Other than the St Leger meeting at Doncaster in September, the Ebor Festival from York is one of the last chances you will get to see a high-quality field of flat racing in 2017. It’s a chance not to be missed by racegoers and punters alike.
There’s four days of quality action on the flat, with three Group 1 races and a smattering of other high-profile renewals that will test some of the finest flat sprinters and stayers against their most fearsome opposition.
And it all unfolds in the beautiful city of York, which if you’re planning on attending in person is a real bonus.
So where is the smart money going next week, with the action kicking off on Wednesday and rolling through until Saturday?
Juddmonte International Stakes (Wednesday August 23)
The International Stakes is a 1m 2f affair open to horses aged three and over, and it takes its rightful place as the first Group 1 of the festival this year.
Unsurprisingly it is a race that has been dominated by the Aidan O’Brien and Smith-Magnier connection in recent years, with the Irish trainer’s haul of five wins only matched by Sir Michael Stoute, whose last victory in the renewal came more than a decade ago.
Frankel is a former winner of the International Stakes, so those involved in 2017 have a stern example to follow!
The ante-post prices are out and Churchill is the early and much deserved favourite at 11/4. The O’Brien charge did the 2,000 Guineas double earlier in the campaign, defeating Barney Roy in the English version, and of all those in the field he does look the most likely.
But Barney Roy (4/1) had his revenge in the St James’ Palace Stakes back in June, taking the honours as a bizarrely disappointing Churchill could only finish fourth. Factor in Cliffs of Moher (second in the Derby) and Ulysses (winner of the Coral-Eclipse), and we have a truly first class race to enjoy.
Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Thursday August 24)
Thursday at the festival is Ladies Day, and while the fillies in the stands will be dressed to impress those out on the course will be looking to impress punters with their form too.
The highlight act is the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, the second Group 1 of the meeting open to fillies and mares aged three and over.
As far as the ante-post market goes the bookies believe it is a one-horse race with Enable (1/3) dominating proceedings. This is a fine horse with five wins from six starts (four in four with Frankie Dettori on board), including the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes by a whopping four lengths from the impressive Ulysses, and a comprehensive five-length triumph over Rhododendron in the Oaks.
Can anybody stop her? Punters have cooled on Rhododendron since that shock 1,000 Guineas defeat, while Nezwaah – a Group 1 winner this term – will still need to jump up significantly in class to challenge here.
Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Friday August 25)
As far as the betting market goes this could be a straight shootout between favourites Lady Aurelia (6/4), the American superstar, and the fast-rising Battaash (7/4).
At just 5f this is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Group 1 sprint, with the outstanding Mecca’s Angel the reigning, back-to-back champion.
Lady Aurelia was outstanding in her last start on UK soil, taking another Group 1 5f dash, the King’s Stand Stakes, by three lengths from Profitable and Marsha – both in the field here, but travelling from the US can bring with it added difficulties. At such a short price, there are question marks about this fantastic horse with an obvious disadvantage.
With three wins in his last three starts and a BHA mark of 115, Battaash has been keeping good company of late, defeating Profitable and Marsha in the Qatar King George Stakes, and while off a heavier mark at York he is still a multi-going winner who looks a class above most – Lady Aurelia excepted – in this field.