The skewed priorities that warp the structure of the British Turf are bewilderingly apparent at York today. It is almost as though the race programme is predicated upon some kind of inverted snobbery. At every turn, class is confounded.
The Betfred Ebor carries a staggering purse of £210,000. Horses that graduate from handicaps of this kind are said to have earned a step up in grade – as have those who contest a Group Two prize 35 minutes earlier. But the Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup is worth a good deal less, at £140,000.
Nearly as baffling is the discrimination against three-year-olds, who are in effect prohibited from these huge handicaps. Because the weight-for-age scale requires the concession of 12lb from their seniors, younger horses almost invariably miss the cut while older horses that do get into the race are officially rated as inferior.
With all that in mind, it would be gratifying to see the race won by Lost In The Moment (3.40). Here, at least, is a horse who has proved his elite calibre – albeit in somewhat unexpected fashion. Having reached a solid rating of 105 in handicaps over 10 furlongs, he was given a speculative entry in the Goodwood Cup over two miles. It might have been a guess, judged on pedigree, but it turned out to be an inspired one. Lost In The Moment was repeatedly held up in traffic through the straight, before charging home and failing by just a head to catch Opinion Poll. This revelatory performance leaves him 6lb ahead of the game and he can make a stand for quality. The many dangers are headed by Fox Hunt, worse off at the weights for Goodwood but still thriving, and Mount Athos, who has repeatedly looked equal to this kind of mark.
Opinion Poll perseveres in Group company, but may struggle to hold Blue Bajan (3.05) this time. The most celebrated of the many transformations achieved by his new trainer, David O'Meara, Blue Bajan regrouped strongly that day and will relish the long straight. Though narrowly thwarted by Duncan here in May, he can reverse form over the longer distance.
The three-year-olds banished from the Ebor get their own version in the Melrose. This field is saturated with progressive animals, but it is hard to believe many have the scope for improvement of Lyric Street (2.30) now he takes such a big step up in distance.