Rip Van Winkle has the quality to let game Dick Turpin go hang

Something for students of form and history alike in showcase Group One race as Ebor Festival opens
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The Independent Online

The species may not have advanced terribly far in other respects, but the appearance of Dick Turpin before an excitable crowd on the Knavesmire today shows that some things, at least, have become a little more civilised since 1739. His namesake was the most notorious of the many unfortunate villains who met their end on a gibbet here, but the carnival over the next four afternoons in York has a much more wholesome purpose.

The highwayman's tale offers a more auspicious portent, moreover, in the example of Black Bess, who was fantastically reputed to have conveyed him from London to York overnight in order to furnish him with an alibi. It seems a bit rich, in that context, that anyone should be questioning the stamina of Dick Turpin for as few as 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International Stakes.

After finishing second in three consecutive Group One races over a mile, Dick Turpin finally gained due reward in France last month. But speed has long seemed his relative forte, and his pedigree offers so little encouragement for the extra distance that payment of a £50,000 supplementary entry fee looks a pretty public-spirited gesture.

In the same way the sponsors once again invite Byword and Twice Over to cross swords, just as they did in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. That encounter leaves them with some differences to settle, Byword having gained first run while Twice Over had to wait for a passage through, failing by just half a length.

André Fabre suspects that this is the limit of Byword's stamina, and it will seem a longer way home this time, away from that short straight and firm ground. Twice Over has since outclassed a modest field in the Eclipse, and his chunky build suggests he might well enjoy the rather easier conditions.

Third place behind Zenyatta herself in the Breeders' Cup Classic confirms Twice Over as an authentic talent at this level, but this time he should find Rip Van Winkle (3.25) a much tougher nut to crack. Clearly not himself when down the field at Santa Anita, Rip Van Winkle was running for the first time since when below form in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot but showed lots of improvement when giving Canford Cliffs a run for his money in the Sussex Stakes.

With a notorious history of foot problems, Rip Van Winkle has clearly been awkward to train but it may well prove that he is capable of another big step forward for his run at Goodwood. Moreover he returns to the trip over which he gave Sea The Stars himself the most demanding challenge of his career in the Eclipse last year.

The Godolphin pair, Cutlass Bay and Cavalryman, must step up on disappointing runs since arriving in Newmarket. But the blue silks will surely feature prominently when another import from his stable limbers up for the Ladbrokes St Leger in the Great Voltigeur Stakes. Rewilding (2.50) did especially well to get third in the Derby, making only his fifth start over a track that seemed to upset his rhythm. He should be much happier round here, is proven on easy ground, and can confirm form with Midas Touch, who plugged on for fifth at Epsom before chasing home Cape Blanco in his home Derby.

The other Group race on the opening day brings together too many young horses with the same right to improvement for anyone to be justified in an adamant conclusion. How, for instance, are you supposed to quantify the likely limits of Dream Ahead, who may not have faced the toughest field of maidens on his debut at Nottingham but destroyed them by no fewer than nine lengths? He does have another furlong to cover in the Acomb Stakes, however, and his pedigree sends mixed messages. Biondetti also made an impressive start but has been rather hastened here, just 11 days later, and at the likely odds it may be worth taking a chance on the fact that Waiter's Dream (2.15) has less glamour but more experience.

Turf account


Da Ponte (4.05 York) Beaten off this mark on his nursery debut, following a well-backed maiden success at Lingfield, but only after tanking through the race. This drop back down in trip looks sure to suit.

Next best

Librettista (3.45 Brighton) Connections must hope their patience will be rewarded now this filly makes her handicap debut, having run a subsequent winner close on her debut and looked in need of this extra distance at Yarmouth last time.

One to watch

Mirrored (T D Easterby) has switched stables again but has quickly dropped down the handicap and shaped nicely at Beverley last week, going much better through the race and not given too hard a race through midfield.

Where the money's going

In the continued absence of Ryan Moore, Johnny Murtagh is 11-8 favourite with Paddy Power to be top jockey at York, followed by Richard Hughes on 5-2. Championship leader Paul Hanagan is 14-1 at his big local meeting.