Steve Hughes has selections from two races on the opening day of the York Ebor Festival.
One of the highlights of the racing calendar is the four day York Festival coming at the perfect time at the end of summer on one of Britain’s finest racecourses. An interesting mix of races for the opening day, but I am giving the big race the swerve as it looks difficult to find a real angle into the contest. Therefore I am concentrating on the Group 2 Great Voltigeur immediately preceding the feature, and the staying handicap later in the day.
York 3.05: Kingston Hill
Despite slight concerns about the drying ground on the Knavesmire, Kingston Hill should have the class to cope and certainly has the speed to deal with the opposition over this 12f trip.
A real star as a 2yo, he won his maiden at Newbury first time out and took rapid steps to the top of the ladder with October wins in a Group 3 at Newmarket and the Group 1 Racing Post Stakes at Doncaster. Each of those races were with considerable cut in the ground, but he looks far better than just a simple mudlark.
Only beaten 5l in a vintage 2000 Guineas in the spring, he stayed on strongly in the closing stages to indicate he would be better over far further. He duly ran a stormer in the Derby whilst proving no match for Australia. However he saw out every yard of the 12f and handled the fairly quick conditions well. His last run came in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown which turned into a muddling affair where it proved impossible to make up ground from the rear on fast ground made slightly tacky by a heavy shower just before the race. I am happy to ignore that effort and concentrate more on his fine performances prior to that. Plenty of his chief rivals seem better suited by a stronger test of stamina than they will get, leaving the way open for Kingston Hill to demonstrate his potent mix of speed and strength.
York 4.20: Big Thunder & Knightly Escapade
I have taken two horses from opposite ends of the handicap against the field in another typically wide open York handicap.
A progressive 3yo stayer last season, Big Thunder had no chance from his wide draw on his comeback in the Northumberland Plate from nine months off the track. Nevertheless I fancied him to run a big race at Glorious Goodwood next time over 14f. He ran well enough but just seemed to lack the basic speed when it mattered on that sharp track. His future surely lies at trips of 2m and beyond, but although he was well beaten at that trip at Ascot last time, his chance was ruined by his jockey, lacking the experience of the track, making far too much use of him in the Shergar Cup stayers race. He is far better than that and he is reunited with Luke Morris today who knows the horse well.
Knightly Escapade did not make an immediate impact for Brian Ellison last season having joined him on the retirement of John Dunlop. However he has thrived in recent months, perhaps a spell hurdling having made a man out of him. He won a jumpers bumper over the winter at Kempton, but disappointed on soft ground at Doncaster in the spring. However kept to fast ground since, he stormed through off a fast pace to win with something to spare at Newcastle in June and then ran just as well over today’s course and distance when just touched off by Gabrials King last time. A strong pace looks assured again today with Eagle Rock in the line up and a handy inside draw plus a lovely low weight must put him right in the mix again.
2pts win – Kingston Hill – 3.05 York (6/4 general)
1pt each-way – Big Thunder – 4.20 York (10/1 general)
1pt each-way – Knightly Escapade – 4.20 York (14/1 general)