Colm O'Donoghue the man to dig improvement out of Harrison's Cave for Ebor

On a day for stayers at York, Saddler's Rock can confirm his place as the leading Cup horse

Chris McGrath
Monday 21 September 2015 12:45
Ortensia (right), ridden by William Buick, on her way to victory
in the Nunthorpe yesterday
Ortensia (right), ridden by William Buick, on her way to victory in the Nunthorpe yesterday

If yesterday at York was all about speed, the final day of the meeting explores the other end of the spectrum. The core of the card comprises three consecutive races over 14 furlongs or more, and the galloping track and long straight will together permit no hiding place.

Mind you, it is instructive of the skewed priorities of the British Turf that the big handicap offers greater prize-money than the Group Two race – a grade into which the winner of the Betfred Ebor might well be considered for "promotion".

The Ebor is a venerable institution in its own right, naturally, and on both counts there is corresponding depth of competition. Even so, there is a warm favourite in Motivado, who will have been reliably brought to a peak by his masterly trainer. On paper he is thrown in with a 4lb penalty for his runaway success at Goodwood, which Sir Mark Prescott sagely surmised would be required to get into the race today.

Motivado hardly represents value in this much stronger field, however. Qahriman won round here in June and has been kept fresh since; likewise Camborne after his Royal Ascot win. Ultimately, however, it could pay to persevere with Harrison's Cave (3.40).

The Ballydoyle raider has repeatedly suggested that he can defy this sort of rating. Set plenty to do when third to Camborne at Ascot, when looking hungry for this extra distance, he can be easily pardoned a flat run back at the Curragh just six days later. This very well-bred colt has been something of a slow burner, but was deemed worthy of a trip to the Breeders' Cup last autumn and is ridden for the first time today by the top-class Colm O'Donoghue.

High Jinx was a long-term fancy for the Ebor but has been fast-tracked to the Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup. He may not be quite ready, however, for an opponent like Saddler's Rock (3.05). Himself still quite lightly raced, this last scion of the great Sadler's Wells would almost certainly have won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot granted a stronger gallop. Given a more positive ride at Goodwood last time, he took command readily before losing attention in front, and looks the best stayer around at the moment.

Cardinal Walter (2.30) may prove best treated of the many progressive three-year-olds convening for their own version of the Ebor, in the Betfred Melrose Handicap. He looked very unlucky at Goodwood last time. Exactly the same is true of Aljamaaheer (3.20), who tries for compensation back in Sussex, where the big race of the day is the Betfair Celebration Mile. Citrus Star (2.45), who has been hinting at a revival, is meanwhile suggested for a valuable but bewildering handicap in the same sponsorship.

Dawn Approach and Mars, already prominent in the betting on next year's Classics, both sit out the EBF Galileo Futurity Stakes at the Curragh, on account of the slow ground. Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Mars, none the less saddles three of just five runners: Nevis, Flying The Flag and Kingston Jamaica.

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