Alex Hammond reflects on a fantastic week at York and provides three best bets for this weekend, including Future Empire in the Solario Stakes at Sandown.
What a superb week of racing we enjoyed at the Ebor meeting last week, which was a particularly good one for followers of this blog with some nice winners, notably Short Squeeze in the Clipper Logistics Stakes, Sole Power in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes and Pale Mimosa in the Lonsdale Cup.
Wednesday started with a bang with the impressive win of Postponed in the Great Voltigeur Stakes. Granted his task was made easier by the absence of Kingston Hill due to the fast ground conditions, but Luca Cumani’s improving colt was impressive and is an exciting prospect for next year.
Sadly, he isn’t in the St Leger and it looks like that could be it for him this season, but he is the sort of horse that could contest some of the best middle-distance and staying races next campaign.
Runner up Snow Sky is in the final Classic of the season and he is now 6/1 joint second favourite with Sky Bet for the Leger after his performance and the way he stayed on at York suggests he should stay the Leger trip.
I’d hang fire having a bet on Kingston Hill if you fancy him as he needs some cut in the ground and has an alternative engagement in France should the ground come up quick at Doncaster.
The highlight on day one of the meeting was the Juddmonte International and Australia asserted his authority over his rivals with a superb display on his first run over this mile and a quarter trip.
The English and Irish Derby winner cruised to victory under a lean Joseph O’Brien despite trainer Aidan O’Brien worrying that he may have left him in need of a gallop.
There are some exceptional three-year-olds this year, two in particular, and it will be fascinating to see who is crowned champion of this generation between him and Kingman now he has shown that he is just as brilliant over a mile and a quarter.
Personally, I’m still with Kingman, but there is still time to change that.
Moving on to Thursday and whilst the result of the Yorkshire Oaks looked like a shock on paper with 1/5 favourite Taghrooda being turned over by 8/1 shot Tapestry, I thought both fillies ran a cracking race and the latter is clearly improving with each run this year.
I flagged her up last week as a danger to the favourite and she proved to be more than that. I don’t think Taghrooda lost a great deal in defeat, apart from her unblemished record, and the King George may have taken its toll.
How good was Tiggy Wiggy?! I seriously thought she was vulnerable over six furlongs in the Lowther, but she was just as effective and made all to beat some smashing juvenile fillies. The Cheveley Park Stakes is next for the winner and my Lowther fancy Alexander Anthem could also head to Newmarket, she wasn’t disgraced carrying a penalty in third.
Cursory Glance was runner-up and she is currently Sky Bet’s 12/1 joint-favourite for next year’s 1000 Guineas and she would be the horse I would love to own going forward to next season.
On Friday Pale Mimosa got us off to a good start in the Lonsdale Cup. Whilst the race was run to suit her and maybe not some of the others, she still beat a smart field, with Estimate in second and former winner Times Up third, and should continue to make hay this autumn.
If there is a cooler riding performance than the one Richard Hughes produced on Sole Power in the Nunthorpe this season, then I haven’t seen it! Oh my, I was holding my breath for the final furlong when it appeared the gaps weren’t going to come and Sole Power showed what an incredible sprinter he is to get up and win.
Trainer Charlie Hills had a great week with three winners at the meeting and he landed the Gimcrack on the final day to land his treble. Muhaarar looks set to head for the Group 1 Middle Park at Newmarket in October now after this nose victory and runner up Jungle Cat could also join him.
Johnny Murtagh never won the Ebor as a jockey and he was over the moon to win it with Mutual Regard who was given a great ride by young apprentice Louis Steward. The Melbourne Cup is his aim now and he has just been given an entry for the Caulfield Cup so it looks like that is definitely the plan.
He’s 33/1 with Sky Bet for the Flemington race.
Incidentally, the well backed favourite Pallasator had an awful lot to do and he is of serious interest for the Cesarewitch after staying on well, but too late, over this mile and three quarter trip, he is 8/1 favourite.
So, that was the Ebor meeting and now it’s time to take a look ahead to this weekend’s action where the main focus of attention is Sandown and the Solario Stakes (1440).
There are some rather big shoes to fill as Kingman won this race last year and just six have been declared for the seven furlong Group 3.
Hugo Palmer saddled Short Squeeze to win at York last week and he is responsible for the likely favourite Aktabantay. This Oasis Dream colt cost 370,000 guineas as a yearling and holds an entry in the Dewhurst.
He was outclassed in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket last time out when second to Richard Hannon’s impressive winner Estidhkaar, but it may well be that his trainer felt there was more to come as he has declared him with cheekpieces on Saturday.
He is held in some regard, this has been the plan for some time and he has apparently been pleasing his trainer at home since his Newmarket run.
Future Empire is trained by Saeed bin Suroor and comes here having just had the one run and it was a winning one in his seven furlong maiden at Newmarket.
He is entitled to improve for the experience there and that makes him a major player in this. He is very well entered up and is the sort of horse that will improve with time and distance.
Andrew Balding has Elm Park in the race but his first preference is a race at Salisbury on Friday (6.40 Stonehenge Stakes) in which he must have a great chance.
This likeable colt won his maiden in good style at Newbury over seven furlongs on soft ground last time out. He looks the type to improve for the step up to a mile at some point as the further he went the better he went, in fact his jockey struggled to pull him up after the post that day.
The Scott Dixon trained Cock Of The North was behind Estidhkaar and Aktabantay in the Superlative Stakes and I can’t see why he would reverse the placings with the runner up.
Pallister represents Mark Johnston and should appreciate the softer ground he will get here as opposed to the fast surface he had at Goodwood last time out; he’s a son of Pivotal and has handled easier ground on his previous starts.
Finally, Lexington Times completes the field for Richard Hannon, unlike the others he doesn’t hold any seriously fancy entries and looks to have work to do to trouble the principals in this.
His Newmarket maiden win has worked out very well but he hasn’t won since in two subsequent starts.
Despite the lack of numbers this looks a tight little contest with some potentially smart colts in the line up, although there don’t appear to be any Kingman’s lurking in amongst them there are some smart individuals. I’m going with the Godolphin colt FUTURE EMPIRE to win it and hope he copes with the softer surface here.
The Beverley Bullet (1425) is the feature at the East Yorkshire track on Saturday and Jamie Spencer heads up there to ride PEARL SECRET for his retained owners, Qatar Racing, in the big sprint.
It was a huge shock to hear that Jamie has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the season to take a management role for the Qatari owners.
It seems a real waste of a serious talent for him to give up at such a relatively young age and we’ll miss seeing him ride on British racecourses next season.
It is incredibly difficult for most sportsmen and women to give up something that has been everything to them for their entire adult life and it will take some adjustment for him I’m sure.
If it’s not the right decision then most racing fans will be glad to see him return in the future. He will have bigger fish to fry than Pearl Secret in this five furlong Listed race before the season is out, but he should go well for trainer David Barron.
He is the highest rated in the field, but could do with a drop of rain as the ground was described as good to firm at the time of writing. If the rain comes I’d fancy his chances, if not then it could be set up for Rocky Ground who has winning form over course and distance.
FINTRY is an interesting runner in Sandown's Atalanta Stakes (1515). Trained in France by Andre Fabre, this filly has won three of her four starts including a Group 2 at Chantilly last time out at the beginning of June.
She will be at home on this rain-softened ground and her trainer doesn’t waste trips overseas with his runners.
She had been a leading fancy for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, but wasn’t 100% and missed the race. She carries a penalty here, but hopefully is well capable of doing so in this company.