David Cleary runs the rule over the main contenders for the Ebor, and plumps for a 20/1 shot in the signature race of a four-day feast at York...
"On his previous start, Global Storm had run a fine race when third in the Copper Horse Handicap. At both Ascot and Newmarket, there was plenty to like about the way Global Storm knuckled down."
The Ebor may be worth only half a million this year, having been the first million-pound handicap in 2019, but it is still about as high quality a race as a handicap gets, with the current lowest-weighted runner guaranteed to get in on Saturday, allotted a BHA mark of 104.
Although a few may drop out, this still means that some well-handicapped runners will just be too well treated to get in the final field of 22. That is almost certain to include Rodrigo Diaz, who is the pick of the weights on his improved second in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury last Saturday.
Another point to make here is that none of the regular front runners in the field is yet sure of a run, which might mean a less strongly-run contest than ideal for some of the more fancied runners. The presence in the line-up of Makawee and Hochfeld would change that dynamic somewhat.
Live Your Dream and Global Storm closely matched on Newmarket run
Hochfeld was responsible for the strong pace at which the valuable fourteen-furlong handicap at Newmarket's July Festival was run, eventually finishing a respectable seventh, the finish fought out by two Godolphin-owned runners, Live Your Dream and Global Storm. That's a pretty strong piece of form and understandably Live Your Dream is at the head of the Ebor market. That was just Live Your Dream's seventh run and his first at the trip, the way he picked up from the rear impressive.
Although he's had a few more runs, Global Storm, who came from a similar position to the winner and in similarly taking style, has a gently progressive profile and looks a bit overpriced in relation to Live Your Dream, given the revised terms.
On his previous start, Global Storm had run a fine race when third in the Copper Horse Handicap.
At both Ascot and Newmarket, there was plenty to like about the way Global Storm knuckled down. Although this was just the second running of that Royal Ascot race, it looks set to be a key Ebor trial in years to come. It provided the winner last year and this year's renewal features another leading candidate in addition to Global Storm, the Willie Mullins-trained Saldier.
High-class hurdler Saldier main hope for Mullins
Saldier was sent off at just 15/8 at Ascot, but could finish no closer than fifth, firmish ground perhaps his undoing, given how early he was off the bridle. He has since shown high-class form in winning the Galway Hurdle, travelling much more sweetly there than at Ascot, with cheekpieces fitted for the first time under either code. They seem likely to be in use again at the weekend.
Willie Mullins has two other entries in line for a run, Mt Leinster and M C Muldoon. Both are interesting, though neither is obvious for this race, necessarily.
Smart hurdler Mt Leinster is an unknown quantity on the Flat, having contested just four amateur-rider events last year, winning three. He might, though, be more a Cesarewitch candidate, a bit short of the speed required for this task. The same might be true M C Muldoon, who ought to have won the Ascot Stakes and has since shown useful form in winning over hurdles at Galway.
Given the record of Irish stables in general in the Ebor, the claims of Sonnyboyliston have to be taken seriously as well, for a stable that won the 2014 running. His last handicap run came in September last year, when he made short work of what looked a strong field at the Curragh, the form working out very well.
Sonnyboyliston hasn't quite repeated that effort in conditions races since, but it may be the return to a handicap (possibly with headgear back on) could see him back to his best. He certainly has a look of a horse trained with this in mind.
Ilaraab a must for the shortlist up in trip
Being trained for the Ebor may also be true of Hamish and Humanitarian, though neither has had a run this year. Humanitarian has had just six runs in his life, the most recent a win in a handicap at Newbury last September on his seasonal return. He has often looked a potential Pattern horse, and his stable is a dab hand at winning big handicaps with such types. Humanitarian will be going up in trip on Saturday, but it ought to suit.
Hamish won the Melrose (the three-year-olds' Ebor) in 2019. He hasn't been seen since his sole start in 2020, when a good fourth in the Hardwicke Stakes. It would be a remarkable piece of training to get either of these two spot on for such a competitive prize, but the pair are in very good hands.
By coincidence, Hamish's trainer William Haggas could field another horse that contested the Hardwicke on its most recent start, in this case Ilaraab, who contested the 2020 version.
Although Ilaraab could manage no better than eighth placing, he was sent off at just 4/1, a shorter price than the winner Wonderful Tonight and the third Hukum, proven very smart performers. It was easy enough to excuse Ilaraab, difficult to get into contention from where he was placed, and he had been massively progressive prior to that run.
On his previous start this year, Ilaraab had won a very competitive handicap at the Dante meeting at York. That was over just short of a mile and a half and the Ebor will be his first try at the longer trip. However, he has elements in his pedigree that suggest he will positively relish it.
Eagles worth a look at longer odds
Among those at bigger prices, one that catches the eye is Eagles By Day. He was a revelation last year after joining David O'Meara, though he was tried a few times at two miles or more and didn't really look to see the trip out. He has been out just once this year, over a mile and a half at Goodwood last month, the trip on that occasion too short. He looked a bit rusty when shaken up, in truth, but stuck to his task.
Eagles By Day looks to have a fair mark for what will be his handicap debut and the style of the race could suit him down to the ground.
It would be possible to make a case for quite a few more in what understandably looks a wide-open contest. At the prices on offer at the time of writing, Global Storm, Ilaraab and Eagles By Day look to offer some value. If plumping for one at this point, it would be Global Storm, who is available with the Betfair Sportsbook at 21.020/1.
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