York's Ebor Festival starts on Wednesday, headlined by two of the best races so far this season in the Great Voltigeur Stakes and Group 1 Juddmonte International. Here we preview all the big-race action...
Charlie Appleby’s Cloudbridge heads the market at 2/1 for this contest. A winner on his only start to date, he readily put three lengths between himself and another Godolphin runner. The third won next time out in a decent-looking novice at Haydock while the fourth was thought good enough to run in the Chesham, so the form appears to have substance to it.
Kevin Ryan won this race in 2016 and this year he relies on Darvel, who comfortably won his second start ahead of a Mark Johnston runner that had tasted victory first time up. Again, the form looks strong but an easier surface may see him in an even better light.
Of the rest of the field, Clive Cox’s runner Royal Scimitar is of obvious interest given the yard’s depth of juvenile talent. The son of Territories has had just one run to date at Newbury where he narrowly beat Line of Departure, who has won twice subsequently including a taking performance in an Ascot nursery. The fourth and fifth from the Newbury novice have both won since and he looks most likely to put it up to the favourite at around 9/2.
- Royal Scimitar
A belter of a renewal that’s headlined by a duel between the unbeaten Darain and recent Gordon Stakes winner Mogul. There are dangers around every corner though in the shape of four-length course winner Roberto Escobarr, King Edward VIII Stakes victor Pyledriver and Queen’s Vase runner-up Berkshire Rocco.
It’s Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul that heads our market at around 2/1. He confirmed all the stable talk - and banished Derby disappointment - when running out a ready winner at Goodwood last month. Whether that victory will see him progress further is the real question - he’s the ‘class act’ in the field but he may just be vulnerable to a pair of improvers.
Chief among them would be the stoutly-bred Darain, unbeaten in two, who takes a huge step up in class here but his trainer John Gosden knows exactly what it takes to win this race having used it as a springboard for the likes of Cracksman and more recently Logician. There’s not a huge amount of substance to what he’s beaten so far but that’s likely of little consequence, such is his obvious ability. The step up in trip should hold no fears and he could well be a superstar in waiting.
The likes of the aforementioned Berkshire Rocco, Pyledriver and Gordon Stakes third Subjectivist could all run into a place but William Haggas isn’t one to tilt at windmills and so his Roberto Escobarr is selected at around 8/1 to run the market principals close.
It was a strong-looking novice that he won at this course last time and he’s had an easier campaign than the others in this field.
- Roberto Escobarr
Just the five runners now following Aspetar’s withdrawal but it's still a thrilling contest on paper. Ghaiyyath is our 11/8 favourite following his victory over Enable in the Eclipse, he’s unbeaten over this 1m2f trip and bids to be the highest rated winner of the race (127) since Frankel in 2012. However, only three five-year-olds have been successful in the race since 2000 and while he is still lightly raced for his age he still has to give weight away to the likes of Magical and Kameko.
On the face of it, his form of beating Anthony Van Dyck and Stradivarius in the Coronation is excellent but he would’ve had a fitness edge having run in Meydan, and the former has disappointed this season while Stradivarius used that race as a tune-up for the Gold Cup. In addition, Ghaiyyath held a major fitness edge over Enable in the Eclipse and the only subsequent winner in-behind this season has been Regal Reality (won Group 3 Sovereign Stakes).
Here he takes on a rapidly improving Group 1 winner in Lord North, ultra-impressive when landing the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and similarly unbeaten over the trip. He also has to give three pounds to Magical, who arguably looked better than ever when winning the Pretty Polly and Tattersalls Gold Cup this season. It will very much be the Godolphin inmate’s toughest task to date.
- Lord North
*Odds correct at time of publication