The 2012 York Ebor Festival kicks off on Wednesday and we’re set for four fantastic days on the Knavesmire.
The four-day meeting continues to be one of the highlights of the summer and with three Group One races in store, some of the sport’s leading names will be ready to battle it out over the course of the week.
Wednesday’s card sees the mighty Frankel step up in distance to 1m2f for the first time and racegoers will be expecting an explosive performance from the world’s best racehorse.
We take a look at the day’s televised action as racing fans look to get off to a flyer on day one of the famous festival.
2:00 Symphony Group Stakes (Handicap) Cl2 5f89y
Wednesday’s action gets underway with a thoroughly competitive twenty runner handicap and the action is sure to be fast and furious.
REX IMPERATOR heads the betting for Roger Charlton and the three-year-old looks like he could be a group performer masquerading in handicap company.
The top-weight has looked in fine form so far this year and he get off the mark in style when landing a 6f handicap at Windsor in June. That success came after he travelled well throughout and he cruised to victory in the race before chasing home Fulbright in a Newmarket handicap last month.
His fourth place finish at HQ suggested that he would relish a drop in trip on a flatter track and he gets his ideal conditions at York on Wednesday.
The consistent Tax Free is sure to run his race and it would be no surprise to see Mister Manannan bounce back after a lengthy absence, however, it looks like Rex Imperator could be a cut above his rivals and he can get punters off to a winning start on day one.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Rex Imperator
2:30 Pinsent Masons LLP Acomb Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 7f
Five horses line up for the Acomb Stakes and American Impact aside, they all look to have a great chance in the Group Three.
Dundonnell couldn’t have been more impressive when he powered to a taking victory at Lingfield last time and Roger Charlton is understandably excited about the son of First Defence.
Equally, Ebn Arab is clearly held in high regard by trainer Charlie Hills and the form of his maiden success is working well. As is Steeler’s who landed a gamble at Glorious Goodwood two weeks ago.
However, Aidan O’Brien’s AFONSO DE SOUSA could hold the aces here and the expensive son of Henrythenavigator and half-brother to Kentucky Derby hero Big Brown can take this on the way to better things.
The selection got off the mark on the third attempt at Leopardstown and the good ground proved to be the key as he strolled home to a nine length success. He never looked like being beaten there and he is undoubtedly a smart prospect – something backed up by his fancy entries.
O’Brien is sure to have him spot on for the contest and he can take the prize back to Ireland for his masterful trainer.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Afonso De Sousa
3:05 Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes (Group 2) Cl1 1m4f
The 2012 Great Voltigeur looks a thoroughly intriguing affair and fans of Camelot will be waiting to see if anything can emerge from the pack in the St Leger trial.
Main Sequence brings the best form to the table and the Lingfield Derby Trial winner actually chased home Camelot to finish second in the Derby himself. He followed that with an unlucky fourth in a Group One at Longchamp recently and he looks like the one to beat at York.
Thomas Chippendale will be looking to build on his victory in the King Edward at Royal Ascot last time out and he is sure to go well despite his penalty, while stablemate Noble Mission is sure to give his running under the hands of Tom Queally.
However, the latter will do well to confirm the form of his latest Goodwood Group Three success with ENCKE who is sure to relish a return to a more conventional track.
The Godolphin colt has only had four starts for the ‘boys in blue’ and his inexperience was there for all to see when he failed to hold off Noble Mission in the Gordon Stakes. He is open to plenty of improvement and the well-bred son of Kingmambo is clearly a very talented individual.
He is sure to improve with every run and Mickael Barzalona in the saddle; he can take this before he tackles the St Leger at Doncaster.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Encke
3:40 Juddmonte International Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) Cl1 1m2f88y
Racing fans will be desperate to see the mighty Frankel step up to ten furlongs for the first time in the Juddmonte International and the invincible son of Galileo is impossible to oppose.
Twelve consecutive victories have seen him rated the world’s greatest racehorse and the worry for his rivals is that he has never looked like being beaten.
His last two victories at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood have been as good as anything he has ever done and he looks like he will improve for the step up in trip.
However, Frankel will never be a working man’s price and only the big hitters will be looking to get involved at 1/6.
A better bet may come in the ‘without Frankel’ market and ST NICHOLAS ABBEY can chase home the winner and finish best of the rest.
The 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf hero has consistently proven he is a high class operator and he looked as good as ever when winning the Coronation Cup at the Epsom Derby meeting in June. Left with too much to do in the King George at Ascot last time out, his followers will be hoping that jockey Joseph O’Brien is more alert aboard the son of Montjeu and he has the pace and class to deal with his drop in trip.
Nick Wilby’s selection – St Nicholas Abbey W/O Frankel