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Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Racing's Usain Bolt and Mo Farah share the limelight on an afternoon of treats

David Carr sets the scene for day three of the Ebor meeting

Different league: Battaash storms home to win the Group 2 King George Qatar Stakes in impressive fashion
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The day in a nutshell

Did you prefer the blistering speed of Usain Bolt or the astonishing staying power of Mo Farah?

The good news is that the pair – or their equine equivalents – are in action today as two of the stars of the season take to the track at York.

It's easy to liken Nunthorpe favourite Battaash to the Jamaican sprint phenomenon. That's what happens when you've shown the sort of pace that he's  done in blasting to a four-length romp in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Chantilly last autumn and then doing it again three weeks ago at Goodwood, where he had a 3lb penalty for his trouble.

Yet he is a Bolt with a touch of the Joey Bartons thrown in. Temperament issues are never far from the surface with a four-year-old who was gelded as "he just behaved appallingly" when still a colt – and even that did not stop him getting stressed and losing the race before the start at York last year.

Stradivarius is an altogether more placid individual, and one whose record in long-distance staying races would be the envy of 5,000m/10,000m king Farah.

He's not been beaten all year and victory in today's Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup would earn him a £1 million bonus.

Yet one of the delights of York is that the undercard is just as intriguing as the headline acts.

The Gimctrack and the Convivial Maiden are potentially informative two-year-old events, while there could be a royal winner with a difference in the opening handicap.   

Nun are frightened off by Battaash

Nobody wants to see a champion underperform but it would be churlish not to take advantage should the unthinkable happen.

Which is why 15 sprinters take on Battaash in the Coolmore Nunthorpe (York 3.35), even though all bar one have at least 11lb to make up on the favourite judged on Racing Post Ratings.

That one exception is Godolphin's Blue Point, who is 'only' 6lb adrift and actually beat a sweaty, below-par Battaash in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He himself underperformed in the July Cup at Newmarket but that's not reckoned to be his track, whereas he scored by three lengths in the 2016 Gimcrack Stakes on his only previous visit to York.

Stradivarius up for the Cup

Insurers are not reckless gamblers. They usually deal in safe bets and Weatherbys Hamilton are no different.

When they announced the Stayers’ Million, the chances of a horse winning four of the best long-distance races to land a seven-figure payout looked remote – Ladbrokes offered 20-1 against any horse doing it.

That looks a hell of a bet now, with the John Gosden-trained Stradivarius having landed the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup this term.

The 20-1 has become more like 4-11 today as he takes on eight rivals who have yet to win in better than Group 3 company between them this season in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup (York 2.25)

That said, he beat Desert Skyline by only three lengths over 1m6f here in May and nobody who watched Sir Dancealot bound home in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury last week can doubt David Elsworth’s ability to get the best out of a talented four-year-old gelding.

Crack two-year-old sprinters in line-up 

Speed is again of the essence in the Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes (York 3.00), which is ironic as the horse it commemorates did his racing at between two and four miles and once competed in a 22½-mile race against the clock in France.

He’d scarcely have hit full stride after just six furlongs yet this is a race that has given us the likes of Mill Reef and Rock Of Gibraltar in the modern era and two future Group 1 winners in its last four runnings.

Richard Fahey won it with the pacey Sands Of Mali 12 months ago and his unbeaten Space Traveller was the early market mover following declarations.  

Girl power?

If you put £70,000 into a maiden race you’re going to attract runners from the big stables.

The powerful two-year-old strings of Richard Hannon, Mark Johnston and Kevin Ryan are all represented in the British Stallion Studs EBF Convivial Maiden Stakes (York 4.15), much the richest race of its type this season.

But none would welcome the money more than Jason Ward, who is due to become a father for the first time in January.

Wee Jim, the only one among "five or six" juveniles in Ward's Middleham yard to have run, is two from three and bids for a Listed race at Craon in France next weekend.

Which encourages hope for newcomer My Girl, as the trainer said: "She works better than him, she's a quicker horse. She's not over-big but she's a smashing filly and it's exciting as she's my first runner for the Ortmans family from France."

Charles and Camilla bid to get in on act

There could be an unusual royal winner in the Sky Bet Handicap (York 1.55).

The Queen is no stranger to success on the big stage and won the Acomb Stakes at this meeting in 2015.

Three years on it’s the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall who could earn the money to pay for new outfits at Princess Eugenie’s wedding.

Their homebred Pacify is something of a course specialist, rather like stablemate Here And Now who bolted up by five lengths here for Ralph Beckett on Wednesday.

Pacify won by a similar distance over this course and distance last month and can be forgiven his defeat over a longer trip at Goodwood last time.


He's a Usain Bolt with a touch of the Joey Bartons thrown in
E.W. Terms
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