This year sees the most valuable Flat handicap ever staged in Europe – the £1-million Sky Bet Ebor.
The thrilling heritage handicap is run over one mile and six furlongs (1m 5f 188yds) at York on Saturday, August 24, day four of the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
The Sky Bet Ebor has seen its value double since the 2018 running, won by Muntahaa, who was a first Sky Bet Ebor success for reigning champion Flat trainer John Gosden.
The in-form Newmarket handler has four entries this year, including Sky Bet’s 12/1 joint-favourite Ben Vrackie, a G3-placed performer. The four-year-old Frankel colt finished well when the short-head runner-up to Baghdad (Mark Johnston, 14/1) in the 12-furlong Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot last time out.
His entries also include First Eleven (14/1), who gained an automatic place in the Sky Bet Ebor line-up when landing the second contest in Sky Bet’s “Race to the Ebor” series, the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap over a mile and a half on the Knavesmire on May 15. Last season’s November Handicap winner Royal Line (20/1) and 2018 Sky Bet Ebor runner-up Weekender (25/1) also come from the Gosden stable.
Also prominent at the head of the market with Sky Bet is Raheen House (William Haggas, 12/1 joint-favourite), who chased home Gold Mount (Ian Williams, 14/1) in the third and final contest in Sky Bet’s “Race to the Ebor” – the Listed Sky Bet Race to the Ebor Grand Cup, over the same course and distance as the Sky Bet Ebor on June 15. Similarly, Gold Mount is guaranteed a run in the Sky Bet Ebor and if appearing will have his entry fees, totalling £5,000, refunded if finishing outside of the first eight. Horses finishing in the first eight all receive at least £5,000 in prize money.
Yorkshire-born and Newmarket-based William Haggas, the second most successful trainer at York over the last five seasons, is chasing a first Sky Bet Ebor success and his three entries besides Raheen House are Dramatic Queen (25/1), winner of the G3 Bronte Cup Fillies' Stakes over the course and distance on May 25, Zetland Gold Cup winner Al Muffrih (25/1) and outsider Big Kitten (66/1).
One of the least exposed names among the Sky Bet Ebor entries is Deja (25/1) from the Newmarket stable of Peter Chapple-Hyam.
Formerly trained by Jeremy Noseda, the Phoenix Thoroughbred-owned colt is unbeaten in three starts for Chapple-Hyam and caught the eye on his 2019 return when decisively landing a 12-furlong Polytrack handicap at Kempton Park on July 3.
That was the four-year-old Youmzain colt’s first start since October when he captured a novice contest at Chester and a handicap at Pontefract within the space of eight days, both at around 10 furlongs. Deja has been successful on four of his five starts.
Chapple-Hyam reported: “I was very pleased with Deja at Kempton. He is an improving horse who has not had many outings, but I hope that he will be streetwise enough for a race like the Sky Bet Ebor.
“I don’t have many horses – about 25 in total – but quite a few of them became sick earlier in the season when they were due to run and Deja was one of them. I had to wait and we are only really starting to have runners now.
“Whether or not he runs again before the Ebor will depend on what is left in and how the race is shaping up between now and then. I don’t think he needs to have another run, but we will see.
“He is effective over mile and a quarter and a mile and a half, and I don’t see a mile and six furlongs being a problem either.”
Outbox (Simon Crisford, 14/1) is another exciting contender. The four-year-old son of Frankel won all three of his starts in 2018 and met defeat for the first time when the head runner-up to the very useful Funny Kid in a 15-furlong Listed contest at Chantilly, France, on June 21.
Britain’s winning-most trainer of all time, Middleham-based Mark Johnston, scooped the 1992 Ebor with Quick Ransom and has a strong potential squad for 2019, with his six entries including dual Royal Ascot winner Baghdad, this season’s G2 Jockey Club Stakes victor Communique (25/1) and Chester Cup hero Making Miracles (33/1).
Wells Farhh Go (Tim Easterby, 20/1), a two-time G3 winner including in the 2017 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival, made an excellent seasonal reappearance when taking the Listed Fred Archer Stakes at Newmarket on June 29. Trained in Great Habton by Tim Easterby, Wells Farhh Go hails from the same stable as the great Sea Pigeon, the dual Champion Hurdle winner, who was saddled to Ebor success by Tim’s father Peter in 1979.
Another eye-catching entry from Yorkshire is Kelly’s Dino (Karl Burke, 25/1), who won the £100,000 Old Newton Cup at Haydock Park on July 6.
There are 16 Irish-trained entries including seven, the most of any trainer, from Ireland’s multiple champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins, who landed the Ebor in 2009 with Sesenta.
He has put in G2 winners Max Dynamite (25/1) and Thomas Hobson (25/1), along with recent Ascot Handicap runner-up Buildmeupbuttercup (25/1) and Uradel (33/1), second in the 2018 Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
Stratum (33/1) started the 3/1 favourite for the 2018 Sky Bet Ebor and came home 12th after not enjoying the clearest of runs. Another Mullins-trained contender is True Self (16/1), with the six-year-old mare having won four of her six starts on the Flat including Listed prizes at Newmarket and Gowran Park. The lightly-raced Exchange Rate (33/1) has not been since finishing runner-up in the last year’s November Handicap at Naas.
Other Irish-trained contenders include the 2018 G1 Irish Derby hero Latrobe (Joseph O’Brien, 16/1), G3 winner Cypress Creek (Aidan O’Brien, 33/1), recent Sandown Listed scorer Falcon Eight (Dermot Weld, 14/1), the 2018 Sky Bet Ebor third Sea The Lion (Jarlath Fahey, 33/1) and Downdraft (Joseph O’Brien, 25/1), a Listed winner at Roscommon on Monday.
Who Dares Wins (Alan King, 25/1) and Dubawi Fifty (Karen McLintock, 16/1) were first and second respectively in the Northumberland Plate on June 29, while the likely top-weight is Salouen (Sylvester Kirk, 25/1), who went down by just a head to the mighty Cracksman in the 2018 G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom.
Michael Shinners, Racing PR Manager at Sky Bet, commented: “We could hardly have wished for a stronger entry for the first £1-million Sky Bet Ebor, with Pattern race performers engaged from both Britain and Ireland.
“Ben Vrackie and Raheen House are Sky Bet’s opening 12/1 favourites, while we will see many developments in the six weeks leading up to the Sky Bet Ebor.”
Weights for the £1-million Sky Bet will be revealed on Wednesday, July 24.
The maximum field for the Sky Bet Ebor is 22 runners, with two reserves also a potential part of the final mix.
Sky Bet Ebor, Sky Bet odds:
12/1 Ben Vrackie, Raheen House
14/1 Falcon Eight, Outbox, Baghdad, First Eleven, Gold Mount
16/1 Dubawi Fifty, Latrobe, True Self
20/1 Collide, Royal Line, Corgi, Raymond Tusk, Secret Advisor, Wells Farhh Go
25/1 Al Muffrih, Barsanti, Bin Battuta, Buildmeupbuttercup, Caliburn, Cleonte, Communique, Deja, Desert Wind, Downdraft, Dramatic Queen, Eynhallow , Kelly's Dino, Kings Advice, Max Dynamite, Red Galileo, Red Verdon, Salouen, Soto Sizzler, The Grand Visir, Thomas Hobson, Austrian School, Mekong, Mustajeer, Prince Of Arran, Proschema, Rock Eagle, Weekender, Who Dares Wins, Withhold
33/1 Arthurian Fame, Bartholomeu Dias, Carnwennan, Cypress Creek, Exchange Rate, Gifts of Gold, Island Brave, Scarlet Dragon, Spirit Ridge, Carlo Biraghi, Making Miracles, Sea The Lion, Stratum, Uradel
40/1 Blakeney Point, Amazing Red, Byron Flyer, Lethal Steps, Lord Yeats, Speedo Boy
50/1 Charles Kingsley, Desert Skyline, Hermoso Mundo, Mugatoo, Saroog, Time To Study
66/1 Busy Street, Eddystone Rock, Grandee, Not So Sleepy, Big Kitten, Reshoun, Shabeeb
For full list of runners please click here.