Horse Racing

Gimcrack Stakes Preview – Ebor Festival

SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 2015
IRISH THOROUGHBRED MARKETING GIMCRACK STAKES (Group 2)
(Colts & Geldings)
(CLASS 1) (2yo) (6F)

Kevin Ryan has been the most successful trainer in this race in recent times,with three wins since 2005. William Haggas had also had a couple of winners in the same period, and both trainers are represented today.

It has been a treacherous race for favourite backers, with only one winning in the last ten, but with only one winner priced bigger than 8/1 in that time it has usually paid to side with horses near the head of the market. Buratino and American raider Finnegan are currently vying for favouritism, and with plenty more in the field with chances it should prove to be an exciting renewal.

BURATINO (JOHNSTON/BUICK)

Mark Johnston took this race back in 2008 with the unfancied Shaweel at 16/1, but his contender this year couldn’t have a more different profile. He is a maiden, novice, listed and Group 2 winner and comes here as one of the leading fancies.

That Group 2 win came in the Coventry at Royal Ascot (6F good to firm), and he looked a near certainty to follow up in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh, only for Air Force Blue to burst his bubble and turn a 2 length defeat in the Coventry into an almost 3 length win on this occasion.

Buratino could only manage 3rd, and it was a relatively disappointing effort given his performance at Ascot. Perhaps the slight bit of juice in the ground blunted his speed, and with similar ground, possibly even softer, forecast for Saturday it could be a similar story again. Is the current joint favourite at 11/4 with Finnegan, and unless the ground firms up he is probably best left alone at that price. Also has to give 3lbs to all of his rivals.

AJAYA (HAGGAS/GIBBONS)

Just failed last time out in France, going down by a head in a Group 2 (5.5F good) and the form has been franked with the 6th going on to romp home in a Listed race next time out at Deauville. Scored here in a maiden (5.5F good) on his penultimate run, landing the odds with the minimum of fuss, so there are no doubts about his ability to handle the track.

He also ran well on debut at Nottingham on good to soft ground which bodes well for his prospects if there is juice in the ground on Saturday. He was tried in Group 2 company at Royal Ascot after that encouraging debut effort, and shaped as though 6F would be ideal, even if he did finish 7th of 10. He wasn’t beaten far at all though, still looking green at times, and it was an effort full of promise.

He looks well worth his place in this company, and at odds of 6/1 he ought to run a big race stepped up to 6F for the first time, and with his trainer boasting a good record in this race he is shortlisted.

AREEN (RYAN/LEE)

Represents the yard that won this in 2005, 2012 and 2013 with horses priced at 7/1, 6/1 and 5/1 respectively. Entitled to respect for that fact alone, but he looks to have a lot on his plate in this contest if the form is to be believed, and Ajaya had him a couple of lengths behind in France last time out, with no apparent excuses for Areen. Also boasts a head second to Washington DC at Royal Ascot among his form, and that piece of form would leave him with nothing to find with Buratino, who was behind the O’Brien horse at The Curragh.

His very best form has come on good to firm ground, although he has yet to be tried on anything softer than good. He is by Kodiac though, so a slight ease might not worry him. Is entitled to respect coming from these quarters but he has looked just below this level on both his runs at Group level so far, and a place is probably the very best he can hope for today. Can be backed at 16/1.

FINNEGAN (WARD/PRADO)

Fascinating colt, owned by Coolmore and trained by Wesley Ward, a man who is no stranger to plundering pattern races on foreign soil, particularly with precocious two year olds. This colt, a half brother to Kentucky Derby runner up Bodemeister, was beaten on debut on the dirt (4.5F) but looked a different proposition switched to grass, bolting up in a maiden on the Preakness card (5F firm).

Speaking before Royal Ascot, as Finnegan was scheduled to go in the Coventry, Ward waxed lyrical about this colt’s ability, and earmarked him as his Kentucky Derby horse for next year. He unfortunately missed Ascot with a bout of colic, but his trainer reports him to be in superb shape ahead of his tilt at this prize.

His trainer’s view of him as a Derby horse is a positive regarding his ability to get the 6F trip, and with loads of natural speed to go with his stout pedigree he looks to be a live contender here. The big worry would be a lot of rain, but if conditions are top of the ground this horse is one of the main contenders and is currently joint favourite at 11/4.

