The Ebor is the richest Flat handicap in Europe and named after Eboracum, the Roman name for York, the track where it is run on Saturday on the fourth and final day of the August meeting. Ivan Grozny won a race at Aintree after the Grand National which is the richest jumps race in Europe so there would be a nice symmetry if the favourite won the most famous horse race in Yorkshire after the St Leger.
The Ebor Handicap is open to horses aged three and over and is run over one mile, six furlongs at York where there is actually not a full circuit so the horses only ever pass the winning post once at the end of each race. The current sponsors are Betfred and the race is typical of major handicaps in that it is sponsored by bookmakers. This type of race generates huge levels of turnover but bookies will take money all day because they are generally wide open handicaps.
Only one horse has won more than one Ebor and that was back in the 1920’s. Lester Piggott is the leading jockey, with five wins between 1958 and 1983. The leading trainer has five wins but that feat was achieved in the 19th century. The Ebor is one of the most competitive handicaps of the season and the quality of the horses that take part means the race is a Group contest in the disguise of a handicap.
Since 2000 only one favourite has won the race and just four winners started at single figure odds. The average price of the last 16 winners is 24/1 in a range from 7/2 to 100/1. The last four winners carried nine stones or more and since 2000 half the winners carried less and half carried exactly nine stone or more. The race generally takes slightly more or slightly longer than three minutes though less than that in 2008 when it was run at Newbury over 13 furlongs as York racecourse was waterlogged.
The first two winners of the new millennium were aged three but since then a horse from that age group has not won the Ebor. In fact the last 14 winners have been aged between 4 and 7 and Sea Pigeon in 1979 at aged 9 is the last older horse to prevail. Sea Pigeon ran in the Derby and won two Champion Hurdles so must be the most well-known horse to win the Ebor especially having been trained in Yorkshire. The horse was not eligible for the Ascot Gold Cup as he was a gelding which basically means he was not able to produce the goods in the breeding shed.
The open nature of the Ebor is reflected in the fact that since 1990 only Jamie Spencer has ridden the winner more than once. There are a few more examples of multiple winning trainers but since 2000 Saeed Bin Suroor is alone as the only trainer with two winners. Ivan Grozny is trained by Willie Mullins who won the race with Sesenta in 2009 and he should be respected when he enters a horse in a major staying Flat handicap in Britain.
Ivan Grozny was ridden by Danny Mullins when winning at Aintree on Grand National Day after the amateur jockey had won the big race on Rule The World. The horse also won at the Galway Festival last month and arrives at York in fine fettle. The animal’s official rating has dipped but Ivan Grozny has the class to win the Ebor off nine stone six pounds plus a four pound penalty which would make the weight a record since 1979 for a winning horse, other than Sea Pigeon who carried ten stone.
As an alternative to the favourite Quick Jack should be considered at a decent each way price especially if any bookmakers pay out on the first five places. Betfred have invested in sponsoring the race and will get plenty of media exposure. They may give each way punters an extra place but all firms will settle bets at one quarter the odds which is in keeping with the terms for a handicap with more than 16 runners. The bookies will have no fear about taking on the favourite as the market leaders have such a poor record in recent years.
Quick Jack is trained by Tony Martin in Ireland and he often targets major handicaps with horses that have run over hurdles. The winner of the Ebor could be an Irish-trained hurdler but the form suggests it is more likely to be Ivan Grozny than Quick Jack but the forecast would be nice!