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1.45 - John Smith's Racing Handicap (1m)
A field of 19 were declared for the York opener and it sets up as a fiercely competitive handicap to kick things off. Lots of chances but it may pay to find something that will excel with some give underfoot given the forecast conditions.
The Richard Fahey-trained AMAYSMONT fits the bill. He twice shaped well at this track last season over 6f/7f on quicker ground than is forecast here. He proved his stamina for this test with his all-weather campaign over the winter, winning twice, and arrives here having finished second at Musselburgh (1m1f, soft) on his most recent start in May.
He was only headed very late on in that race and the return to a mile will be a positive, while that Scottish form stacks up as the winner scored again soon after.
From just 2lb higher and with this ability to handle track/conditions assured, Paul Hanagan's mount should go well at around 14/1.
Chichester, Ajyaall, Young Fire and Wobwobwob are other contenders for prizemoney but second choice is for Richard Hannon's Lexington Knight.
The Night Of Thunder colt has finished in the frame in all six career starts and got on the board winning a Windsor maiden on soft ground last month. As a 3YO, he creeps in here receiving weight all round and could be capable of having his say again from bottom-weight.
2.20 - John Smith's Silver Cup Stakes (Group 3, 1m6f)
HUKUM won the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last August on his first attempt at this sort of trip and followed that up with a decent fifth in the St Leger at Doncaster the following month. Owen Burrows' Sea The Stars colt has already tasted Listed success this season over 1m4f (soft) at Goodwood either side of fair runs in Group-race company.
Last month's Royal Ascot third behind Wonderful Tonight in the Hardwicke Stakes was another very pleasing run on testing ground, and that form reads well with Broome (third) a Group 1 winner in France since and Sir Ron Priestly (seventh) denying Al Aasy in the same Shadwell colours here on Thursday.
A tongue-tie is added now for Hukum and he should relish this return to 1m6f and the conditions underfoot, ensuring he's the confident pick to land this Group 3 event as he still has scope for plenty better as a 4YO.
Ilaraab was only eighth in that Hardwicke last month, seeing his six-race winning sequence come to an end. He's a dual course winners (1m2½f/1m4f) and will handle conditions. He could go well if his stamina holds out at this new distance.
Fujaira Prince won the Ebor here last season over C&D (soft) and finished placed in an Irish Group 1 and the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot (2m, soft) afterwards. He is very effective coming back from a break and so Roger Varian's charge should be fully primed for this test.
He therefore is the chief threat to Hukum on form, though it wouldn't be wise to dismiss the improving Quickthorn too easily. He is 2-2 this season in handicaps at Haydock and Ascot over 1m4f with plenty give underfoot.
He's up to a mark of 103 following last month's Duke Of Edinburgh victory and, while more is required, the Nathaniel gelding could do better still for Hughie Morrison and champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
2.55 - John Smith's Stayers' Handicap (2m½f)
He only made a couple of turf appearances last summer, achieving little at big prices, but KANGAROO POINT has made decent progress on the all-weather since for Ian Williams and could have something to offer now back on the grass.
He began 2021 with a hat-trick of wins at Kempton, Southwell and Wolverhampton - all at this type of distance. After finishing second at Southwell in April, he was given a short break before returning at Kempton 10 days ago to finish no better than fifth in a first-time visor (off now).
He was better than the bare result there, having had his run checked at a crucial time. Losing momentum in a stayers' contest on the all-weather rarely brings success. He's able to race from a 1lb lower mark and, if he transfers that improved form to the turf, he has to have a solid chance.
Arctic Fox was second here over 1m4f four weeks ago and will be in the mix if his stamina holds up, while Flint Hill was a Pontefract winner last month over a similar trip and is unexposed on the level at this trip.
Lady Isabel won an amateur riders' event at Bath (1m4f, soft) last month and was not stopping at the line. She's 4lb higher in the weights for this assignment but does have Harry Burns offsetting that in the saddle. They should go well.
3.30 - John Smith's Nursery (6f)
Three of these were last-time-out winners and one of those, ATOMIC LADY, makes most appeal to bag this nursery. The Kodiac filly obliged for trainer Tim Easterby on her third start, scoring at Ripon (5f, good to firm) in early June, continuing the theme of race-to-race improvement in doing so.
She earlier placed at the same venue over 6f on soft ground and should have no qualms back up in distance on the forecast surface here. An opening mark of 72 therefore looks like one that may be exploitable.
