To start the four-days of the York Ebor Festival I offer up a little historical note. Upon the Knavesmire from 1379 – 1801 they would hang people who had fallen foul of the law including a certain Richard Turpin on April 7th 1739. With record prize money of nearly £5 million on offer over the next four days, there is plenty to look forward to and I bet old Dick would have had a go at nicking a share of that if he was at his highwayman shenanigans today. This Essex boy will be trying to nick a bob or two over the next four days but strictly all legal and above board naturally.
The weather is set pretty fair for the rest of the week with just the chance of a light shower Wednesday and Saturday. The going is currently good to firm, good in places and likely to be good at worse all week.
Aidan O’Brien confirmed Kew Gardens as a runner in the 3.00 G.2 Great Voltigeur Stakes last week. Talking at the time the trainer said "He had to miss the King George when he didn't scope 100 per cent clean and he had a quiet time around then," he said. "But he's back going nicely and we're looking forward to running him." I have the 11-4 for this that Coral were offering earlier this week, Power were as short as 15-8. As a Group One winner in France he has to carry a penalty here and the yard has been under a cloud for a while, both of which are concerns. I have backed him out of loyalty to the horse and all being well he goes well here on his way to St Leger glory next month which is, of course, the main aim. Cross Counter looks the likely one to benefit if Kew Gardens does not fire on all cylinders getting a very handy 5lb off the selection.
I think you can say the Group One Juddmonte International at 3.35 could, just could, be the race of the season. Poets Word has been heading the market over the last few days and has done little wrong recently it must be said. Sir Michael Stoute’s stable star has already won the G.1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the G.1 King George this season, but this race has strength in depth and then some and he has been very busy. Impressive G.1 Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow returns to action on these shores. The 4yo appeared to have got his act together out in Meydan earlier this year, has been a bit of a monkey more than once in the past, and when he is good he is very good. Soumillon rides again and the Frenchman knows who to get a tune out of the colt. That said his aim is the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic this year and his trainer is on record as saying “This race is to set him up to run at the Breeders' Cup.” Owner Clive Washbourn has supplemented Thundering Blue at a cost of £75,000 and is looking forward to seeing how his much-improved grey fares against the big guns having won the G.2 Sky Bet York Stakes over the course and distance last time but he’ll need to improve a chunk again to feature here. The other Godolphin colt Benbatl is, of course, one I have backed a few times but having won the 1m1f G.1 Dubai Turf in March he never really looked a danger in the one-mile G.1 Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting. That was too short though and this trip is much more his domain as he showed winning a G.1 at Munich last month over the 1m2f with plenty left in the tank to my eye. “Oisin Murphy came in to ride Benbatl in his work and was impressed,” Saeed bin Suroor reported on the Godolphin website Tuesday “He’s ready to go but he wouldn’t like the ground too fast.” And so to the 3yo’s who get 7lb weight-for-age. Irish Derby winner Latrobe travels across the Irish Sea but drops down in trip and that win won’t go down as the best Irish Derby ever that’s for sure. Without Parole didn’t enjoy himself at Goodwood at all and steps up in trip in his attempt to restore a somewhat dented reputation. G.1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes winner Roaring Lion returns to the scene of his easy G.2 Dante Stakes over track and trip back in May. Obviously, he is decent but he does have that habit of edging left or right when under pressure. Saxon Warrior hasn’t gone on since winning the G.1 2,000 Guineas but Aidan O’Brien has suggested more could be expected here from his charge, who had a seven-day turnaround after the Irish Derby for the Eclipse, where he was second to Roaring Lion. As mentioned earlier when talking about Kew Gardens the concern is the yard is not in great form at the moment. I could make a case for six of them truth be told but I have plumped for Benbatl to confirm himself a true Group One performer at the tasty looking price of 12-1 overnight.