It's day one of York's Ebor Festival with the Group 1 Juddmonte Stakes the highlight
Some leniency from the handicapper gave DESERT LAW (Best price 12-1) the chance to regain the winning thread at Doncaster four days ago and the veteran speedster could capitalise on his well-being in the opener. Paul Midgley’s nine-year-old probably paid the price for winning tidily at Musselburgh earlier in the season and it is worth recalling he was pitched into the Nunthorpe at this meeting 12 months ago so this event represents a more appropriate test. The selection looks reasonably drawn down the middle of the track with front-runners either side and his yard continue to thrive with their sprinters.
With two places from 16 runners between them in the last decade, no one could accuse Aidan O’Brien or Mark Johnston of enjoying outstanding success in this flagship juvenile event. The duo are responsible for two fancied runners in Fleet Review and Dee Ex Bee, both of whom have excellent claims following impressive performances last time out, but there could be a little more juice in the price of course winner ULSHAW BRIDGE (Best price 11-1). The selection’s yard possess a decent crop of juveniles this term and he is capable of springing a mini surprise given Chester looked an insufficient test last time and, as a son of High Chaparral, he looks sure to improve again for a seventh furlong.
Placed in both the English and Irish Derbys, CRACKSMAN (best price 10-11) looks a clear standout on form in this field. In contrast to many of his rivals, the son of Frankel is already proven at the highest level so this Group 2 event represents a slight drop in class for a horse that will also be fresher than most having side-stepped Royal Ascot and a tilt at the King George last month. John Gosden’s colt may have most to fear from Mirage Dancer who looks sure to find significant improvement now he tackles today’s trip for the first time. However, Cracksman’s giant stride should be suited to York and it’s contours and it will be disappointing if he can’t collect this prize before heading to Doncaster next month for a tilt at the St Leger.
BARNEY ROY (Best price 11-4) has been labelled as “probably the best I’ve trained” by handler Richard Hannon and it will be fascinating to see if the Excelebration colt can justify the hype in today’s enthralling feature. Both Hannon and rider James Doyle believe the flat expanse of the Knavesmire will suit Barney Roy more than the undulations of Ascot and Sandown and it hard to disagree that a horse which boasts such an expansive stride won’t find York’s sweeping turns and lengthy straight more to his liking.
A gritty winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Hannon’s son of Excelebration was agonisingly denied victory in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown when Ulysses’ nose deprived the selection another Group One triumph. The only negative surrounding his chance is the prospect of a falsely-run race as there appears a lack of confirmed front-runners and I’m hoping Doyle is alive to the prospect of Frankie Dettori trying to dictate matters from the front aboard Shutter Speed. In an ideal world, I would like to see Barney Roy asked to lengthen turning for home as he clearly loves a battle and it would take a good one to pass him if on song.