Ebor Handicap: Toughest test yet for Sweet William
Sweet William is the 7/2 favourite in Coral’s Ebor Handicap betting odds after attracting plenty of support for Saturday’s feature race at York.
The prestigious handicap, which serves as an automatic qualifier for the Melbourne Cup, is the highlight of the final day of the Ebor meeting and 22 will head to post for a contest which has a prize fund of £500,000.
John and Thady Gosden’s progressive four-year-old finds himself at the top of the Ebor betting following three straight victories but faces his toughest test yet as he bids to add to the fine record of the Clarehaven team in the contest having won the race recently with Muntahaa in 2018 and Trawlerman 12 months ago.
“He’s obviously progressed well through the year, winning from a mile and a half to two miles and half a furlong,” said Thady Gosden.
“He’s running over the same trip he won well over at Goodwood last time out and he’s been in good form since then.”
Sweet William, who is owned by the renowned owner-breeder Philipa Cooper under the Normandie Stud banner, was at one stage sweating on his place in the final line-up, while the owner herself was reluctant about running in the race.
However, his big-race claims are obvious despite a competitive field and Gosden is keen to take part in one of the season’s most valuable handicap contest.
“The Ebor is a premier staying handicap in the UK and of course one of the features of the Ebor Festival,” he added. “He is versatile with regards to ground.”
Second to Sweet William at Goodwood was Michael Bell’s Adjuvant, who was the last to sneak into the race after declarations on Thursday morning.
The four-year-old finished third in the Melrose on this card last year and his handler is hopeful of another solid showing on the Knavesmire.
Bell said: “He ran a very nice race at Goodwood and appears to be in very good form this year. I think he has definitely improved from three to four. He ran a nice race in the Melrose at York last year but the form book suggests he’s taken a nice step forward.
“We were surprised to get in and it is very race for a horse rated 95 to get in. Obviously we are delighted to get in and we’ve got a bit of a pull at the weights with Sweet William, but arguably he won with a bit more up his sleeve so we may be up against it. But he heads there in really good order.”
Willie Mullins won the prestigious handicap in 2009 and although always having the race circled on his calendar, the Closutton handler has been out of luck on subsequent visits to the Knavesmire.
This year it is Royal Ascot runner-up Absurde and one-time Group Three scorer Jackfinbar that carry the hopes of the multiple champion National Hunt trainer, and he has called up a crack team of jockeys with Frankie Dettori set to reunite with Absurde for his York swansong, while William Buick will be aboard the latter.
“Both horses are in good shape and I’m very happy with them,” said Mullins. “We have one inside and one outside after the draw. Both jockeys are in good form and we’re looking forward to the race.
“It’s a race a race we look at every year if we have something good enough and qualified to go for it, so we’re hoping for a good run.”
One horse who always had zero worries about making the final 22 is Saeed bin Suroor’s consistent performer Live Your Dream, who arrives on the Knavesmire on the back of victory at Newmarket’s July Festival and is set to carry top weight.
“After he won at Newmarket he had an easy time and now he is doing well and has been working well,” said Bin Suroor.
“He’s in good form, but it’s a tough race with some good horses in it and he has to carry a heavy weight. I’m happy with him and a mile and six is the best trip for him and I think the track will suit him.”
Andrew Balding’s 10/1 shot Scampi booked his ticket when winning the track’s Jorvik handicap earlier this season and could be a popular selection having added to his season’s tally at the Shergar Cup recently.
His owners RaceShare have big ambitions of taking their charge to Australia later in the year, but first the Yorkshire-based operation are hoping their star performer can provide them with a fitting home success.
“Scampi has been brilliantly placed by trainer Andrew Balding and our owners love that he is such a character and so well liked by Andrew’s staff at Kingsclere,” said managing director Lucy Delaney.
“We have plenty of local Yorkshire owners attending too so it’s nice to have an in-form Yorkshire-based jockey in Jason Hart on board. It is all very exciting.”
Sir Michael Stoute’s Real Dream is the second favourite at 7/1. He was third behind Scampi here in May and has since advertised his big-race credentials with a taking victory over the Ebor trip at Ascot.
“It’s been the target for a long time, but we didn’t know if he was going to be high enough to get in at one stage. Obviously after his win at Ascot that just put him there right,” said Philip Robinson, assistant racing manager for owner Saeed Suhail.
“The trip’s ideal and everything is good. He worked brilliantly the other morning and really strode out well, so we’re very hopeful.”
Milton Harris will be studying tapes of Dettori’s ride aboard Trawlerman 12 months ago as Scriptwriter (12/1) bids to go one better than his track-and-trip second to Hamish in the John Smith’s Silver Cup from a wide draw in stall 20.
He said: “The horse is in great form and everything has gone well with his preparation. Ground conditions are fine and we have no concerns there, but the draw is really unhelpful.
“We’ll have to go forward I suppose, I’m going to have to talk to the jockey and formulate some sort of plan, but I couldn’t be happier with the horse.
“He had a terrible draw at Ascot when he ran a really nice race and now we’ve got another bad draw in a really competitive race, so the draw gods aren’t smiling upon us I’m afraid.
“We’ll have to find a way and no doubt we will have a watch of what Frankie did last year. It’s not impossible and Clifford (Lee) is a good jockey who has ridden around York plenty of times.
“He has been bought by some people in Australia and is going to race over there and this has been his target before he goes.
“He ran a tremendous race over course and distance last time at York and I have no concerns whatsoever about his well-being, I couldn’t be happier with the horse and I won’t be able to offer the well-being of the horse as any excuse.”
2023 Ebor Handicap betting odds
7/2 Sweet William
7/1 Real Dream
10/1 Live Your Dream, Scampi
12/1 Scriptwriter, Adjuvant
16/1 HMS President
All odds and market correct at date of publication