York Racecourse has already won one award this year, merited or not, and plenty more will be handed out in the course of the week, as Jamie Lynch explores...
"The more it rains, the better Dalkala's chance, and her Group 2 reappearance at Longchamp against the males, when a close fourth behind Maxios and Don Bosco, puts her in prime position for the race..."
Four million visitors a year, spending £440 million. Not the only McDonalds in Cuba, nor the Greggs here in Halifax, and not even the ambiguously-named MegaSex in a suburb of Amsterdam. It's the city of York.
No surprise then that tourism is a pivotal industry in York, and no surprise then that the winner of 'Marketing Campaign of the Year' gong at the recent York Tourism Awards, held at York racecourse, was York racecourse. What's slightly surprising is that the award-winning campaign revolved around Frankel, which I suppose is a bit like the O2 getting a prize for its work in pressganging teenage girls to attend the Justin Bieber concert.
On its website, Minster FM, who covered the awards and provided the host, the zany David Green, or DG the DJ, report that York Racecourse won the marketing gong with 'Unlocking the Frankle Factor'. Shame on you, Minstre FM.
There are, according to Trip Advisor, exactly 123 tourist hotspots in York, and not a single Greggs or MegaSex amongst them. However, this week, for one week only, there are a few additional attractions at York to behold...
The Talking Horse
They came as a pair originally, the Twin Talking Horses of Newmarket, but due to hasty restoration to one, only Liber Nauticus can make the exhibition.
As has been the theme in the recognised trials, for both Derby and Oaks, it's all about one horse, so that it's more like a time trial than a semi-final race, and that one horse this time is Liber Nauticus, who'll be judged on how she wins rather than what she beats, which doesn't look to be much.
Based on her only two-year-old start, when grinding out the win, and on the precious bulletins from the Stoute yard, specifically that she's 'not the most exciting at home', Liber Nauticus isn't going to 'do a Secret Gesture' and stroll home by half the track. In that regard, she's in, if not a no-win position, then a no-impressive-win one, but it needn't diminish her Oaks prospects.
Her problem is that, hyped up, she's priced - in both the Oaks and Musidora - as if she already has equivalent form to Secret Gesture and Moth, almost taking the Musidora for granted, and the danger with preconceptions is that it blurs the truth. Liber Nauticus' truth is that a win at York, even a workmanlike win, would represent a big step up, in line with her planned projection to Epsom.
The in-built expectancy may mean, after the event, Liber Nauticus' Oaks odds don't change, when in fact things have changed, as far as her personal development goes. She's a slow-burner, so don't anticipate her scorching the turf on Wednesday, but do assume she'll be much hotter at Epsom, where the extra distance and extra trailing will set her alight.
The Duke of York Spectre
According to Ghost Research Foundation International, York is the most haunted city in the world. Myth has it that, amongst others, headless women, Roman soldiers and, rarer still in York, non-vegetarians still appear every now and then. But there is another spirit, within the Duke of York, who could soon become something of a legend, namely Swiss Spirit.
Let's not skirt around the issue: Swiss Spirit has gone from David Elsworth, who's been quiet for a few years now, to John Gosden, the champion trainer, and what's more, like a lingering spirit, there's a strong sense of unfinished business about Swiss Spirit.
On his way up as a three-year-old, particularly the autumn day he beat Kingsgate Native in a Group 3 at Newbury, after which he had a tilt at the Abbaye, Swiss Spirit looked to have a big engine to match his big frame, and there's every chance David Elsworth might have got him to the top level but, to be blunt, there's more chance Gosden will.
This is a hot Duke of York, and Swiss Spirit may not be ideally drawn in 5, nor 100% wound up, nor suited to the ground if the rain comes, but you could do worse than back him ante-post for the Temple and King's Stand, with high hopes of a big run here and a bigger season ahead. Swiss Spirit has it in him to be Britain's leading sprinter by the end of 2013.
L'arme à feu Française
York is twinned with Dijon, and to celebrate relations the good people of France are sending over L'arme à feu Française, the French gun, and it may even be the double-barrelled one.
Certainly on show is Dalkala in the Middleton Stakes, and not just any Middleton Stakes: a substandard Middleton Stakes, hers for the taking. More often than not a Group 1 filly starts her season here, and The Fugue was pencilled in for it, but Gosden has left her be for now and instead sent the suspect Starscope, who's Timeform top-rated based on her second in the Coronation Stakes but a good few pounds off what it normally takes to win this, plus she has temperament and stamina doubts over her.
That paves the way for Dalkala, a Group 2 winner (from Shirocco Star, over 1½m) at home last year who's aiming to follow in the hoofprints of stablemate Shareta by plundering a York prize, and just as stamina won her a wet Yorkshire Oaks, it can win Dalkala a forecasted wet Middleton.
The more it rains, the better her chance, and her Group 2 reappearance at Longchamp against the males, when a close fourth behind Maxios and Don Bosco, puts her in prime position for the race.
Two places, but less than a length, behind Dalkala in that Group 2 at Longchamp last month was Top Trip, likewise making his comeback, and it was just as encouraging mindful that one and a quarter miles would be wholly inadequate in his case. Though a Group 2 winner at eleven furlongs, he's always looked a stayer, and gets another chance to prove it in the Yorkshire Cup, which, like the Middleton, looks a notch below its advertised level, betting without Cavalryman, but that's Dubai form, bringing us to...
The Dubai Monster
Write your own joke here about Godolphin horses who look like potential monsters, but Secret Number has always been in the Saeed camp, and he's overpriced in a Dante with a very different shape to it now the grazed Telescope is out grazing.
The Godolphin furore, Saeed's stuttering start to the season, and the fact that Dubai form doesn't always carry have all seemingly impacted on his Dante odds, currently 6/1 and fifth-favourite, but that ignores the fact that, in ratings terms, he's achieved the most out of all the eight contenders and has always impressed as a serious horse, including his debut in Britain and not just his Dubai runs, the latter the UAE Derby in which he finished third but shaped best.
Secret Number boasts an impeccable pedigree (half-brother by Raven's Pass to Dubai Destination and Librettist), one that suggests he'll go on turf, and, the price he is, you don't have to risk much to find out if he's as good as he looks.