The Ebor, run over 1 mile 6 furlongs at York, is the most valuable Flat handicap in Europe and invariably a tough contest to crack (4pm York, Saturday).
Just one favourite has won the Ebor in the last 10 years and the winners have come at all prices from 20/1 up to 100/1 in that period. So this race has become a notoriously tricky puzzle for punters to solve. In fact, this year’s renewal features 20 runners officially separated by just 10lb, so life isn’t getting any easier.
Ivan Grozny (11/2) heads the market, after an easy 14-length win in the Guinness Race over this trip at Galway last month for which he carries just a 4lb penalty. Exactly what he achieved in doing so is difficult to judge, but it was a career-best effort on the Flat and he could be well handicapped. He is yet to win on going faster than good to yielding but, with rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, he could well have his conditions and looks one to take seriously.
Kinema (14/1), trained by Ralph Beckett (pictured), had Ivan Grozny 10 lengths behind in ninth place when winning the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Royal Ascot in June and is just 5lb better off.
The Ascot third, Kings Fete, has since won the Glorious Stakes at Goodwood and the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury – both Group 3 contests – so the form looks strong. Kinema subsequently failed to stay two miles when only seventh of 14, beaten 9¾ lengths, behind Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup but back at this shorter distance looks a live contender.
So does Antiquarium (7/1), if he has recovered from the setback that forced him to miss the Goodwood Cup. The New Approach gelding demonstrated an excellent turn of foot to win the Northumberland Plate over two miles at Newcastle in June from an unpromising position. While he meets the runner-up Seamour (14/1) on 2lb worse terms, he can reasonably be expected to confirm the form.
At longer odds, Vent De Force (20/1) returns to handicap company for the first time since winning the valuable Melrose Stakes over course and distance as a three-year-old. He was highly tried after winning the Henry II Stakes over 2 miles ½ furlong at Sandown last season. He didn’t give much cause for encouragement when only seventh of 14, beaten 11½ lengths, behind Sandro Botticelli on his reappearance over the same course and distance last month and would need to return to his very best to defy a handicap mark of 106 in this company. Nevertheless, he could be a potential fly in the ointment if he does.
Of course, there are all sorts of other possibilities, but this preview concludes that KINEMA deserves another chance to confirm the promise of his Royal Ascot win.