Main event in the first as Island Brave trades the all-weather for turf
Sky Bet First Race Special Jorvik Handicap | 1m4f | 4yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Wantage trainer Heather Main saddles a rare runner on the Knavesmire in the shape of Island Brave who has become a flagbearer for her modest operation after scoring five times on the all-weather last winter.
The most recent and lucrative of those, a £55,000 contest at Newcastle, was achieved in the stewards room however after the original first past the post, Stargazer, was demoted.
Island Brave may be a big player on the all-weather but he has only run twice on turf throughout his 14-start career to date and did not set the world alight on either occasion.
Main said: "Island Brave is short on turf experience and the only time he did run on it for us, the trip was way too short for him at Windsor last year. He was running on that day and seemed to handle it and I'm sure it will be perfect ground for the first day of the meeting.
"We don't have that may runners at York as it's a bit far for us but this is an experiment to see if he's as good on turf as he is on the all-weather."
Market is a good guide
Three favourites have won this in the last five years including the classy Barsanti (2016) and Hamada is sure to be a popular fancy for Godolphin after his cosy comeback win at Wolverhampton recently.
That success was a fine training performance from Charlie Appleby, who also fields topweight Banksea, as Hamada was returning from 18 months off through injury when scoring tidily over this trip from Be Perfect.
Appleby said: "Hamada came back well from a long layoff to score nicely at Wolverhampton and has come forward nicely from that. He has a nice racing weight and a nice profile for the race."
On his other runner, he added: "Banksea ran at the Dubai Carnival for us a few times and ran well but he's the sort of horse who runs well without winning and keeps creeping up the handicap."
Derby runner could outclass them
This time a year ago, Crowned Eagle was being prepared for the Epsom Derby rather than a handicap when trained by John Gosden but current handler Marco Botti is hopeful he has turned a corner after his win in the Rosebery Handicap at Kempton last time.
Sold for 25,000gns at the Tattersalls horses-in-training sales last October, Crowned Eagle was scoring on just his third start for new connections that day when he had today's rival Tuff Rock back in third.
Botti said: "It's his first time on grass for us but hopefully it will be a nice surface and he should enjoy the galloping track. He shows some knee action at home but when we've worked him on soft he's not really handled it."
What they say
Clive Cox, trainer of Now Children
It’s another step up in trip and his first time on turf for us. I hope the conditions won’t be too dry for him.
Ed Walker, trainer of Tuff Rock
This is a hotter race than the one he was beaten in at Thirsk last time but he's come forward from that. We're hoping the ground isn't too fast but I'm sure they will have nice ground for the first meeting and we are hopeful of a good run.
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