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Friday 22 August 2014

Betfred Ebor Preview

The Betfred Ebor, run over 1 mile 6 furlongs at York, is the most valuable Flat handicap in Europe, worth £164,962 to the winner. Understandably, the race is always well subscribed and a total of 22 horses (including two reserves) stood their ground at the final declaration stage for this year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, August 23. Just one favourite has won the Ebor in the last ten years and, with winners at 14/1, 25/1 (three times) and 100/1 in that period, we’ve decided to cast an eye over a few of those available at generous odds in the ante post lists.

It’s interesting to note that David O’Meara’s stable jockey Daniel Tudhope, who presumably had the option of riding Repeater for his boss, opts for Luca Cumani’s lightly-raced four-year-old Sir Walter Scott instead. The Galileo colt, who was trained by Aidan O’Brien until June, has been restricted to three starts so far and has clearly had his problems. However, he was far from disgraced when sixth of ten, beaten 5½ lengths, in the Listed Doom Bar Stakes, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Newbury five weeks ago on his debut for Luca Cumani. Indeed, he looked in need of further on that occasion, as he had when second over 1 mile 4 furlongs at the Curragh last October. He doesn’t appear obviously well-handicapped off a mark of 100, but is the one truly ‘dark’ horse in the race and could be worth chancing at 25/1. Daniel Tudhope’s 3-7 (43%) strike rate for the yard is also quite encouraging.

Aussie Reigns has struggled at little off handicap marks of 100+ since winning a Listed race, over 1 mile 4 furlongs, on the all-weather at Kempton last November, but has run creditably on all five starts since returning from Dubai in March. Indeed, the way in which he’s been keeping on at the end of his races over 1 mile 2 furlongs and 1 mile 4 furlongs suggests that the step up to 1 mile 6 furlongs could be just what he needs at this stage of his career. If it is, he doesn’t look impossibly handicapped and could go very well at 40/1. West Sussex trainer William Knight is 0-11 at York over the last five seasons and jockey Richard Kingscote is 0-3 for the yard, so the statistics are hardly encouraging, but Aussie Reigns wouldn’t be the first less-than-obvious winner of the Ebor.

Last, but hopefully not least, Retirement Plan appeared to show significant improvement when stepped up to 2 miles from 1 mile 4 furlongs at Ascot two weeks ago and, if able to reproduce that level of form over two furlongs shorter, would be of major interest at 20/1. Lady Cecil’s four-year-old is another who carries just a 4lb penalty and, although he’s no better off for the 7½ lengths he finished behind Pallasator on his previous start at Ascot, staying could be the name of the game for the son of Monsun.

As ever, it’s a case of ‘you pay your money and you take your chance, but our three against the field, in order of preference, are:

Sir Walter Scott 25/1
Aussie Reigns 40/1
Retirement Plan 20/1