Thesme has each-way chance in open race says Tinkler
King: Oceane in great form for repeat bid
With £70,000 up for grabs in each of the three York handicaps on Wednesday – with the nursery the most valuable race of its type in Britain – it is little surprise to see maximum fields declared. Here are a handful of horses to note in these tricky affairs . . .
Symphony Group Handicap | 5½f, 3yo+ | ITV/RUK
Having already bagged two €100,000 sprint handicaps this season Tithonus has ensured connections can crack open a few bottles of York's famously reasonably priced champagne regardless of the result. But trainer Denis Hogan is hopeful his flagbearer could yet strike again.
Hogan said: "He travelled over well and is in good nick. He's had a good season, winning two premier handicaps at the Curragh, and when he ran at Galway last time I'd say a combination of the trip [seven furlongs], the ground and stiff uphill finish found him out.
"He came out of the race well though and dropping back to just over five furlongs will suit."
For a horse as versatile as Tithonus the 5½f trip won't be an issue, but for backers of Thesme, a mare blessed with blinding speed when on song, the additional half-furlong will seem like an eternity.
Thesme, who ran a stormer to finish fifth in last season's Nunthorpe, has beaten only one horse home in three starts this year, but trainer Nigel Tinkler has revealed her homework has been better of late.
"She's working better than she has been," Tinkler said. "I'm a little bit concerned about the five furlongs and 89 yards, because she's a five-furlong filly, but I'm quite happy we're drawn in stall two [on the far side].
"In a race like this nobody can say they're a good thing, but she has an each-way chance."
Fine Equinity Handicap | 2m½f, 4yo+ | RUK
Last year's winner Oceane returns to have another crack at this staying prize and, while he has failed to win since, connections are hopeful of a bold show.
Trainer Alan King said: ”He won this last year and, although 7lb higher now, he's in great form.
“He's had a break since the Ascot Stakes, in which he ran very well, and it's a plus the ground looks like being on the fast side, as it was 12 months ago. We're trying him in a visor for the first time just to make him concentrate.”
Saigon City has also been successful over course and distance having been a shock 33-1 winner at the 2016 Dante meeting on just his second start for Declan Carroll. He has since proved that victory was not a fluke and looked to be steadily progressive prior to disappointing at Goodwood last time, an effort Carroll is happy to excuse.
He said: "He's in good form. He's won at York and any rain will be appreciated.
"I don't think he handled the track at Goodwood, but wasn't beaten too far. There might be horses in here better handicapped than him, but he can be competitive and will appreciate the return to two miles."
No-one would begrudge Carroll a big winner following last week's sad news that stable star Santry had suffered a fatal injury on the gallops.
He added: "The amount of people who've been in touch to offer support has been amazing. It's a terrible shame – we think he'd have gone to the top."
Betway Nursery Handicap | 6f, 2yo | RUK
Unsurprisingly a maximum field of 20 has been declared for Britain's most valuable nursery and Richard Fahey, who is bidding for a hat-trick following wins for Mayfair Lady and The Wagon Wheel, is represented by Areen Faisal and Zap.
Areen Faisal, a winner at Pontefract last time, was regarded by Fahey as one of his better two-year-olds when he ran at Royal Ascot, and the trainer reports the colt in good form following a recent break.
He is the mount of Paul Hanagan, who returns from suspension feeling "refreshed and ready" to ride at one of his favourite meetings.
William Haggas also made clear how fond he is of the Ebor meeting in a letter published recently in the Racing Post, in which he commended York for the excellent prize-money, but anyone thinking the trainer has saved Green Fortune specially for this ultra-valuable nursery may be slightly wide of the mark.
Haggas said: "He's rated 87 so we thought we'd go for a valuable race off a nice weight rather than carrying top weight somewhere.
"He won well last time and a flat six furlongs on good ground should suit. He fared well in cheekpieces last time and is useful."
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