It is 42 years since the feature of the opening day of York’s Ebor festival, The Juddmonte International, was first run and there still hasn’t been a Yorkshire-based winner.
But this year local trainer Kevin Ryan hopes to break that trend with The Great Gatsby.
Having already won the French Derby and the York Dante this season, Ryan is confident his stable star can capture a large chunk of the £800,000 prize money which makes it York’s most valuable ever race.
Ridden by jockey Richard Hughes, his trainer said: “It’s going to be a very exciting and tough race but we’re hopeful of a big run.”
Two seasons ago The Juddmonte was won by the greatest racehorse of all time, Frankel, and this year Aiden O’Brien sends over his Australia to try and capture the prize for O’Brien for the fourth time in seven seasons having also won it last year with Declaration of War.
Australia is likely to be a warm favourite on the day having already gained success in the Derby and with jockey Joseph O’Brien set to ride below nine stone for the first time this season he looks like he will be very hard to beat.
David O’Meara is another Yorkshire-based trainer with lofty ambitions for Group 1 success at York’s Ebor Festival.
On Friday he will saddle the rapidly improving three-year-old sprinter G Force to run in Friday’s feature race the Nunthorpe Stakes.
G Force won well at York in the spring and is in good form but would appreciate some ease in the ground.
Nawton-based handler O’Meara, is the current York champion trainer and believes the Ebor festival is a highlight of the flat calendar.
He said: “Obviously this is a meeting we target, we had three winners here last year and we’ve got a strong team this year.”
Of his other runners, Dutch Rose would be a popular winner and must have a great chance as she aims to win the Eventmasters.co.uk EBF stallions fillies handicap on Thursday for the third year on the bounce, but must contend with a 9lb higher handicap mark.
He added: “She has won it the last two years and has an excellent record at the track having won here four times.
“She is on a mark of 100 now so she will have to be at her best to win it for a third time.”
Stable star Penitent, who gave O’Meara his first taste of group success has also been aimed at the festival after been given a short break.
Other notable runners to watch out for in the handicaps are Balducci, Ingleby Angel, Hit the Jackpot, Fattsota, Eccleston and impressive last time out winner Awake my Soul.
With so many entries and his stable coming into form at just the right time it could prove to be a very fruitful festival for the O’Meara team.
The showpiece of the four-day festival is of course the Betfred-sponsored Ebor Handicap, which takes place on Saturday.
The richest flat handicap in Europe has attracted 103 entries but can have only a maximum field of 20, so many trainers will be left disappointed after targeting the race all year.
There will be no such problem for the Sir Mark Prescott-trained Pallasator, who has been subject to a monstrous gamble in the last month and is now a best priced 100/30 favourite having been 14/1 a month ago.
Pallasator clearly has the form to win having beaten Double Bluff last time out, who then went on to win a competitive handicap at Glorious Goodwood, but 100/30 is very short in a race renowned for hard luck stories.
At a bigger price Clever Cookie is well worth another chance having ran badly last time. Clever Cookie can easily be forgiven his last run on ground that was too firm and the distance too short.
Prior to that he was improving at a rate of knots and has already won on the famous Knavesmire twice this season.
His trainer Peter Niven sidestepped Royal Ascot with his stable star to have a crack at York Racecourse oldest and most famous race.
He said: “I don’t think he’ll have to improve too much and if we can get good ground I’d be expecting an improved performance from him.
“He has appreciated a short break and I’d expect the step back up in distance to be to his liking.”