Tuesday 28 January 2020

'Maleficent' can defy odds to take Ebor

Betting Ring

Trainer Sir Mark Prescott. Photo: Edward Whitaker
Trainer Sir Mark Prescott. Photo: Edward Whitaker
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

York's association with the Romans is well-known but I only found out recently that the city's name was originally Celtic, and was once known as Eburacon, which loosely translates into 'the place of yew trees'.

The Romans Latinised the name to Eboracum, which actually means the 'place of the boar' but when the Romans left, the Anglo-Saxons used their own word for boar as the place name; Evorwic. To complicate things further, it seems that the Viking invaders couldn't pronounce that word - so they went instead with Jórvík, which was pronounced Yorvik.

Names such as Yerk and Yourke were recorded in the middle ages but in the last few hundred years, they've finally settled on York!

Etymology The Ebor handicap, (3.35 York) which is short for Eboracum, is nearly as complicated as the place-name etymology although the early markets are indicating that Flymetothestars will go off as favourite, currently 5/1 at the time of writing.

A son of Sea The Stars, Sir Mark Prescott's gelding comes here with a rating of 102 which seems reasonably fair following his third place off 100 in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle. Although he can race a little freely, he stays well and looks open to improvement with three wins and a place from just five career starts - but he's only ever raced on the all-weather surfaces so he's a little short in the betting for me.

One horse that's certainly not short in the betting is the 50/1 rank outsider Maleficent Queen, a five-year-old mare trained by Keith Dalgleish which is rated 101.

But I reckon punters are being too harsh on her following her latest two performances which were both below-par and as such, she offers a bit of each-way value this afternoon.

Rated 106 last season, something went wrong at Newcastle in her penultimate start in the aforementioned Northumberland Plate, and she was pulled up straight away.

She was next seen when fourth of six runners in a minor event at Musselburgh last month and although that showing wasn't anything to write home about, it was good to see there was nothing seriously wrong.

You risk looking foolish tipping these perceived no-hopers, but I'm not convinced her price should be so high.

A little earlier on the same card, Cardsharp gets the nod around 9/2 in the Group Two Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes (3.0). The July Stakes winner didn't act on the heavy ground in a Group Two at Goodwood last time but he's won before on today's ground which is expected to be on the softer side of good.

With Group Two form in the book, he's got to be on top of any shortlist and Mark Johnston's charge offers better value than Headway, which will probably go off as favourite.

Headway was sixth in that Goodwood Group Two and also disliked the ground so improvement is expected, and he was only beaten by a head in the Group Two Coventry Stakes.

There's not much separating the pair, so I'm happy to go with Cardsharp at a bigger price.

My biggest bet of the day comes from Goodwood where Lightning Spear is Nap material for the Group Two Grosvenor Sport Celebration Mile (3.20).

I'm perhaps a little biased having tipped David Simcock's six-year-old when he won this last year at 4/1, and while he hasn't won a race in five attempts since, he's been racing solely in Group Ones.

Third over this course and distance in the Sussex Stakes last time, he seems to like it at Goodwood and a step back down to Group Two level means he should take all the beating around even-money.


Sir Michael Stoute's Intellect is an eye-catching entry for the Betfred Melrose Handicap (2.25 York), having won on his handicap debut last month on heavy ground at Newbury rated 80.

That came on the back of a maiden win at Nottingham and it will be interesting to see if a 12lb rise in the weights will be enough to stop his progress.

He'll surely go close around 7/1 but preference is for Northwest Frontier, which was trading at 11/1 yesterday. Quite a few of these are stepping up in trip, including the selection, which hit even-money in-running at Thirsk last time before finishing a neck-second to the useful Uber Cool over a mile and a half.

It was a career best for Richard Fahey's son of Galileo, and he had plenty of running left at the finish, suggesting he'll appreciate the extra furlong today.

Today's selection

2.10 Goodwood: Billesdon Brook

2.25 York: Northwest Frontier (e/w)

3.0 York: Cardsharp

3.20 Goodwood: Lightning Spear

3.35 York: Maleficent Queen (e/w)

6.40 Windsor: Spark Plug

Do The Double


Promoted Huddersfield have got off to great start in the Premier League under the guidance of David Wagner. The Terriers beat Crystal Palace and Newcastle to find themselves second in the early table, and can keep the momentum going with a win around 3/1 at home to a Southampton side who were lucky to beat West Ham last week.


Richard Hannon saddles Billesdon Brook for the Fillies' Group Three Grosvenor Sport Prestige Stakes at Goodwood (2.10), and the 4/1 about the course and distance winner looks about right. She met all sorts of trouble in a nursery here last time and hit 999/1 on Betfair in-running, but still managed to find plenty and beat stablemate Cheeky Rascal by a head. John Gosden's Verandah looks the biggest threat to the selection following a debut win at Kempton.

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