Ted Veale weighted to complete Ebor coup for Martin
If Pallasator is to win York's Betfred Ebor today, he will need to produce a weight-carrying performance of rare proportions.
With Mark Prescott at the helm, you couldn't discount such a possibility. His towering, ungainly five-year-old son of Motivator has been backed into as low as 3/1 favourite, and you can have 9/1 or bigger about the remaining 19 runners.
Pallasator certainly impressed in the manner that he won under 10st at Ascot last time, since when he has been bought by Qatar Racing. He beat two subsequent winners and has gone up only four pounds in the ratings, so he doesn't appear harshly treated.
However, the Ebor is a notoriously hard race to win, and no horse has carried more than 9st 4lb to glory since the mighty Sea Pigeon lumped 10st to victory under Jonjo O'Neill in 1979. Pallasator is undoubtedly a smashing prospect that remains open to further improvement, but he is easily opposed here.
Johnny Murtagh, whose Royal Diamond went so close when pipped by Willing Foe in the mile-and-six-furlong contest two years ago, relies on Mutual Regard in his quest for his first win in the race. He has booked five-pound claimer Louis Steward to ease the 9st 9lb burden, but this is still a mammoth task for a horse whose profile is otherwise quite attractive.
Mutual Regard won stylishly on its Curragh bow for Murtagh in June, before finishing third to Pale Mimosa in Listed company at Leopardstown. Manalapan and Eye Of The Storm - second and fourth - went on to complement that form with wins next time, so Mutual Regard has place claims at odds of as big as 25/1.
The only other Irish-trained runner in the £265,00 feature is Tony Martin's Ted Veale. Martin has a unique capacity to execute ambitious handicap forays, and this could yet prove up there with the best of his exploits.
A year ago, Ted Veale confirmed himself a progressive individual when following three Flat wins with a fine turn to be fourth in this behind Tiger Cliff. For all that it was a hugely commendable performance, though, it could have been even better, as he didn't enjoy the clearest passage when he needed a gap a furlong down.
As it was, he kept going well to catch the eye after the winner had got first run. There has been an element of curiosity about the way that Ted Veale has been campaigned since, as he was pitched hopelessly into Graded company for his first six starts over fences.
On finally contesting his first beginners' chase at Galway last time, he duly got off the mark over the bigger obstacles, which should have boosted his confidence ahead of this.
As to why Martin chose such an unconventional path with him, who knows? What we can say now is that Ted Veale comes here completely under the radar for his first Flat start for 12 months.
Crucially, he is rated just a pound higher than last year, and he has the added bonus now of the excellent Sean Corby taking another seven pounds off his back for a net weight of 8st 8lb. All told, then, he is fancied to defy odds of around 20/1 to plunder yet another major handicap coup for Martin.
The other raider that is fancied to score on the Knavesmire is Full Steam Ahead in the concluding apprentices' handicap over five furlongs. David Marnane's three-year-old made nearly all the running en route to an authoritative win in slow ground over this trip at Cork recently, having previously finished second to Kernoff at Tipperary.
Like Ted Veale, Connor King's mount won't mind a slight easing in conditions. Full Steam Ahead gets in here off a first-time mark of 85 for just 8st 8lb, and that seems very fair given that Kernoff has since won off 89.
Earlier, Custom Cut is also expected to oblige in the mile Group Three. On official figures, David O'Meara's charge is up against it here.
Nonetheless, the manner in which he completed his hat-trick at Leopardstown suggested that there is more to come. Custom Cut stormed away from Brendan Brackan and Sruthan on that occasion, so the likes of Graphic and Farraaj will need to be at the top of their game to deny him and Daniel Tudhope now.
Best Bet: Ted Veale
During a mesmerising few days at York, Australia's flawless Juddmonte International triumph was an undoubted highlight. The dual Classic winner excelled over 10 furlongs against his elders, showing a real maturity in the way that he settled and went about his job.
The commercial realities of Coolmore's ethos mean that Australia was never going to be campaigned as ambitiously as Sea The Stars or Frankel, and we are resigned to soon seeing the last of him on the racecourse. Nevertheless, he has lent real substance to the momentous statements that Aidan O'Brien has made about him from an early remove.
Leopardstown's Irish Champion Stakes could be his swansong, but the hope is that connections will keep their options open. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is just three weeks later, but it has been blown wide-open by Taghrooda's defeat.
Alternatively, a QE II clash with Kingman is a tantalising prospect, and soft ground at Ascot could tempt the Coolmore powerbrokers. Lest we forget, Group One success over a mile would constitute nirvana in terms of Australia's stud career. It would also make for a hell of a spectacle.