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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Three hot horses to look forward to in the weeks to come

Nakeeta and Renneti interesting for the Ebor

Nakeeta (in second) has a good chance if going for the Ebor
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There can be few more compelling handicaps in Flat racing than the Ebor. However, over the last 20 years the race has changed considerably. Between 1988 and 2001 over half the runnings were won by three-year-olds, but the Classic generation hasn't struck since, largely because they can't get into the race. 

Things don't look like changing this year, and if the older horses, as expected, stand their ground then it is only sensible to start looking more towards the head of the weights.

In days of old such a policy would be foolhardy, but not now, and in the last three runnings there has been no more than 9lb separating top weight from bottom and the classier ones are likely to be nearer to top.

Once such horse is Dal Harraild, who was very impressive over course and distance in May, but his mark of 111 surely now precludes him from races like this. However the horse who finished behind him that day was Nakeeta and, if you're looking for an each-way play you'll do well to find one more solid than him at around 20-1.

Nakeeta likes York, having run well there on all three starts. At last year's Ebor meeting he put up a really good performance to be second in the long-distance handicap when run down close home by a strong stayer of Alan King's, while his second to Dal Harraild was full of promise.

He may only be small, but Nakeeta has a pretty decent record when tackling big fields with two of his career victories and three seconds coming in fields of 15 or more, so a race like the Ebor shouldn't be a problem.

More of a concern would be if we get a wet week hence it might also be worth having a horse in there with preference for soft ground. 

The Irish have fared well in recent years with their contenders who have been jumping and Willie Mullins' four entries are worth a look. Galway winner Riven Light is the most likely, you would have thought, but he is far from certain to get in and it is another Ballybrit winner who catches the eye.

Renneti scorched home last time, but with the weights already out he has incurred just a 4lb penalty here leaving him officially 2lb well in. A mark of 108 is pretty high to overcome, but Renneti has proved on many occasions how good he can be on the Flat and over hurdles. At 25-1 he is worth risking.

If the rain were to arrive, Mullins could be tempted to send him over, although bear in mind both he and Nakeeta have an Irish St Leger Trial entry at the Curragh on Saturday and it might be worth holding your fire until declarations.

This Saturday's big handicap is the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon, a race both Richard Fahey (six entries) and David O'Meara (four) have dominated of late. However it could be worth having a few quid on Tim Easterby's Mattmu at 25-1.

The five-year-old has returned to action following an unsuccessful period as a stallion, finishing last of four on his return at Doncaster. He's going to have to seriously improve on that showing, but can surely do so and the handicapper has been pretty generous dropping him 8lb.

Remember Mattmu was a proper Pattern race sprinter not long ago, finishing third behind Mecca's Angel and Acapulco in the 2015 Nunthorpe. He loves these big-field sprints and anything within 10lb of his old form would put him bang on the premises here.

The fact he has also been given an entry in next month's Group 1 Sprint Cup suggests he might not be done with yet.

Read James Hill every week in the Racing & Football Outlook

Nakeeta has a pretty decent record when tackling big fields with two of his career victories coming in fields of 15 or more
E.W. Terms
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