KING OF ROOKS (HANNON/DETTORI)

Been admirably consistent this season, and having slammed Buratino among others in a Listed race at Sandown (5F good to firm) by 5 lengths he tried his luck in the Group 2 Norfolk at Ascot, finishing a creditable 3rd to Waterloo Bridge and Log Out Island, just a length behind the winner (Ajaya 7th 2 lengths back).

He again tried his luck in Group 2 company last time out at Goodwood (5F good) and went down by just under a length to Kachy in a surprise defeat. He won his maiden over 6F on good ground at Newbury but his last two runs haven’t exactly indicated that a return to that trip would suit.

His half brother handled cut, as did his dam so soft ground should be ok for him. However, it could well stretch his stamina if it does come up testing and with his form slightly below the level of some of the other contenders he is overlooked on this occasion.

ODE TO EVENING (JOHNSTON/DE SOUSA)

Another contender from the Johnston stable, and he will be ridden by man of the moment Silvestre De Sousa. Only had the three runs so far, starting out with a 5th place in a maiden here back in May (6F good). Stepped up on that bare form dropped in class next time out with an authoritative win on easy ground at Ripon (6F).

Subsequently took the Royal Ascot route, his last run, and came home a creditable 5th behind Buratino in the Coventry. Been put away since then, reportedly after suffering a couple of niggles, and he comes here a fresh horse.

He is out of a champion Brazilian filly (won Brazilian 1000 Guineas/Oaks) and is by Poets Voice, who has looked to be a big speed influence in his short career at stud so far. Handles cut in the ground, has been given a break since Ascot and at his current odds of 16/1 he looks to represent huge value. Dark horse with place prospects at least if in top condition.

RAUCOUS (HAGGAS/COSGRAVE)

Second of the Haggas representatives who is unbeaten in two, but has only beaten a combined total of four horses home in those contests, a two runner maiden at Sandown (5F good to firm) and a four runner conditions event on soft ground at Newmarket (6F). The second home that day is rated 101 so it wasn’t a bad performance, and he also showed that soft ground holds no fears.

Haggas described him as a ‘very nice colt’ after that Newmarket win,and earmarked this race as a possible target. His dam was group placed at two, and he is by Dream Ahead, so he has a speedy pedigree. However, this will be a much different test to anything he has experienced before, and at odds of 14/1 he is possibly best watched. Soft ground would increase his chance.

RIBCHESTER (FAHEY/HAMILTON)

Represents connections who are always respected in these races, particularly around here, but this colt looks to be getting pitched in at the deep end on just his second start, and it will be surprising if he is good enough to figure.

Just the one run so far, 2nd to a Haggas horse that has since been beaten in a handicap off a mark of 80. That form is well below what will be required here and judging by his pedigree he will be of interest when stepped up in trip later on in his career. Probably biting off a bit more than he can chew, and is best watched at 25/1.

STEADY PACE (BIN SUROOR/DOYLE)

Five starts so far and just the one win to his name, a debut success at Ascot back in May (5F good to firm) Twice placed at Listed level subsequently before stepping into Group 2 company at Newmarket and running a huge race in 2nd behind Shalaa beaten just a length (6F good to firm). The renewed acquaintances next time at Goodwood, and Shalaa increased the margin between them to 4 lengths, but that came on good ground which was perhaps against the Godolphin horse.

He is by Dark Angel, so theoretically he should handle some cut, and while his dam relished quick ground she is related to a couple of decent soft ground winners, including Atlantis Crossing who won a Group 2 on soft. May well need further to be seen at his best, but his run behind Washington DC at Ascot would put him right in the mix here. Could well be staying on when others have cried enough, and might sneak a place at 7/1.

CONCLUSION

If the ground is quick, which looks unlikely at this stage, then the safest bets to run well look to be Buratino and Finnegan. This is reflected in their prices though, and with rain forecast it might well pay to look elsewhere. If it does turn up soft the likes of Raucous and in particular Ajaya will come right into the reckoning.

However, a chance is taken on the Mark Johnston trained Ode To Evening, who hasn’t been seen since finishing 5th behind Buratino at Ascot. He won easily the only time he has had easy ground, he will be a lot fresher than most of his rivals and with De Sousa in the plate he is sure to be primed for a big run here. His Ascot run showed he handles quick ground too, and with more improvement likely to come he looks to be a solid each way bet at 16/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTIONS:
ODE TO EVENING (E/W) 16/1
AJAYA (7/1)
FINNEGAN (11/4)
STEADY PACE (7/1)

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