The maddening reality, for those seeking to contrive a formal narrative for the calendar, is that the ancestral peregrinations of the Victorian gentry have bequeathed one pretty hard to improve on. After taking in Epsom and Royal Ascot during the London season, and Goodwood in time for Cowes, they would suspend the persecution of grouse on the nearby moors for a spot of racing at York. That legacy is cherished by all those, from every rank of society, to whom the Ebor meeting remains a delightful ritual of the sporting summer.
True, the organisers have not been able to resist meddling. The meeting's extension necessarily dilutes the quality, while making the fourth day a Saturday compounds a trend that infuriates the privileged minority who can watch racing during the working week. Shifting the Betfred Ebor Handicap to the weekend would seem to risk the blessed, holiday atmosphere that defines these crowded local festivals. It should endure in its purest form today, however, through a card that would warrant a day off for any aficionado.
The cornerstone of all three big races on the opening day is a stable that celebrated its 10th and 11th Group One winners of the campaign in Chicago last weekend. Aidan O'Brien is odds-on with many bookmakers to make it a dozen through Await The Dawn in the Juddmonte International Stakes, and this colt is already scheduled to follow Cape Blanco and Treasure Beach to the United States with a crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.
But while Await The Dawn has progressed rapidly in a light career, and exudes authentic elite quality, he offers nugatory value against two proven Group One operators in the colours of the sponsor, Khaled Abdulla. Midday and Twice Over promise a far stiffer test than outclassing horses from a tier below. The former has just claimed her sixth Group One prize, winning the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood for the third year running, and benefits from a dangerous fillies' allowance; Twice Over, meanwhile, is an Eclipse and dual Champion Stakes winner. He seemed to have lost his way after an impressive resumption in Dubai, back in March, but was artfully placed to renew his confidence under a penalty over this course and distance last time. Twice Over (3.40) was an excellent second in this race 12 months ago, pounced upon close to home after a gruelling duel through the long straight, and Tom Queally's understandable fidelity to Midday leaves Ian Mongan's mount looking too big a price at 5-1.
Abdulla is certainly overdue a first win in his own race, it being typical of his breeding empire's reliability that he should be able to field two such formidable contenders. One or two of the other superpowers certainly appear culpable in failing to muster even one, given that Abdulla can afford to keep his own outstanding champion, Frankel, in reserve.
The bedrock of O'Brien's current success, of course, is the sire of Frankel. It is conceivable that Roderic O'Connor, another son of Galileo, could outrun his odds as the Ballydoyle second string. But his Irish 2,000 Guineas form has not worked out, and instead seems most pertinent as evidence of the competence at this level of his trainer's son, Joseph. Following injury to Ryan Moore, the teenager has been given his latest giddy promotion by O'Brien's patrons at Coolmore on Await The Dawn.
Seamus Heffernan gets his chance to tap into the golden Galileo seam, meanwhile, on Seville in the Sportingbet Great Voltigeur Stakes. Heffernan rode this colt into second in both the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris, after which he was made favourite for the Ladbrokes St Leger. Though Abdulla has a big improver in Sea Moon, Seville (3.05) has so far been keeping much better company than any of his rivals.
O'Brien saddles three youngsters in the day's other Group race, among which East Meets West appeals most after being desperately unlucky in a Listed race last time, but meets another exciting colt by the same Juddmonte stallion, Dansili, in Entifaadha (2.30).
Chris McGrath's Nap
Ithoughtitwasover (4.50 York) Lightly raced three-year-old who can improve past more exposed rivals.
Racy (2.00 York) Caught the eye on first start for Kevin Ryan over course and distance in May, and has possibly not been ideally suited by a sixth furlong in more recent starts.
One to watch
Wigmore Hall (Michael Bell) confirmed his eligibility for big international races when flying into fourth in the Arlington Million last weekend.
Where the money's going
Hoof It is 7-2 from 4-1 with Paddy Power for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday.