The Yorkshire Ebor Festival finales feature the twin staying highlights of the Lonsdale Cup and the Ebor Handicap itself; two days, two feature races, two horse racing betting tips from Gambling.com.
This year’s Lonsdale Cup at York could see history being made as Stradivarius is in line to pick up a cool £1million bonus if he wins the prestigious long-distance event at the Ebor Festival on Friday.
The devilishly difficult bonus, generated by sponsors Weatherbys Hamilton, looked impossible to win at its inception. It stated that £1million would go to connections of a horse who could win one of four qualifying races, followed by the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, and Lonsdale Cup.
Stradivarius has remarkably answered every question and York Racecourse chief executive William Derby is understandably delighted to see the bonus bid reach its climax at York.
"It's really exciting stuff. I went to the launch of the bonus back in April and there was a huge amount of scepticism, not unreasonably, about whether the bonus was realistic, let alone achievable.
“So for a horse to be in contention going into the last leg in its first year is amazing. We're hugely proud and excited to be staging the last leg and I think it will be an interesting race.”
The Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup is the fourth long-distance event of the QIPCO British Champions Series and always attracts a decent field.
It began as a Listed race, but was promoted to Group 3 status in 1998, then to its current classification of Group 2 in 2004. Today it is run over 2m and features as the last leg of the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton £1million bonus, following on from a qualifying round, then the Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup.
Stradivarius is the star of the staying division this season, having already landed the Yorkshire Cup, the Goodwood Cup, and the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. With the Goodwood Cup runner-up Torcedor sold to continue his career in Germany, Stradivarius holds all the aces and could turn out to be value at 1/2 with 888sport.
The John Gosden-trained four-year-old does have challengers, including Ed Dunlop’s serial runner-up Red Verdon, and the William Haggas-trained Dal Harraild. Former Lonsdale Cup-winning trainer, David Elsworth, saddles Desert Skyline and champion trainer Aidan O’Brien’s sole representative is Idaho, while his Irish compatriot Willie Mullins has three entries in Laws Of Spin, Thomas Hobson, and Max Dynamite.
Saturday’s finale of the Yorkshire Ebor Festival features the week’s highlight, the highly-competitive, testing and valuable £500,000 Sky Bet Ebor Handicap.
Incredibly, it was announced this week that next year the prize fund will double to £1million, and that a win-and-you’re-in series will apply, giving the winners of three qualifying races at York automatic entry into the 1m6f handicap.
Those three races include this Saturday’s Sky Bet Melrose Handicap, a three-year-old contest run over the same course and distance as the Ebor - the others coming next year: in May the 1m4f Jorvik Handicap and in June, the Listed Grand Cup over 1m 6f.
Stratum heads a legion of entries for Irish champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins, who won the Ebor back in 2009. He also has options with Royal Ascot heroine Lagostovegas, Grade 1-wining hurdler Whiskey Sour, Leopardstown premier handicap winner Laws Of Spin and the Galway festival winner Low Sun.
Stratum though is the leading hope, shooting to the top of the market after his three-length victory in the JLT Cup at Newbury in July. It was only his fifth start since moving to Ireland to join Mullins, and came off a career-high handicap mark of 94.
Raised to 102 for Saturday’s Ebor, Stratum is booked to carry 9st 2lb, the 112-rated Weekender, trained by the favourite’s former trainer John Gosden, presently holding top weight of 9st 12lb.
The Roger Charlton-trained Blakeney Point is the 10/1 second favourite with Black Type after several decent runs this year, latterly finishing a staying-on fourth in the Glorious Stakes at Goodwood at the beginning of August.
Further down the weights, another Irish raider catches the eye; Jarlath Fahey’s Sea The Lion is a seven-year-old on a roll, having won all three outings this term, he has improved from an 83 handicapper to an official rating of 104 for the biggest test of his career to date.
Sea The Lion is a best-price 20-1 shot to win the Ebor with Coral, and worth a punt, but the number one selection is 2lbs lower down the weights; Sir Chauvelin has been very consistent this summer, and won a valuable handicap over the Ebor distance at Goodwood earlier this month.
Trained by Jim Goldie, he previously finished third in the Northumberland Plate in June and filled the runner-up position in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot.
Sir Chauvelin has all the credentials to win the 2018 Ebor Handicap, with no shortage of stamina or guts, the only catch is that he is zero from four starts on the Knavesmire. Having said that, the six-year-old is priced generously and is the nap bet, with Bet365 offering 14/1 about Sir Chauvelin to win the Ebor at York this Saturday.