Hanson: Spot Plays for Day 1 of Ebor Festival at York Aug. 17

August 15th, 2022

The final major English racing fixture of the summer takes place this week at York, which presents its four-day Ebor Festival from Wednesday through Saturday. All three Group 1s at the meeting are Breeders' Cup Challenge Series races, but whether they'll have any impact on happenings at Keeneland in early November remains to be seen.

There are three Group offerings on Wednesday, highlighted by odds-on favorite Baaeed's attempt to maintain his perfect record in the Juddmonte International (G1), his first race beyond a mile.

Race 2: Acomb (G3), 9: 25 a.m. ET

This seven-furlong race for two-year-olds is restricted to those that have broken their maidens since July 7, thus the more precocious types and most prior stakes winners are ineligible. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating group of juveniles, several of whom have shown significant promise.

Although most visually impressed with early favorite Local Dynasty's debut win at Newmarket earlier this month, I can't quite latch on to his current price in the 5-2 range. From a betting standpoint, #8 Oviedo (12-1) is a more attractive alternative.

A $175,000 yearling purchase, Oviedo turned in a notable debut win at Doncaster July 21 over the Acomb distance. Settling nicely in midpack, Oviedo switched outside for running room a few furlongs out, glided to the lead inside the final quarter-mile, and responded well when shaken up late to win by 1 1/4 lengths from a next-out winner.

By Lope de Vega, Oviedo is out of a half-sister to dual Group 1-winning two-year-old Chriselliam and multiple Group 2 winner Very Special.

I have no firm opinion on Race 3, a six-horse renewal of the Great Voltigeur (G2), which serves as a potential St Leger (G1) tune-up for most in the field. So, on to the International.

Race 4: Juddmonte International (G1), 10:35 a.m. ET

#2 Baaeed (2-5) is tempting fate by putting his unbeaten 9-for-9 record on the line in this event. Frankel, to whom he's sometimes compared, had no problem negotiating the stretch-out here in the penultimate start of his illustrious career. However, this race has seen some massive upsets. Brigadier Gerard lost the only race of his career in the inaugural edition 50 years ago. More recently, Golden Horn lost in 2015 to the unheralded filly Arabian Queen as an odds-on choice.

In Baaeed's favor is the competition. While generally good, they are at times an erratic bunch.

If pressed to reveal a betting strategy, I'd fade second choice Mishriff and use others underneath Baaeed in an exacta. A powerful six-length winner of this event last year, Mishriff has run some head-scratching races this year. Book-ending a fine effort in the Eclipse (G1) was a last-place finish in his title defense of the Saudi Cup (G1) and a distant third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1). While he clearly doesn't relish the 1 1/2 miles of the latter race, losing by 10 lengths to Pyledriver after missing by a much smaller margin the year prior suggests we're not quite dealing with a horse close to the peak of his powers.

#7 Native Trail (8-1), who was right behind Mishriff in a photo for second in the Eclipse, looks to me a more logical threat to keep progressing and chase the favorite home. I'd also consider a small saver exacta on #1 Alenquer (20-1), runner-up here a year ago, in the second spot. Although he's generally proved inferior to Mishriff in prior meetings, he's seemingly capable of better than what he showed in the Eclipse, where he faded late after setting the pace.