Saturday’s best bets:
2.55 York – Skybet York Stakes – 7 Long John (each way) @ 7/1 (Skybet)
An exciting eight race mix of Ascot and York forms the backbone of Channel 4 Racing’s televised fayre this Saturday afternoon, with four races a-piece races from the two premier tracks topped off by the £1m King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at 3.50pm.
Added fascination comes from Sir Michael Stoute’s bid to become the winning-most trainer in the history of the big race – alongside Dick Hern and Saeed bin Suroor he currently sits on five successes (Shergar 1981, Opera House ’93, Golan 2002, Conduit ’09 & Harbinger ’10) – but a victory for runaway Hardwicke Stakes scorer Telescope would put him out on his own.
If his runner here turns up in the same mood as 35 days ago when running away with his Group 2 prize at Royal Ascot then Sir Michael could well be heading for a celebratory Pina Colada in the Owners & Trainers bar, and Telescope is 99.9% certain to get the fast surface he adores.
You can surely forgive his early season twin-defeats to Noble Mission on Soft going at Sandown Park and Chester, and he looked very much the real deal at the Royal meeting.
That said, he’s probably the right price at no bigger than 9/4 at the time of writing, and this is a red-hot renewal, and he isn’t even the top rated horse in the field.
That particular honour goes to Prince Of Wales’s Stakes runner-up Magician (rated 124), who last year was successful in both the Irish Guineas and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
The step back up in trip looks the right thing for him, but he’s only won once in four starts since his trip to America, and might find one or two too good once again.
Also afforded plenty of respect by the official figures is the William Haggas-trained five year old Mukhadram, a horse who has enjoyed some massive pay days this year, with the second in the Dubai World Cup far more valuable than even his win in the Coral-Eclipse three weeks ago.
He was a surprise winner at Sandown, and is far from guaranteed to see out the mile and a half trip on his first attempt at the distance.
Racing in the very same Hamdan Al Maktoum silks as Mukhadram is the Oaks winner Taghrooda, re-routed here from last weekend’s Irish Oaks to take on both the opposite sex and the older horses.
She could also create some King George history, as you have to go way back to Pawneese in 1976 to find a three-year-old filly taking this prize, but she’s more than capable and in receipt of 15 pounds from the majority of her rivals looks a big danger.
However, this is a different ball game to Epsom, though you have to applaud the daring initiative from John Gosden and his team.
The same trainer (runs three in total) also fields Royal Ascot’s highly impressive King Edward VII Stakes hero Eagle Top, though there is a danger he might lack a bit of vital experience at the very top level at this stage.
If it’s a blend of experience, stamina, quality and an ability to operate on fast ground you want then look no further look no further than the Jim Bolger-trained Trading Leather.
One of two runners for the stable (they are also responsible for massive outsider Leitir Mor), this horse participates almost exclusively at the very highest level, and simply doesn’t know how to run a bad race.
In the frame in 12 of his 13 career starts, he was second in this race behind Novellist 12 months ago, and since then has been placed in a Juddmonte International, an Irish Champion Stakes and the Eclipse!!
Granted he doesn’t win too often, but he’s a former Irish Derby winner who is fully effective under Saturday’s conditions, and who is almost guaranteed to run his race.
Mukhadram was a surprise winner when beating Trading Leather in the Eclipse, but back up in trip he’s attractively priced at 14/1 each way with either BetVictor or William Hill.
He’s had a nice break between races (21 days), and Bolger continues to fire in the winners – another seven in the fortnight up to and including Wednesday’s racing.
Godolphin haven’t won this race since Doyen did the business in 2004, but with Trading Leather they’ve got a genuine contender at a big price.
York also host a really strong televised card, and on the Knavesmire another horse carrying the famous royal blue silks of Godolphin running in a valuable middle distance Group race will form the first part of an each way double for your correspondent….
Charlie Appleby is the man in charge of preparing the former Australian-trained Street Cry gelding Long John, and they’ll have high hopes the horse who used be under the care of Aussie trainer Peter Snowden can gain a first success on UK soil, as he prepares to line up in the Group 2 Skybet York Stakes at 2.55pm.
He stayed on nicely to take third in Ascot’s Summer Mile two weeks ago, unable to make much progress at the half way stage but then finishing strongly to suggest this step up in trip to an extended 1m 2f will be perfect.
A winner of the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas in Australia back in October, he also struck in Dubai in February when securing the UAE 2,000 Guineas on his first outing for Appleby.
Granted a run under his belt and time to acclimatise to UK racing then a huge performance could be on the card here.
At the time of writing the race sponsors will accommodate you at 7/1 each way.
Lastly, if you’re heading west to Galway next week and are around on Tuesday night then come and have a beer or two and support the Injured Jockeys Fund at the same time.
For the third year running a panel consisting of trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon’, jockey Niall McCullagh, fashionista Marietta Doran, bookie Paddy Power and myself will be running the rule over the Plate and the Hurdle for an hour or so, but this year we’ve got an extra large amount of giveaways, prizes and charity bets, plus there are even free burgers to help soak up the Guinness!
It’s at McHugh’s Pub, a brilliant place two minutes away from the track if you’re in a taxi, run by a racing fanatic and which on the big night 12 months ago was packed to the rafters.
Kick off is 9.30pm on Tuesday, and entry is free – optional donations of any amount to the IJF.