Five reasons to remember York’s Ebor meeting
Historic milestones reached by both a horse and a trainer among the highlights of festival
Classic generation step up
It has taken a while for this year’s three-year-old crop to come to the party. On Tuesday, they looked distinctly average but by Friday they looked a lot smarter. Roaring Lion established himself as the best mile-and-a-quarter horse in Europe with a comprehensive defeat of his elders in the Juddmonte International, while Sea The Class emerged from the Darley Yorkshire Oaks as the 4-1 favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and is being hailed William Haggas’s best ever.
Ironically, however, she might not even have been the best filly on show on Thursday. Lah Ti Dar, who missed Epsom and Royal Ascot with a bug, won the Galtres Stakes by 10 lengths in a time only a second slower, and trainer John Gosden may now send her to the St Leger.
The horse worth a million
They said it could not be done, but the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million is not an impossible ask. Stradivarius may not have been at his sparkling best, but he banked the inaugural £1million bonus for stayers by completing the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Friday’s Lonsdale Cup. Gosden reckoned the Gold Cup, over 2½ miles, was the toughest leg and although it was a great race – simply because it was his fourth long-distance start in four months and only three weeks after Goodwood – the Lonsdale was very nearly his undoing. But he did it, and the popular little chestnut could easily repeat the feat in 2019.
Johnston passes the post
Mark Johnston is a remarkable trainer. Quite apart from the timing – during Yorkshire’s biggest meeting of the summer – the Middleham trainer’s feat of sending out his 4,194th winner, beating the previous record set by Richard Hannon Snr, who beat Martin Pipe, who beat Arthur Stephenson, is astounding.
It has taken him 31 years, and there may not have been as many Group Ones or Classics among the total as he might have hoped for, but it is, nevertheless, a tribute to his stable’s consistency. He has had 100-plus winners in a season 25 times.
North still a powerhouse
Racing’s North-South divide exists only over jumps. Apart from Johnston, this year’s Ebor meeting was a terrific one for other Yorkshire trainers. On Friday, the Gimcrack went to Kevin Ryan’s Emaraaty Ana, but that was promptly trumped when Bryan Smart’s Alpha Delphini touched off the County Durham-trained Mabs Cross in the Nunthorpe Stakes.
What jump trainers lack are the big local owners with deep pockets, but that is not such a problem for their Flat counterparts.
Yorkshire-based owner and sponsor Steve Parkin, of Clipper Logistics, also enjoyed a good week, particularly when Red Balloons won the valuable Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes.
O’Brien is not infallible
Most trainers would be happy if they sent out one Group One winner every six months, but when Aidan O’Brien does not have one for six weeks, it signals a mini-crisis at Ballydoyle. After Fairyland won the Lowther Stakes, his solitary winner of the meeting, O’Brien spoke at length about the “worst” respiratory illness he has ever endured at his yard. “But we’re not complaining because it happens to everyone,” he said.
In O’Brien’s absence, this week was the one when Gosden went a long way to regaining the trainers’ title with five winners, including big-money wins by Roaring Lion, Stradivarius and yesterday with a one-two in the in the £500,000 Sky Bet Ebor Handicap when Muntahaa, an 11-1 shot came clear of stable companion Weekender. Stratum, the favourite, was unplaced after meeting appalling traffic problems in the race.
Clear winner: The 11-1 shot Muntahaa sprints ahead of the field in the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap at York yesterday