Sir Michael Stoute saddles probable Betfred Ebor Handicap favourite Modun at York on Saturday but his second-string, BLISSFUL MOMENT (3.40), should not be overlooked at double-figure odds. Blissful Moment has twice finished runner-up at Ascot this season, behind Fox Hunt and Rock A Doodle Doo respectively, but Stoute has shrewdly kept him under wraps since the royal meeting in mid-June to preserve his handicap mark. Add to the mix his booking of Tom Queally and a good draw in stall 11, and we have all the ingredients for a minor upset.
Modun steps up four furlongs in trip, having been narrowly denied by Arlequin (ran very well here on Wednesday) at Glorious Goodwood. He is stoutly bred on the dam side, so this greater stamina test could well be to his advantage. There are a whole host of formlines running through Fox Hunt, who will do well to concede weight all round, while most of the fancied runners are drawn very wide – Saptapadi (22), Lost In The Moment (21), Tactician (20) and Mount Athos (18). I still expect the winner to come from this group, but punters searching for a much bigger price could do worse than consider Saptapadi’s stablemate Moyenne Corniche. He travelled like a dream in the Pitmen’s Derby won by Tominator, only for his stamina to run out in the final furlong. The drop to 1m 6f is ideal.
Frustratingly, Tominator missed the Ebor cut and is re-directed to Chester for the Totepool Stakes. He has a live chance but Franny Norton has struck up a successful partnership with Mark Johnston and ETERNAL HEART (4.10) catches the eye lurking at the foot of the handicap. After rattling off an early-season hat-trick, Eternal Heart wasn’t disgraced off his higher rating against Tactician last time out and stablemate Namibian in the Queen’s Vase.
Owner Dr Marwan Koukash always targets his local Chester meetings and MONTPARNASSE (5.15) could be another winner for the Norton/Johnston combo. Montparnasse goes back up in trip after running a close-up third to another Johnston improver, Shernando, here at the Roodee last month and the handicapper has cut Montparnasse some slack by allowing him to run off the same mark.