The Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap is the second of three races in the ‘Race To The Ebor’ which offers the winner an automatic place in the first £1-million Sky Bet Ebor at York on Saturday 24th August, the fourth day of the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival 2019.
Ghostwatch took the opening leg of the series, the Sky Bet Melrose Handicap at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival 2018, while the concluding leg is the Listed Sky Bet Grand Cup at York on Saturday 15th June.
The winners of the three races are guaranteed a start position in the 2019 Sky Bet Ebor provided they are entered, confirmed and declared in the normal way, complete with paying their entry fee. In a further boost to connections, if these horses run in the Sky Bet Ebor 2019 and finish outside the top eight, they will then have their entry fees to the race (worth £5,000 each) refunded. Horses that finish placed eighth or higher in the Sky Bet Ebor will receive £5,000 or higher in prize money.
Charlie Appleby landed the 2018 Jorvik Handicap with Hamada, who subsequently captured the G3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury, and the Godolphin trainer has another lightly-raced contender this year in Setting Sail, successful on two of his three starts.
Fellow Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s two entries are led by four-year-old Stealth Fighter, who relished the step up to middle distances when scoring by six lengths at Yarmouth last month.
Sky Bet’s favourite is Fujaira Prince (Roger Varian). The five-year-old has won his last three starts by an aggregate of 15 lengths and was last seen out when taking a 10-furlong handicap in good style at Doncaster on 27th April.
Sir Michael Stoute saddled back-to-back winners of the Jorvik Handicap thanks to future Group race performers Sir John Hawkwood (2013) and Arab Spring (2014). The Newmarket handler could be represented by Crystal King, a half-brother to multiple G1 runner-up Crystal Ocean, who has won his last two starts in handicaps including on Tapeta at Wolverhampton on 27th April.
Nine of the 35 entries are rated 100 or higher. They include Proschema (Tom Dascombe), who was not beaten far behind Kew Gardens in the G1 St Leger at Doncaster last season, and promising Frankel colt First Eleven (John Gosden), a half-brother to Kingman who last raced when third in the G3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot in October.
Frankuus (David O’Meara) had some high-class form for his previous trainer Mark Johnston, highlighted by a front-running victory in the G3 Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock Park in 2017.
James Given is dreaming of Sky Bet Ebor glory with the lightly-raced Indianapolis. Formerly trained by Aidan O’Brien, the four-year-old ran an encouraging race on his reappearance when second in a 12-furlong conditions race at Doncaster on 31st March.
Given, who won the Sky Bet Ebor in 2002 with Hugs Dancer, said: “Indianapolis is in good form and the target is the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap.
“He ran a race full of promise on his second start for us, which was his first run on turf for the yard, and we were delighted with that performance. The race wasn’t really run to suit as there was a slow early pace. He stays very well and the race at York looks worth targeting.
“He is a lightly-raced horse and a pipedream would be the Ebor long term and it’s a race we have won before.”
Last season’s King George V Handicap runner-up Corgi (Hughie Morrison) could have his first start of the campaign, as may Rock Eagle (Ralph Beckett) who signed off 2018 with a heritage handicap success at Newmarket in October. Other entries to note include Deja (Peter Chapple-Hyam), who is on a three-race winning streak.
James Brennan, Head of Marketing and Sponsorship at York Racecourse said: “We hope the 2019 season will have many highlights and we are already looking forward to the richest-ever Flat handicap in Europe.
“What better way to start the season by seeing which horse will be allocated a berth in the £1-million Sky Bet Ebor after success in the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap next Wednesday.”