The Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on Saturday is the highlight of the weekend racing programme but some racing fans favourite meeting of the season takes place next week. The York Ebor meeting runs from Wednesday to Saturday and Stratum is fancied to win the title race. The Ebor is one of the most competitive handicaps of the season but the favourite could have something in hand at the weights. The best horse running at the meeting will be Battaash in the Nunthorpre Stakes.
In the south York is known as the Ascot of the north but in Yorkshire Ascot is known as the York of the south. In fact when the new stand was being built at Ascot in 2005 the Royal meeting moved north to York. The track is fair and the long straight means there is rarely bad luck in running. There are few hard luck stories at York and the best horse on the day almost always wins and that could be the case with Stratum. The Ebor could also be a stepping stone to the Melbourne Cup in November.
The three great summer Flat festivals are Royal Ascot in June, Glorious Goodwood at the end of July and in early August and the York Ebor meeting this month. Ascot is as much a social occasion as racing occasion and many race goers have little interest in the horses. Goodwood does not have the quality to sustain five days but York have it just right. The meeting combines Group action with high class handicaps and races for the most promising juveniles.
The racing this weekend is relatively ordinary but there are two Group races at Newbury. The Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Group 3) looks tailor made for Algometer on form and ratings. The Hungerford Stakes has a prize fund of £150,000 and is a Group 2 race. It’s a race for three-year-olds and older for both sexes. Fillies and younger horses receive allowances but the older colts still have a form edge. Librisa Breeze has the highest Racing Post Rating and looks an each-way bet to nothing.
On ratings the Juddmonte International is consistently one of the best races in the world. The race is the highlight of the first day at York and the potential field makes it one the strongest anywhere this season. When Cracksman is only the fourth favourite you know you have a special race. The trainer said earlier in the season that his horse would be at his best at this time of the year. John Gosden pointed out that Cracksman was being distracted in the spring but if the horse concentrates he can win this race.
The Nunthorpe Stakes is a Group 1 race over five furlongs and identifies a champion over the minimum distance. Battaash was stunning at Goodwood but has been beaten by Blue Point in the past. The rest of the field are racing for third place. The York track suits Blue Point more than Battaash but it will take something very special for the favourite not to prevail. The odds overestimate Battaash’s form advantage but the market leader just cannot be opposed.
Stratum is trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Tony Bloom who also has Librisa Breeze running in his colours. The predominant colour is blue which is not surprising because Bloom also owns Brighton FC, the Premier League team. Mullins must be respected when he brings a horse from Ireland to run in a big Flat handicap. Apparently, Bloom is one of the best sports bettors in the industry and Stratum can earn him a few more bob by winning York’s Ebor Handicap.