Great Britain/Ireland Preview: Candleford can bounce back in Ebor

August 19th, 2022

York’s Ebor meeting ends Saturday with two group races, but it’s the handicaps that will be the most watched. In particular, the race to watch is the Ebor Handicap, which at £500,000 is the richest handicap race in Britain. It also serves as a significant trial for the Melbourne Cup and for autumn staying features in Europe.

Along with the Ebor, there are two other heritage handicap races worth significant money. It’s a great day of racing, so let’s have a look at them.

Race 1, 8:50 a.m. ET: Strensall Stakes (G3), 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up

It’s a little hard to go past the favorite #7 Mighty Ulysses here. The improving three-year-old was just three-quarters of a length behind Coroebus in the St. James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, and then comfortably won the Sir Henry Cecil at Newmarket July 7. In the latter, he beat #5 Alflaila, who re-opposes him after having won at Pontefract in the interim.

The only question is whether Mighty Ulysses steps up easily from a mile to 1 1/8 miles. That question also applies to the good mare #1 Bashkirova, a Group 3 winner at Epsom June 4 who hasn’t raced since finishing fifth to Saffron Beach in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot June 15.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #7 Mighty Ulysses

Race 2, 9:25 a.m. ET: Melrose Handicap, 1 3/4 miles, 3-year-olds

A nice race for three-year-olds over the Ebor trip. Trainer William Haggas is having a great run, highlighted once again by Baaeed’s Juddmonte International (G1) victory earlier this week, and he will be favored again here with #13 Soulcombe, who has won twice since being gelded earlier this season.

Charlie Appleby is also well represented, with topweight #1 Wild Crusade and #6 Al Nafir. My tip for the race, however, is #2 Soul Stopper. He won over 1 13/16 miles at Chester July 9 like a horse that’s going places and will stay this trip solidly.

  • $10 win/$20 place: #2 Soul Stopper

Race 3, 10 a.m. ET: City of York Stakes (G2), 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up

A nice field of seven-furlong horses run here. Many are backing up from the Lennox (G2) at Goodwood July 26, including the winner #10 Sandrine, runner-up #5 Kinross, third-place finisher #6 Pogo, and fifth placegetter #8 Sacred, who interestingly heads the betting market.

Personally, I’d still support Sandrine ahead of all the other runners from the Lennox, including Sacred. But I’ve also got a strong liking for the consistent #7 Rohaan. He won the Wokingham Handicap for a second year in June, and last start put up a great effort in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1), finishing fourth in a very good field.

There’s plenty of other good horses in an even field here, but Rohaan looks a strong shot here to me.

  • $10 win/$20 place: #7 Rohaan

Race 4, 10:35 a.m. ET: Ebor Handicap, 1 3/4 miles, 4-year-olds and up

With so much prizemoney available here, it’s no surprise that there’s a full field of 22 runners. A number of leading contenders have made the journey from Ireland, including pre-post favorite #14 Earl of Tyrone, second-favorite #7 Okita Soushi, and fourth-favorite #13 Licence.

Holding the end up for Britain is Haggas, who saddles #12 Candleford and #15 Gaassee. Gaassee hasn’t run past 1 1/2 miles, but he put up a nice effort when resuming at Haydock July 2 when third to #1 Get Shirty, who re-opposes him here.

However, I’m more in the camp of Candleford. His six-length victory after a 219-day absence from the racetrack in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot was a superb effort, and I’m prepared to forgive his below-par eighth at Newmarket in the bet365 Trophy July 8, where he may have been feeling the effects of his Ascot effort. With a six-week break since Newmarket, he should be ready to go well here.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #12 Candleford

Race 5, 11:10 a.m. ET: Constantine Handicap, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up

With £150,000 up for grabs, there’s a very nice group of sprinters here. Many who contested the rich Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood July 30 are back here, including the first five home in that race (#1 Commanche Falls, #2 Tabdeed, #4 Regional, #11 Good Eye, and #17 Tinto), along with #13 Summerghand, #3 Mr Wagyu, #9 Gulliver, and #6 Lampang.

For those wanting to look for form outside the Stewards’ Cup, #16 Spangled Mac looks the best, having won four in a row prior to a second-place finish at Ascot on Shergar Cup day. Don’t overlook #10 Mums Tipple, a winner at Newmarket last weekend by three lengths.

The Stewards’ Cup form still looks the strongest when trying to assess this race, however. What is less clear is whether Commanche Falls can handle a rise in the weights to 138 pounds. For that reason, I’m going to support Regional, who has been very consistent all season and deserves to get a good victory.

  • $10 win/$20 place: #4 Regional