while he could end up with top weight should the top three drop out, he obviously has the ability to figure closely against largely inferior rivals.
Posted at 1200 BST on 24/07/19.