It’s the fourth and final day of the 2019 York Ebor festival, where the headline race is the richest handicap run on the Flat in Britain, the £1 million Sky Bet Ebor, headed by prolific ante-post favourite King’s Advice.
King’s Advice faces 21 rivals as he goes for his ninth win of 2019.
King’s Advice (Joe Fanning, 9st 9lb including 4lb penalty), the 13/2 market leader with Sky Bet, has met with defeat once in nine starts since joining trainer Mark Johnston and goes into Saturday’s contest on the back of valuable handicap victories at Newmarket’s July Festival and Glorious Goodwood.
There has not been a winning favourite of the Sky Bet Ebor since Purple Moon in 2007, while no top-weight has triumphed since the great Sea Pigeon shouldered 10st in 1979.
This year’s top-weight Withhold (Roger Charlton/Jason Watson, 9st 10lb, 15/2 with Sky Bet) posted a front-running victory in Newbury’s March Cup Handicap last month and the six-year-old is no stranger to success in heritage handicaps, having previously landed the 2017 Cesarewitch at Newmarket and the 2018 Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.
Raymond Tusk (Richard Hannon/Jamie Spencer, 9st 8lb, 25/1) is one of two contenders alongside Wells Farhh Go (Tim Easterby/David Allan, 9st 9lb, 14/1) to have competed at Gr1 level on their latest start.
Raymond Tusk has not raced since finishing seventh in the Gr1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. A Gr2 winner in Italy on his final start in 2018, the four-year-old’s earlier efforts this season included a second to Dee Ex Bee in the Gr3 Sagaro Stakes at Ascot and a third behind Crystal Ocean in the G3 Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury.
Tim Palin, director of racing at Middleham Park Racing, said: “Raymond Tusk has been freshened up since the Gold Cup and his preparation has been good.
“He probably didn’t see out the trip at Ascot and the opposition was probably a bit too hot for him too. Stepping back into handicap company over this trip will really suit and he goes there with a fighting chance. I think a big-field race like the Ebor could suit and the 14-furlong trip should be ideal. It is a wide-open contest, but we are very hopeful of a good run.”
Mark Johnston is one of several trainers with multiple contenders. The Middleham handler’s three-strong team also includes Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap scorer Baghdad (P J McDonald, 9st 6lb, 14/1) and Chester Cup winner Making Miracles (Jason Hart, 9st 3lb, 33/1).
John Gosden enjoyed a one-two in the 2018 Sky Bet Ebor and Britain’s champion trainer is aiming to repeat those heroics with last year’s runner-up Weekender (Graham Lee, 9st 8lb, 16/1) and Ben Vrackie (9st 5lb, 10/1), the mount of Frankie Dettori.
Fellow Newmarket handler William Haggas, who has an excellent record at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival, saddles G3 winners Raheen House (James Doyle, 9st 8lb, 8/1) and Dramatic Queen (Daniel Tudhope, 9st 4lb, 25/1).
Irish trainers have won four of the last 10 editions of Sky Bet Ebor and this year’s challenge is made up of Mustajeer (Ger Lyons/Colin Keane, 9st 5lb, 16/1) and two runners from stable of Willie Mullins.
Mullins, who plundered the Sky Bet Ebor spoils in 2009 with Sesenta, the last mare to win the race, is represented by G2 scorer Max Dynamite (Ronan Whelan, 9st 7lb, 20/1) and multiple Listed-winning mare True Self (Donnacha O’Brien, 9st 7lb, 14/1).
Three-time Sky Bet Ebor-winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute saddles Mekong (Ryan Moore, 9st 7lb, 14/1), while Godolphin handler Saeed bin Suroor, successful with All The Good (2008) and Willing Foe (2012), runs Red Galileo (Cieren Fallon (5), 9st 6lb, 25/1).
Last year’s Gr1 Lexus Melbourne Cup third Prince of Arran (Charlie Fellowes/Stevie Donohoe, 9st 7lb, 25/1) comes into the race having finished fifth in the 12-furlong Gr3 Glorious Stakes at Goodwood on August 2.
Fellowes said: “Prince Of Arran is in good form and the Ebor has been the long-term plan – the two races we have focused his year around are the Ebor and the Melbourne Cup.I was pleased with his performance at Goodwood over a mile and a half on a track we know he didn’t really like. He is a much better horse in a nice, flat galloping track.That race should put him spot on for the Ebor, as he travelled great and just got tired at the end. A mile and six is his trip and the big field should also really suit him. A good strong pace will also help as he loves getting in and amongst horses.”
Red Verdon (Ed Dunlop/Shane Foley, 9st 9lb, 20/1) returned to winning ways over course and distance in the G3 John Smith’s Silver Cup on July 13, when he had Raheen House, Weekender and Kelly’s Dino (Karl Burke/Ben Curtis, 9st 6lb including 4lb penalty, 20/1) in behind.