GRAEME Johnston’s (@GraemeJ_83) being going great guns at York this week. He’s lined up three more fancies from the final day of the Ebor Festival.
York 14:00 | Channel 4
A mile Group 3 race with 12 runners who look closely matched, York has certainly produced some fiercely competitive racing this week. Once again a case can be made for plenty of these but there are two that catch my eye for different reasons.
Top Notch Tonto had been a frustrating horse for the past 18 months where he had spent his time competing at mainly Group 1 and 2 level. He won two races in 2013 before finishing second in the QEII at Ascot.
He never won a race during 2014 and that continued until he came home first in a Listed race over today's course on softer ground from Gabrial in June this year. He followed it up here with a solid second over 10 furlongs, where he was beaten by Tulius, who like Top Notch Tonto, had been out of sorts.
Third that day was Prince of Gibraltar who was seventh in the Arc. The time was good and I'm tempted to think the form is reliable. Top Notch Tonto seems to reserve his best form for York now so I will be backing him at 7/1 (Coral) to continue his recent course form.
The other horse I like in this is Sir Michael Stoute’s unexposed Convey (13/2 William Hill). The impressive winner of a Kempton all-weather maiden late last year, he wasn't seen again until Glorious Goodwood when finishing fourth behind Malabar. The form of that race is OK but I expect him to improve significantly.
There is no way a horse that had been off the track for nearly nine months won't improve for his seasonal debut and he still holds an entry in the Champion Stakes later in the season. The fact Convey is kept to Group level shows they expect a better showing and I agree.
He was very green at Goodwood and did not seem anywhere near the finished article. This is a much easier track for an inexperienced horse to race at and with normal improvement and a bit of Stoute magic thrown in, I also expect Convey to go close.
York 15:10 | Channel 4
The Gimcrack is York’s premier two-year-old race of the season and this looks a solid renewal. There is one in the field though that could be anything and I'm intrigued.
Buratino brings the best form in to the race with his Coventry win but I'm not sure if he has any improvement left in him. He stepped up dramatically for the trip from five to six furlongs after being beaten by today's rival King of Rooks. Though he is a decent two-year-old, I'm taking him on.
The horse I like here is Finnegan (3/1 William Hill). He made his debut at Keenland Park where he was beaten on dirt. He was then switched to turf where he hacked up at Pimlico. His trainer Wesley Ward rates him highly and says his homework with Acapulco is encouraging. The trainer is no stranger to success in the UK and this colt could well add to it here.
Obviously we are taking a chance on him as the American form is difficult to weigh up but the trainer is bullish and I feel the race is winnable. He is all about speed and York’s six-furlong track definitely suits speed horses from the front so I make him the one to beat.
York 15.45 | Channel 4
The Ebor is the race the festival is named after and it's the richest flat handicap in Europe. It's one of the biggest betting races of the season and one of the most fiercely competitive races of the year. It's a race that can make a tipster look silly, but it's not going to stop me trying to find the winner!
I looked and looked at this race and I struggled to come up with even a starting point. This is unbelievably competitive, especially as there are so many unexposed horses. I'm used to handicaps where the same 14 horses turn up and there are very few secrets but with Clondaw Warrior and Fields of Athenry bringing seriously progressive form combined with handicap veterans Quick Jack, Astronerus, Watersmeet and Arab Dawn, it's one hell of a puzzle.
I've decided to choose potential over proven form and I'm going to go for Fields of Athenry (8/1 William Hill). He's only had five starts but he has quickly developed in to a high quality colt. He won a Leopardstown Listed race over 14 furlongs by 10 lengths easily and followed that up in a Group 3 over 10 furlongs showing that he is not short of pace.
He doesn't have any big field experience but that doesn't overly concern me as he is classy and I feel that his talent can see him through. Aidan O'Brien doesn't send many runners into handicaps but his record in this isn't terrible. He also sends younger son Donnacha over to ride it and he takes off a useful 5 lbs claim.
I fully expect him to step up again and I feel he is the least exposed runner in the field and could even be a Classic winner by the end of the season with the St Leger his likely target if successful here.
York 14.00 – Top Notch Tonto each way (7/1 Coral)
York 14.00 – Convey each way (13/2 William Hill)
York 15.10 – Finnegan to win (3/1 William Hill)
York 15.45 – Fields of Athenry each way (8/1 William Hill)
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