Owner Henry Ponsonby is targeting another major handicap success, with Scarlet Dragon in York’s John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup, to follow up the Northumberland Plate victory of Who Dares Wins two weeks ago.
Like Newcastle hero Who Dares Wins, Scarlet Dragon is a dual-purpose performer who has shown decent form over hurdles – and was last seen over timber at Sandown when fourth to Getaway Trump.
His best Flat form has been against subsequent King George winner Poet’s Word and Prince of Wales’s hero Crystal Ocean – and trainer Alan King has his string in good form.
Asked if it was beyond the realms to be thinking of winning two of the biggest handicaps of the season, Ponsonby said: “I can imagine it, because we’ve had this race planned for over a year.
“He’s a course-and-distance winner three years ago on Ebor day in a big handicap, and since his Sandown run he’s had a lovely break and is as well as we can get him.
“I’m pleased to have got Tom Queally, because he has had three rides for me at York and they’ve all won, including First Mohican in the Ebor.
“We could have done with a better draw than 16 – that’s the only negative. But there’s a big handicap in him.
“He travels well, he likes the track – and we fancied him for the Ebor two years ago, but he didn’t appear to stay.
“With a positive ride we hope he can be in the money – he’s overpriced at around 20-1. He’s got a lot of class.”
Drawn even wider on Saturday is Simon Crisford’s Mordin, in stall 20 with Seamus Cronin taking a valuable 5lb off.
“The horse is approaching the race in good form – he ran in the contest last year – and we’re very pleased with him,” said Crisford.
“He’s got an awkward post position, which doesn’t give us a lot of options being drawn out wide.
“Mordin has reached a very respectable level – and he’s obviously a very good horse – but with the rating he has, it makes life tough for him in handicaps (and) also tough if he steps beyond handicap company.
“I was looking for someone to take a bit of weight off his back. Seamus is a very promising young jockey, and hopefully the horse can give him a good ride.”
Running off the same rating of 106 is Roger Varian’s Mountain Angel, twice a winner this year and a good fifth to Addeybb at Royal Ascot.
“He ran huge at Ascot. He just got shuffled back from stall one, and that 10 furlongs is brutal at Ascot if you don’t get track position early on,” said Varian.
“He ran on to finish fifth. It was like two races. He almost won his race. There was three in a line to be second, third and fourth – and I thought he ran well enough to be in the mix to be in line to be second, third or fourth.
“It was a good run, and much better than his finishing position suggests, and he had two good runs at Epsom beforehand.”
Jedd O’Keeffe’s string could hardly be in better form – and since joining from Mick Channon, Jazeel has not finished out of the first two, winning at Sandown last time out.
“The horses are flying, but you can’t be confident going into a race like this – he’s in great shape, though, and we’re really happy with him,” said O’Keeffe.
“He picked up a 5lb penalty for his win but was only raised 2lb by the handicapper – so we’re claiming three back with a good apprentice in Sean Davis to negate it.
“The ground will be fine. We’re hoping they go a good gallop – which with 22 runners, they should – and we’ll see how we get on. He definitely goes with some short of a chance.
“As a Yorkshireman this race means a lot to me, and I’ve never even had a runner in it before, so I’m desperate to win.”
Kevin Frost’s Francis Xavier is looking to regain the winning thread after his four-race streak came to an end at Goodwood first time out.
“I’m hoping he’s better than a handicapper – he didn’t show that at Goodwood, but he came home ill and was all wrong there,” said Frost.
“He’s bouncing now – like a raging bull. I think he’s improved physically this year.
“I think he’ll get a mile and a half, and that’s a trip I would like to try in a few runs’ time when he’s got the tickle out of his toes, but a strongly-run mile and a quarter will be right up his street.
“I know this is a better contest, but he tanked through the race when he won over course and distance last year.”