York selections Saturday 21st August
The final day at York and I think the most interesting from a betting perspective with a series of very strong handicaps interspersed with some quality group races. For the first time at the meeting we do have a bit of a quandary regarding the ground conditions as rain is currently falling at the track which will certainly take an edge off the prevailing fast ground this week. I have selections for four of the races. We moved into profit for the week thanks mainly to the win of Rifleman (advised 11/1), but we also had each-way placed efforts in the other two races via Dark Jedi (SP 11/1) and Dragon Symbol (advised 5/1).
York 2.25: Tashkhan & Annandale
This does not look as hot a renewal of the Melrose as usual with the top weight rated only 96 and some mid 70’s rated horses creeping in.
The potential softening of the ground will be a big assistance to the very progressive TASHKHAN. A wide margin winner for Emmet Mullins at Navan in March, he has continued to thrive since joining Brian Ellison. He has two soft ground wins to his name at Haydock, including over this 14f trip last month. Although beaten over 17f at Pontefract last time, that was a strange race with the winner getting an easy lead. Stamina could have been an issue for the selection there, but back at this trip he will easily get home. Apprentice Harry Russell has got on well with the gelding having been on board for both those Haydock successes and keeps the ride today.
ANNANDALE would not fit the usual profile of a Melrose winner having already had plenty of chances in 2021, and been beaten six times running since a spring success at Nottingham. However there have been some excuses and arguably his best run all year came at Sandown over this 14f trip in July, where his more galloping style came to prominence. He would not have been able to use that to as much effect around the undulations of Goodwood or Ascot, but nevertheless he finished off strongly over 12f on the latter occasion to finish second in a Shergar Cup race. Provided the ground does not get too deep Annandale will give a good account of himself at big odds on a track that should suit ideally.
York 3.00: Space Blues
I am keeping things simple for the Group 2 where SPACE BLUES is the class act and should prove his quality today.
A real 7f specialist he made a promising enough return at Goodwood last month having been forced wide from the back of the field in the straight. He was probably not 100% fit that day, but should be spot on for today. He is arguably the best 7f horse in the world, winning the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest last summer, as well as a Group 2 at Goodwood and this winter picking up the megabucks in Saudi Arabia.
He won early in his career on his only previous visit to York and has form on all types of ground so conditions won’t be an issue whatever the weather.
York 3.35: Sonnyboyliston, Max Vega & Quickthorn
Any number can be given a chance which is not surprising given the £500k prize fund involved. Three horses that look to have been laid out long-term for this are fancied.
If the ground stays on the fast side then SONNYBOYLISTON would be the first choice. Trainer Johnny Murtagh knows what it takes to win this race and whilst he has run well in pattern company in 2021, those runs all appear to have been a prelude to trying to take this big prize today. He did win a listed contest around Limerick and had a sighter around York when sixth in a listed contest last month.
He has raced all year though without headgear, and given a brilliant win with cheekpieces at the Curragh last autumn, I would expect significant improvement today for the return of those pieces. Whilst some softening of conditions would not bother him, good ground or better will see him at his very best.
MAX VEGA looks an interesting dark horse. He took his chance in the Derby last year (albeit well beaten) and finished close up to the high class Hukum at Newbury over 13f last summer. He also took in some top class staying contests in the autumn.
He had a delayed start to 2021, waiting for some cut in the ground. However trainer Ralph Beckett had to get a run into him eventually to prepare him for today and he finished just behind Sonnyboyliston in that listed race here last month. It was notable how easy a time he was given in the race and that race will have sharpened him up considerably. It looks like conditions will ease enough for him today (he won impressively twice on softish ground as a juvenile) and he looks to have slipped under the radar here.
Rain will also advance the claims of QUICKTHORN significantly. He was another to take in that listed race here last month, but looked all at sea on the quick ground. He is best rated on his impressive wins at Haydock and then Royal Ascot in soft going. Considering the way he sprinted from his rivals at Ascot a mere 6lb rise looks quite generous. Whilst he does have stamina to prove over this far, he does race professionally which gives him every chance of staying, as does this track which places more of an emphasis on speed.
York 4.45: Fishable & Straits of Hormuz
This meeting has been notable for the success of Northern trainers, especially Tim Easterby and two Northern raiders, including one from the Easterby barn are fancied here.
FISHABLE is a quirky sort who can be difficult in and out of the stalls, but if he gets a good early position he will definitely be thereabouts.
He lost all chance by rearing up in the stalls here in May, but has been on his best behaviour since. He won at Ripon two weeks later before running a stormer to be fifth in the John Smiths Cup over course and distance. He handles cut well if it rains significantly and was second here at the final meeting of 2020 so York definitely suits well.
STRAITS OF HORMUZ bounced right back to form with a strong finishing third in that John Smiths Cup and that seems to indicate that a strongly run 10f is really what he needs – and what he should get today.
He had not been staying in 12f races, but his win at the Leger meeting at Doncaster last year over 10f marked him down as an improving handicapper and he is still only 7lbs higher today despite that excellent run last time out. There should be a solid tempo to this contest with several potential front-runners and that will bring his strong finish into play.
1pt each-way – Tashkhan – 2.25 York – 12/1 general (Skybet 1/5 odds 1st 7)
0.5pts each-way – Annandale – 2.25 York – 33/1 Paddy Power, William Hill (1/5 odds 1st 6)
2pts win – Space Blues – 3.00 York – 5/4 general
1pt each-way – Sonnyboyliston – 3.35 York – 12/1 BetVictor (1/5 odds 1st 5)
0.5pts each-way – Max Vega – 3.35 York – 28/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)
1pt each-way – Quickthorn – 3.35 York – 16/1 general (Skybet 1/5 odds 1st 8)
1pt each-way – Fishable – 4.45 York – 12/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)
0.5pts each-way – Straits of Hormuz – 4.45 York – 17/2 Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 5)