York Ebor Festival Wednesday Tips: James and Madness for the sprint handicap

York race action
Tony has two selections for the sprint handicap on the first day of the York Ebor Festival

York's Ebor Festival commences with a cracking card on Wednesday and our resident tipster Tony Calvin has two big-price bets in the opening sprint handicap...

"He is also back on the same mark as his last success, at Chelmsford last season, and 5f and good ground are his ideal conditions."

Back Marnie James at 23.022/1 or bigger in 13:55 at York

As ITV cards go, Wednesday's terrestrial offering is not ideal for my style of punting, but we have had a little bit of luck in sprint handicaps this season - the 20/1 success of Poyle Vinnie was a very welcome Saturday winner at Goodwood - so let's hope the opener at 13:55 is kind to us, too.

I'm sure many people's analysis of the 5f handicap will begin and end with the favourite Dakota Gold following his runaway win in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon on Saturday.

He really was ridiculously impressive that day and he is 3lb well-in here, even taking into account his 5lb penalty, and he also happens to have course form figures of 1201, including a win last month.

But his best form has been with some ease, which he doesn't look like getting here, so I think you have to take him on at around 6/1 in this 22-runner heat.

Switch of stables can work the oracle

The one that stood out to me was Marnie James, who I was very surprised to see trading as the 33/1 outsider in one book on Monday afternoon (it didn't last long).

The main angles here were the trainer switch and the falling mark. And a couple more positives besides, too.

Let's deal with the fact that he was bought for £75,000 at the Goffs Horses In Training Sales on August 7, and has now joined Jedd O'Keeffe from Iain Jardine.

I have to view that as a positive given the way O'Keeffe's horses have been running this season, and indeed of late too, as he has had five winners from 11 runners in the past fortnight, and three of the other six were placed.

York straight action 1280.jpg

And he has had a lot of success with the new owners, Quantum, as well, with four out of the other six horses they have with him winning this season (including Breanski at Doncaster on Saturday).

Of course, Marnie James has only been in the yard for less than two weeks, so O'Keeffe hasn't had a lot of time to weave his magic, but he has certainly inherited a well-handicapped horse if he can sweeten him up in the short term.

He is already 4lb lower than when beaten just a length in a 21-runner handicap here in May, and this course winner also ran well when third at this meeting last year.

He is also back on the same mark as his last success, at Chelmsford last season, and 5f and good ground are his ideal conditions.

Back him at 23.022/1 or bigger.

Buick to enjoy another good Moment aboard madness

I am happy to have two win-only bets in this race though, and hopefully A Momentofmadness can justify a small tickle at 21.020/1 or better, too.

He didn't have the kitchen sink thrown at him at Goodwood last time, his first run after a near two-month break, so he shaped well enough in the circumstances.

I imagine connections will have been delighted with another 3lb drop in the weights for that effort, and he has now come down 9lb in five starts in 2019.

So he is now 4lb lower than when making all to win the Portland under today's rider William Buick last season and hopefully forcing tactics will be adopted for the first time since here.

He finished a good fourth in this race two years ago and I am taking the booking of Buick, on board for the horse's last three victories, as a signal of intent from connections.

Guest worth considering in Acomb

The Acomb Stakes at 14:25 looks an absolute minefield to me, with seven of the nine last-time-out winners - Persuasion impressed in a fair time on his debut at Goodwood - and the other pair are arguably the form horses.

I was very tempted to give Ropey Guest another chance at 20/1 each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook, as his Coventry sixth represents the best form on offer here, but it isn't hard to see a few of these lightly-raced sorts improving past him.

But you can make his excuses for his two below-par runs since Ascot, as he wasn't ideally positioned in the centre of the track when fourth in the Superlative Stakes and he would probably have benefitted from a stronger pace when third last time.

If they go hard here, or indeed they decide to ride him far more prominently, he could yet surprise, but I'm happy to sit this one out.

Crystal Ocean a solid odds-against bet if you like short prices

I'm not quite sure what Logician has done to justify short-priced favouritism in a disappointing turn-out for the Voltigeur at 15:00.

Well, actually I do, as this Frankel colt is unbeaten and brushed aside a weak handicap field at odds of 1/5 in a good time at Newbury.

But his sexy profile is more than factored into his price, and I hope Constantinople - 3lb better off for a neck defeat at the hands of Nayef Road in the Gordon Stakes - wins this to keep my St Leger hopes alive. It is no-bet race for me, though.

I am a terrible judge of a short-priced favourite, and it was only that fact that stopped me, thankfully, from getting stuck into Morando when he touched 13/8 at Newbury on Saturday.

However, even I am half-tempted to back Crystal Ocean at odds-against in the Juddmonte International at 15:35.

The 3yos don't convince me at all - King Of Comedy looks the most potent - and, while I can see the case for backing Elarqam each-way at around 10/1, this is surely Crystal Ocean's to lose.

He never appears to have an off-day - a big consideration if you are looking to lay him - and a reproduction of any of his performances in the last two campaigns, perhaps with the exception of his reappearance win at Sandown in 2018, would probably be good enough to take this prize, unless one of the Classic generation takes a mighty leap forward.

Granted, the betting suggests it wouldn't be the greatest surprise were he to be beaten, but I genuinely think he wins this race a minimum seven times out of 10, which clearly makes any odds-against a bet if you are happy to play at short prices.

I don't tend to, for the reason stated above, but no way would I lay him, or deter you from backing Crystal Ocean should you want to have a bet in the race.

On what we know, he is on another level to the opposition.

Crystal Ocean left 1280.jpg

Elarqam would be the horse I would be focusing on elsewhere in the race, maybe each-way or possibly betting without the favourite (my favoured option, but no such market was available at the time of filing) or in a straight forecast.

He has got back on track of late, and his 3 ¼-length course-and-distance defeat of Addeybb (easy subsequent Group 3 winner) in the soft last time is not to be underestimated.

He is ground-versatile and also two-from-three at York, the only defeat coming in a narrow third (beaten two necks) to Thundering Blue here last July. He is a much better horse this season, too.

Some interesting runners later on the card

In the RTV races on the end of the card, Melting Dew would be a massive player off a mark of just 91 if he can finally get his act together in the 2m handicap at 16:15 but there has been precious little evidence of that this season, which is why he has been dropped 11lb for his four runs this year, I guess.

Looking for some positives from his runs this season, there was a glimmer of promise in his run in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock on his penultimate start, though.

The finale gets even trickier with a 22-runner nursery at 16:50 and my two against the field, for what it is worth, are Hard Nut and Owney Madden, who finished fifth and 11th respectively in the handicap won by Homespin, who they re-oppose here, at Goodwood.

The former, representing the same owner and combination who won this race with Ginger Nut last season, has the more obvious chance but Owney Madden looked all-at-sea at Goodwood and he is well-handicapped on his earlier Newbury win, for all that he didn't look straightforward there, either.

But I can wait for better bets later on in the week.

Best of luck.


April 14 2017 to Aug 20 2019 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open your account today using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn - £/€20 Back in cash if your bet loses
Bet Now

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles