Solo Flight drawn to take inside track to Ebor victory

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The Independent Online

The puzzle which lies at the heart of today's Ebor Handicap is one which has fascinated scientists for decades. It is the question of nature and nurture, or perhaps, in this case, genius, as represented by Sir Mark Prescott, and genetics.

Foreign Affairs, Prescott's runner in Europe's most valuable handicap, seems sure to start favourite for today's race, just as he did when he landed some immense bets in the John Smith's Cup at the Knavesmire last month. This afternoon, though, he has another half-mile to cover. Few trainers can prepare a horse for an important task quite like Sir Mark, but if his colt's legs and lungs cry enough at the furlong pole, class and fitness may not be enough to see him home.

Twelve furlongs would be unknown territory for Foreign Affairs, though probably within his grasp. Fourteen is the borders of the badlands, particularly when front-runners like First Ballot and Weet For Me will tug them along at high speed from the off. Anyone who backs him today is placing plenty of faith in Prescott's judgement that his three-year-old will stay the trip. Then again, when the serious money is down, Prescott is a man who rarely disappoints his punters.

It is possible that Foreign Affairs is so well handicapped that nothing will get him off the bridle, but at early odds of around 5-1, which may well contract if another gamble builds up, it makes sense to look elsewhere, not least because his draw, in 12, could also be better.

Low numbers are generally the ones to concentrate on in the Ebor, and while Martin Pipe's Ravenswood, who should improve significantly for his one run this season, catches the eye in six, the obvious alternative to the favourite is SOLO FLIGHT (nap 3.10). Barry Hills may have many more Group One winners to his name than Prescott, but he is still perfectly capable of laying one out for a big handicap, and Solo Flight's generally progressive form this year implies that he is both fairly weighted and open to improvement. He should get a good early position from stall eight, and the early price of 8-1 is worth having.

The Yorkshire Oaks, today's Group One event, is surprisingly weak for a race with £250,000 in the kitty, so much so that Snowflake, who is still a maiden, was only 8-1 when Ladbrokes opened a book on Monday. Mot Juste was a close second to Lailani in the Irish Oaks, but overall the three-year-olds look weak, and Sacred Song (next best 2.35), who won the Lancashire Oaks last time, may complete a cross-Pennine double to give Henry Cecil a much-needed Group One winner. Waldenburg (3.45), who beat Dubai Destination first time up, will take some beating in the Gimcrack, while Saratov (2.00) should go close in the opener.