Saturday sees Europe’s richest Handicap the Tote Ebor and it is hard to see past Motivado the 4/1 favourite whose 4lb penalty picked up for winning at Goodwood sees him creep into the race at the foot of the weights and if the handicapper could he would give the Sir Mark Prescott-trained runner another 6lbs. Thus if the weights had not been framed some time ago Motivado would carry 9st 4lbs rather than the 8st 12lbs he will carry at York.
That said only one favourite has won the race in the last ten years and although Prescott landed a monumental gamble with Hasten To Add in the corresponding race back in 1994 he is reluctantly overlooked. Blue Bajan (3.40) is now 10 years-of-age but proved he was no back number when running a cracker behind Mount Athos last time and that form has been franked in the interim period. He is of course vulnerable to more progressive types but at 25/1 can reward each way support.
There are any number of dangers including Camborne who could hardly have been more impressive at Royal Ascot and Willing Foe but at 25/1 Blue Bajan is given the nod to turn back the clock on the Knavesmire.
The Melrose is one of my favourite races of the year and I was fortunate to be on track at Haydock when Gospel Choir landed his hat-trick from an 8lb lower mark over 12f giving every indication this step up in trip would suit; Guarantee has won two of his three starts for William Haggas and could be anything but preference is for Mysterious Man (2.30) and Andrew Balding who landed his maiden at Bath last time and looks well treated off his current mark.
The Lonsdale can go to Cavalryman (3.05) who has improved of late stepped up in trip having been a winner of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris when trained by Andre Fabre before losing his way somewhat in recent seasons. Godolphin look as if they have found the key to him and he can get the better of recent Goodwood Cup winner and Ascot Gold Cup runner up Saddler’s Rock in a very hot renewal.
I am keen on the chances of Simply Shining (4.50) in the 7f nursery for Richard Fahey; a winner at Thirsk last time the filly had shown plenty of promise on debut at Ayr and Thursday’s rain will have helped take any sting out of the ground.
Mark Johnston has had a quiet York at the time of writing but Salutation is a big danger running away with his maiden at Newcastle in a decent time and a 6lb rise looks fair in the circumstances.
There is a good evening card at Windsor with Songcraft likely to go off market leader in the August Stakes but preference is for Cameron Highland (6.15) who has been steadily going up the ranks and deserves to dip his to in Listed class for Roger Varian.
Clive Cox has his string in excellent form and Highland Duke (7.45) looked a progressive sort at Bath last time and as long as the ground doesn’t deteriorate he can follow up back in handicap company off a 4lbs higher mark. He wasn’t stopping over 10f at Bath last time and the hope is that the step up to 12f will bring about further improvement on this flat track.