This year’s 20-runner Ebor Handicap features a hotpot in the form of Pallasator (4/1) but whether Sir Mark Prescott’s (pictured) five-year-old represents any real value at such restrictive odds remains to be seen (3.50pm, York, Saturday).
It is a sobering thought that just three favourites have won the Ebor in the last 20 years and with winners at 100/1, 33/1, 25/1 (four times) and 20/1 in that period, the 1m6f contest invariably requires some unravelling.
Of course, that is not to say that Pallasator isn’t without a chance. The Motivator gelding was only just touched off by De Rigueur in the Old Newton Cup, over 1m4f at Haydock last month. He showed the benefit of that outing when staying on strongly to beat Double Bluff by two lengths, again over a mile and a half, at Ascot three weeks later.
A 4lb penalty for the latter performance looks more than fair, even allowing for the fact that Double Bluff finished well beaten next time, so Pallasator has every chance of becoming Sir Mark Prescott’s second Ebor winner.
De Rigueur (12/1) is 2lb better off for the neck he beat Pallasator in the Old Newton Cup and, while the latter has undoubtedly improved in the interim, remains a live contender. Marco Botti’s six-year-old showed progressive form last season and, while he has never actually won over 1m6f, his win over 2m at Haydock last June proved he has stamina in abundance. Andrea Atzeni, who’s ridden him to both victories this term, is once again in the saddle so, if he arrives fit and ready to do himself justice after a seven-week break, he looks decent value at his current odds.
Van Percy (14/1) has already had a profitable season, winning three times, including twice over 1m6f, and his neck defeat of Havana Cooler at Goodwood last month, in particular, makes good reading. He drew clear with the runner-up inside the final furlong on that occasion and, given his generally progressive profile, a 4lb penalty for that success hardly looks prohibitive.
The two Irish contenders, Ted Veale, trained by Tony Martin, and Mutual Regard, trained by Johnny Murtagh, are also worth a second look.
Ted Veale (20/1) hasn’t run on the Flat since finishing a never-nearer fourth, beaten 2½ lengths, behind Tiger Cliff in this race, on soft going, last year. He is 1lb higher in the weights this time around, but shouldn’t be inconvenienced by faster underfoot conditions, having won on good to firm at Bellewstown last July. He proved his well-being when winning over fences at Galway less than three weeks ago and, with apprentice Sean Corby taking off 7lb, could be a potential fly in the ointment.
Mutual Regard (25/1) did little for his handicap mark when winning over 2m at the Curragh in June, but was far from disgraced when third, beaten 3¾ lengths, behind Pale Mimosa, on unfavourable terms, over 1m6f at Leopardstown the following month. The winner is thought good enough to contest the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at York on Friday, so even off an 11lb higher mark than when winning at the Curragh Mutual Regard shouldn’t be underestimated.
Progressive Clever Cookie is in with a shout but looks short enough at around 8/1 considering he is 10lb higher than his latest victory. That was achieved off 96 and he runs off 106 here. The likeable gelding also appears to be best on a soft surface. However nobody deserves a big race victory more than trainer Peter Niven, the former jumps jockey.