The final day of the York festival with the Ebor itself taking centre stage, and while we don’t have the £1 million purse on offer like last year, it is still a cracking race which, injuries aside, has lost none of the likely contenders we would otherwise have had. As you can imagine a case can be made for so many but instead of mentioning half the field, I will just go straight in and nominate PONDUS as my main selection.
Trained last year by James Fanshawe, he first came to attention when bolting up in a novice event over 1m2f at Sandown in May of last year. So impressive was he that he next showed up in a Group 2 at Royal Ascot and was smashed up in the market to go off at just 4/1 in the race won by Japan. Unfortunately, he was far too keen that day and his 3yo career failed to see another win, culminating in a tame effort in the Champion Stakes, though his presence there was another reminder of the regard his previous handler held him in (not known to give his horses unrealistic targets).
He changed hands last winter and although his new owner has a penchant for the Melbourne Cup, this now looks very much the plan with trips to Australia seemingly on the back burner for the time being. Now with Joseph O’Brien, the main feature about him this term is that he seems to settle well and although he has yet to race over this far, there are reasons to think a big field scenario with a decent pace to aim at could bring about a personal best. No doubt Jamie Spencer will be looking to bury him in the early stages and hopefully he will get the breaks when needed to become the third Irish trained winner in the last 5 years.
The main dangers could come from Fujaira Prince who could be just the type to collapse in the market, while Ghostwatch, who won the Melrose on the card in 2018 appeals as the type to run well and as an each way bet, would probably be the second wager if I was having one.
The City of York Stakes at 3-00 could provide us with a bet in the shape of SAN DONATO who has his first go at the 7f trip since his juvenile days. Lightly raced due to setbacks since then, his top stable decided to persevere with him and his second in the Summer Mile at Ascot was his first appearance since a third in the French 2,000 Guineas well over a year before that. His latest effort in the Sussex Stakes reads on paper as though he was as outclassed as his big odds that day would have suggested, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Asked for a big effort on the outside halfway down the straight, he momentarily looked as though he was going to play a major part in the finish but that big move took its toll and he was eventually well beaten. This trip could be just perfect, although I have plenty of respect for the winner last year Shine So Bright, who hasn’t been in the best of form this summer but a return to this venue could see him taking an awful lot of pegging back and he rates the chief threat.
The Julia Graves Roses Stakes at 4-10 sees the Molecomb Stakes runner-up Ben Macdui head the market, but another who was last seen down at Goodwood could be the way to go in this Listed contest. ACKLAM EXPRESS only won a nursery off a mark of 77 but looked a horse with so much speed, and his handler Nigel Tinkler, who had previously nominated National Stakes winner Ubettabelieveit for this contest, had a change of heart and it may pay to take the tip. The 7/1 in a place when the decs came out lasted no time at all but the current 11/2 still has some mileage, even if connections withdraw Lauded to throw a Rule 4 into the mix.
The closing Apprentice Sprint at 5-10 has proved a front runners paradise in recent years and the fast starting WONDERWORK, who quickly made the first repayment to the 60,000 guineas he cost his new connections last month when making all at Windsor, may be able to quickly follow up. This demands more but there could be a bit of improvement in the locker, and the number 2 stall could be the place to be.
3-00 1pt San Donato (not less than 11/2)
3-40 1pt ew Pondus 10/1 (Bet365)
4-10 1pt Acklam Express 11/2 (general)
5-10 1pt Wonderwork (not less than 5/1)