Makalu won a Thirsk novice (6f, good to firm) last month despite still looking a bit unsure of himself. Kevin Ryan's charge is also worth a close look, albeit this will be the slowest ground he has encountered so far.
Windsor novice winner Night Candle, by contrast, had earlier finished second on soft ground at Nottingham and may have more to offer on this switch to handicaps.
Red Power made a decent fist of conceding a 7lb penalty when second at Haydock (7f, good to firm) lat month having previously opened his account over this trip at Ayr. His debut in May was over 5f here on good to soft ground and Tom Dascombe's Acclamation colt is a player despite top-weight on nursery bow.
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4.05 - John Smith's Cup Handicap (1m2½f)
Having made a winning start to the season at Nottingham on fast ground in April, Astro King rocks up here on the back of a silver medal in the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot last month.
He couldn't get near the impressive winner but he beat 28 other rivals and appears a well-handicapped contender on the back of that effort. Sir Michael Stoute's Kingman colt does though need to prove he is as effective on this slower ground.
Dawaam's career has been of the stop-start nature to this point but, after winning at Chelmsford (1m2f) either side of wind surgery/winter layoff, he made a decent shape in the Listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. He has claims with that in mind.
Surrey Pride is 6lb higher than for May's C&D success and should give another solid account for James Tuite, while Aaddeey shaped with promise from this increased mark at Royal Ascot last month in fifth behind progressive Quickthorn and gets the 3lb claim of Mark Crehan in his corner now.
All need considering, as does Al Zaraqaan in first-time cheekpieces for the William Haggas team, but a chance is taken with VICTORY CHIME instead. He was a winner at Epsom in April over this sort of trip and showed up very well back there at the Derby Meeting when second to Blue Cup.
He went into Listed company at Royal Ascot soon after and ran with credit. He is a soft-ground winner in the past so these conditions hold no fears and perhaps odds of around 25/1 are too dismissive, even in this very competitive line-up.
4.40 - John Smith's City Walls Stakes (Listed, 5f)
Last year's winner Moss Gill returns to defend the crown. His form figures at York read 22113 (the latter in Group 1 Nunthorpe behind Battaash). He handles soft ground, though was well behind Dakota Gold at Nottingham in October under these conditions. Moss Gill's Haydock second behind King's Lynn in May was a solid run and he's a player back here.
The aforementioned Dakota Gold won his final three starts of last term - here over 6f in a Group 3 and twice at Listed level at Nottingham and Doncaster. On that form he's a big player but, in recent seasons, he has tended to need a run back and so facing these race-fit rivals is a worry.
Winter Power was impressive over C&D in May on good ground, beating some useful 3YO rivals readily, and it's not hard to overlook her subsequent King's Stand run at Ascot. She was up on the breakneck pace throughout and duly faded as the closers held sway. It's not the first time keenness has cost her, however, and there are risks attached to her valid claims getting weight from these older rivals.
Irish raider URBAN BEAT finished ahead of a few of these in the Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster last season under similar conditions, finding only re-opposing Tarboosh too strong on the day. Johnny Murtagh's charge won the Rockingham Handicap at the Curragh recently and looks primed for this assignment as such.
Slower conditions today won't faze Ronan Whelan's mount and he's got a solid enough chance of adding to his tally.
5.15 - John Smith's Sprint Handicap (6f)
Mr Wagyu's superb season continued with a gutsy success at Haydock eight days ago and John Quinn's charge isn't one to go by in haste. He's rated 3lb higher here but his rider Connor Murtagh can offset that burden. His best form of late has been on quick ground but he is proven to act on good-to-soft.
CAPOTE'S DREAM has been an excellent addition for Tom Ward since arriving from Ireland in the winter. He won twice at Kempton over this trip in the spring and also scored on good-ground at Windsor in May.
A blip at Haydock followed but he got much closer to the winner Punchbowl Flyer on soft ground at Windsor 12 days ago and, up 2lb, should have a challenge in him with Jim Crowley booked to ride now.
Of those likely to start at bigger prices, Abate is given a chance to shine. He was a good-ground C&D winner last summer and made the frame here behind Mr Wagyu last month on fast ground.
That ranks as part of a solid run of form this season so far - figures read 26332 - and he's not short on soft-ground form in his back catalogue either. He remains within 2lb of his previous win-mark and if he keeps knocking on the door his turn should come again soon.
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