Mark Milligan previews day two of the York Ebor meeting and recommends a Dermot Weld runner to back...
"She has an air of unfinished business about her over a mile and a half, and Dermot Weld's raiders are always worthy of the utmost respect."
The second day of York's Ebor meeting looks set to serve up a fascinating clash of the generations in the day's highlight, the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks at 15:35. Aidan O'Brien's Snowfall has done nothing but improve this season, while David Menuisier's year-older Wonderful Tonight has continued her progression from last year, being unbeaten in her last four starts.
Having taken the Musidora at this track in May, Snowfall put up a remarkable performance when following up in the Oaks at Epsom, coming home 16 lengths clear of her nearest pursuer. She had little trouble in completing a lap of honour by another wide margin in the Irish equivalent last time.
The knock on Snowfall is that one could argue she's yet to meet a filly who's in her sort of class, though that will change here as Wonderful Tonight, in ratings terms at least, will be by far and away the best opponent she's faced to date.
Conversely, the knock on Wonderful Tonight is that all her best form has come with a bit of cut in the ground, and while it's unlikely to be rattling fast on the Knavesmire, she's unlikely get the testing conditions under which she thrives so well. These two dominate the market and it's tough to make a strong case for anything to beat them unless both have something of an off day.
If there is to be an upset it could be Roger Varian's Eshaada that causes it. A debut winner at Nottingham last year, she improved plenty to win listed race at Newbury on her return and looked unfortunate not to remain unbeaten after a luckless run when second in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. She could well have a bigger performance in her still, though she'll need one here.
Loving Dream was the winner of that aforementioned Ribblesdale, though she was undoubtedly better positioned than Eshaada, and may struggle to confirm that form this time around.
The others in the field all have a bit to prove and it will be something of a surprise if the cream doesn't rise to the top with Snowfall and Wonderful tonight battling out the finish, though this looks a race to savour rather than one to bet in.
The Group 2 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes at 13:50 looks an ideal opportunity for the unbeaten Sandrine to complete a four-timer. She's currently Timeform's joint highest-rated juvenile filly and it will take a good one to lower her colours.
A winner at Kempton on debut, she confirmed that promise when taking the Albany at Royal Ascot before going on to win the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes at the Newmarket July meeting, beating the reopposing pair of Desert Dreamer and Hello You with a bit in hand.
A bigger threat to the favourite may come from Karl Burke's Illustrating, who was impressive when landing a gamble on her debut at Catterick in June before backing up quickly and posting a creditable effort when seventh in Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. The daughter of Showcasing took a big step forward to convincingly win a minor contest at Goodwood last time and there may be more come over from her now she steps up another furlong in trip.
In summary, it's hard to look too far past Sandrine as she attempts to continue her winning streak, though Illustrating has a live chance for those looking for a value alternative. Again, this isn't a race I'll be having a bet in, though it's certainly one I'll be keeping a close eye on with the future in mind.
The other two races that make up ITV's coverage on Thursday look fiendishly difficult to unravel. The Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes at 14:25 has been farmed in recent times by Richard Hannon and Richard Fahey, in particular the former, who has won four of the last five renewals of the race.
Hannon fields four in the race in an attempt to take home the big bucks once again, with System looking his best form chance. A listed winner at Newmarket in June, she was fifth in Group 3 company at Ascot last time, behind the likes of Zain Claudette and Desert Dreamer. It goes without saying that big runs from either of those in the preceding Lowther would be a boost for System's chances.
I went into the Clipper Logistics Stakes (Heritage Handicap) at 15:00 thinking I'd want to be with one or both of Astro King and Ametist. I've been convinced for a while now that this pair have a big handicap in them but neither has been done any favours with the draw. While it's far from impossible to win from a wide berth over a mile at York, the fact is it's not exactly ideal. A strong pace and a bit of luck in running will be needed as I suspect both will be dropped out and ridden to come late from their outside berths.
The one horse I'm really interested in backing on Thursday is in a race that takes place after the ITV cameras have stopped rolling, which is a shame because the British EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes at 16:45 has the makings of an interesting contest.
Dermot Weld won this a couple of years ago with Search For A Song, who was ridden by Oisin Murphy, and the pair team up again with Amma Grace in a bid to take the prize back to Ireland once more.
While Amma Grace doesn't come in with the same sort of profile as Search For A Song, she's a filly who's useful on her day and won a similar race to this at Leopardstown in October. She was clearly amiss on her reappearance this season but there was much more encouragement to be gleaned from her fourth-place finish at Cork last time. She has an air of unfinished business about her over a mile and a half, and Dermot Weld's raiders are always worthy of the utmost respect.