Nakeeta and Stratum lead the way as Ebor field starts to take shape

Iain Jardine anticipating staunch defence from 2017 winner Nakeeta

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Last year’s winner Nakeeta and ante-post favourite Stratum are among the confirmations for Saturday’s Sky Bet Ebor at York.

Nakeeta finished a meritorious fifth in the Melbourne Cup after his Knavesmire triumph and trainer Iain Jardine admits he took it easy on his stable star at the beginning of the year to help him recover from those exertions.

After a good showing behind Stratum at Newbury, though, Jardine believes Nakeeta is primed to put up a stern defence of his crown.

“I was delighted with how he ran at Newbury (fifth), it was a great run,” Jardine told At The Races.

“He’s taken a bit of time to come to himself this year having been away in Australia, but I’ve not pushed him, I’ve just let him come to himself and he’s a horse that comes right at this time of year so we’re excited.

“We think he’s at the top of his game, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a great run.

“York is a fair track, he was drawn 18 last year so with a middle draw again, I’ll be happy. They always go a good gallop which plays into his hands.

“He’s 4lb higher than last year, but he knows his way around there and the ground should be nice. We’re ticking all the boxes, we just need a bit of luck.”

Stratum is one of a clutch of possibles for trainer Willie Mullins along with the likes of Whisky Sour, Lagostovegas, Chelkar and Laws Of Spin.

Other Irish possibles include Ger Lyons’ Mustajeer, Jarlath Fahey’s Sea The Lion and Joseph O’Brien’s Light Pillar, although he would need plenty of withdrawals to get a run.

Saeed bin Suroor is looking for his third win in the race and could run Prize Money and Game Starter.

John Gosden’s Weekender sits at the head of the weights with stablemate Muntahaa also high up there along with the Marco Botti pair of Crowned Eagle and Dylan Mouth.

Lord Yeats, Time To Study, Blakeney Point and the Andrew Balding duo of Montaly and Count Octave are still in the mix.

Nakeeta and Stratum lead the way as Ebor field starts to take shape
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