Published 17.10 16/05
We have had the sprinters, in Wednesday’s Duke of York Stakes, the Classic contenders, in the same day’s Musidora Stakes and Thursday’s Dante Stakes, and on Friday it will be the turn of the stayers.
The Matchbook Yorkshire Cup at 3:00 has attracted a select field of eight for what is one of the qualifying races for the Weatherbys Million-Pound bonus. Stradivarius won the race last year, and took the bonus later on with wins in the Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup.
He is back again for more, and it is reasonable to imagine that he will be well wound-up, even after an absence of more than 200 days, given what is at stake. Stradivarius is capable of showing a rare turn of foot (such as around 11.5s in the penultimate 1f at Goodwood) as well as of grinding things out.
He has no real chinks in his armour, but he is not the only high-class performer in Friday’s field, even though he is priced as if he is.
The Charlie Appleby-trained ISPOLINI was a revelation in Dubai earlier in the year, winning a Group 3 over approximately this trip by a double-digit margin from the smart Red Galileo and recording an excellent time into the bargain, before finding only Cross Counter too good at a two-mile trip that might have taxed him in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup.
There was no disgrace in that, for Cross Counter has long been a very good horse indeed to anyone who could be bothered to look at the clock, and won a Melbourne Cup last year, of course.
Even a conservative view of Ispolini’s form suggests that Stradivarius will have to be absolutely on his “A” game to beat him if he runs to his best while conceding him 3lb.
The ground should not be a problem for Ispolini, either. Times show that the conditions on turf were fast for the Dubai Gold Cup – in which the course record was missed by just 1.08s – and the times indicated similarly fast conditions at York on the first two days.
The clincher is, as it always is, that the price on Ispolini looks too big and the price on Stradivarius looks too small.
Desert Skyline managed second in this last year but has become disappointing, Mildenberger and Mootasadir have stamina questions to answer, and Southern France is able but rather one-paced (and has been beaten already this campaign). What is not to like about Ispolini?
Having seen one of my ante-post Guineas bets (Space Blues for the 2000) oblige at York this week, I am hoping to witness another – NATALIE’S JOY (1000) – triumph there on Friday. Small consolation, perhaps, but the filly looks a very backable price for the Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes at 2:25 in any case.
Natalie’s Joy was sensationally good when winning at Goodwood on her debut and impressive enough when beating much better horses – including the next-time Gimcrack winner Emaraaty Ana – at Newbury on her final two-year-old start, but ran like a drain at Royal Ascot in between. Twist 'N' Shake, who scooted up at Nottingham just a week ago. That was on soft ground, though, and this test is going to seem very different for the daughter of Kingman.
Natalie’s Joy is likely to have too much speed for her. Indeed, there is a slight chance that she will have too much speed for a mile itself.
Franny Norton is tasked with rationing her stamina, and conditions are certainly speed-favouring on the Knavesmire this week. I make it a bigger gap between the front two in the market and the remainder than is implied by the odds.
Lady Fanditha comes into the reckoning for the Marygate Fillies’ Stakes at 1:50 at York, having beaten two next-time winners at Nottingham on her only start, but 21-runner two-year-old races at this time of the year are not really my cup of tea.
I could also see Society Red running well in the Matchbook “Best Value” Exchange Handicap at 3:35, with some of his rivals likely to be inconvenienced by conditions, but not quite enough to put him up in this company. We’ll stick with the two bets.
Simon's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
2.25 YORK - OAKS FARM STABLES FILLIES' STAKES, FRIDAY
2pts win NATALIE’S JOY (4-1 general)
3.00 YORK - MATCHBOOK YORKSHIRE CUP, FRIDAY
2pts win ISPOLINI (5-1 bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet, 9-2 general)