Nunthorpe Stakes – Friday 3.40
It’s not easy to ignore the claims of Wes Ward’s imposing juvenile Acapulco, winner of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot in June, and she has been described by one eminent paddock judge as “the biggest 2-y-o I’ve ever seen”. Size isn’t everything of course, but she was hugely impressive on the UK debut, and is sure to improve given that was only her second start.
The biggest factor in her favour, however, is the huge advantage she has in terms of weight carried, with most of the field forced to concede her almost two stone. Such are the vagaries of the weight-for-age scale, and while the concession is meant to help underdeveloped juveniles against more mature horses, her hulking physique suggests she doesn’t need much help in that department.
If there is a weakness in the favourite, it’s that she’s not been tested on softish ground, and there are plenty of horses who seem to struggle with the surface at York. It may well be that she shrugs such concerns aside, but that potential chink in her armour is at the same time a chink of light for her rivals, with a couple of obvious exceptions.
Neither Muthmir nor Goldream has yet to fire away from quick ground, and any further easing of the racing surface would be a serious worry for both. One who will relish the rain, however, is Mecca’s Angel, who missed Royal Ascot due to the firmness of the ground, but has looked rocket-propelled when meeting with some give in the turf.
The Michael Dods-trained 4-y-o has the reputation of a mud-lover, but essentially needs to be kept away from firm ground, and was spectacular on good going at Longchamp in the spring, as indeed she was at Doncaster last September.
As a result of her aversion to firm ground, she’s been kept fresher than most for this, and should be capable of giving Acapulco a race, even if the American filly is firing on all cylinders, making her an attractive each-way bet.
Selection: Mecca’s Angel (e/w)
Ebor Handicap – Saturday 3.45
The Ebor has always been a competitive and high-class handicap, but the trend is towards even classier animals in recent times, and plenty of likely types have again missed the cut this year, leaving us with a race full of proven pattern-class competitors.
It’s unusual for a 3-y-o to make the race given the cut is made by weight and not by rating, although those representing the younger generation have an exceptional record in the event.
As a result, it’s vital to respect the claims of Aidan O’Brien’s Fields of Athenry, who won the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown last time. His official mark is stiff enough on balance, but he’s been campaigned to get a run in this contest, and is sure to progress past some of his more exposed rivals.
The Irish challenge is a strong one, for all the fancied Clondaw Warrior has only made the reserve list, with Galway Hurdle winner Quick Jack representing the resurgent Tony Martin yard, as does Elishpour, who is the second reserve.
The domestic challenge is headed by Quest For More, who would have had leading claims in the Lonsdale Cup. Connections’ decision to aim him at this richer prize should be noted, while Astronereus hasn’t been hiding his light under bushel, sandwiching a win over C&D with highly creditable efforts at the big Ascot and Goodwood Festival meetings.
Amanda Perrett’s charge is enormously likeable, and remains open to further progress at this trip. He will need to progress again to defy his current mark in such a hot contest, but is priced accordingly, and looks certain to give supporters a solid run for their money.
Danger: Fields of Athenry