As well as being named Racecourse of the Year nine times since 2000, York has also acted as stand-in for some of the calendars biggest events. The Knavesmire venue stepped in to host Royal Ascot in 2005, and replaced Doncaster as the venue for the 2006 St Leger. However, York is one of the country’s premier venues in its own right. Home to the UK’s richest handicap, the £1 million Ebor Handicap in August, as well as the Grade 1 Yorkshire Oaks, Juddmonte International and Nunthorpe Stakes, York has also thrust future Derby winners into the limelight having tasted victory in the Dante Stakes. A very fair course, the cream often rises to the top at York.
There's every reason to retain faith in the virtues of Pagan here for the in-form William Haggas string. He's boasting figures of 2211 at this 6f trip and may not be done with improving just yet. He won a Class 4 contest at Brighton on good ground early last month and did so with plenty in hand - scoring by 2½-lengths. That race has thrown up a trio of next-time-out winners so, while the handicapper has had a say with an 8lb hike - it's likely this 3YO gelding can take another step forward now.
This is weaker than the Listed Newmarket race Tabdeed finished second in eight days ago. Owen Burrows' charge won a Group 3 last summer and has run well in all three starts this term against strong opponents, including when giving weight to 3YOs Happy Romance and Diligent Harry in defence of his Hackwood Stakes crown in July. He couldn't resist the strong late run of Summerghand at HQ last Saturday but he may well get some compensation now and he's fancied to thwart the improving Great Ambassador for the Starman team, Ed Walker and Tom Marquand.
Previous winners Boondoggle and Flash The Dash are respected despite their penalties but it may be asking plenty for them to give weight and beat George Scott's filly Mistrix here. The promising daughter of Vadamos is but a couple of head-bobs from being 2-2 herself after near misses at Doncaster (6f, good to form) and Salisbury (7f, good to firm) so far. It's seemingly only a matter of time before she opens her account and the Knavesmire should suit her well.
A trio of these were last-time-out winners and there's no doubting that both Duty Of Care and Aramaic have scope for better, but it's another of the three-year-olds, Moktasaab, that's fancied to double-up for an in-form Owen Burrows team. He strung out his rivals at Yarmouth (1m2f, good to firm) last month, building on two previous solid efforts in handicaps, and should have further progress in him now that the penny has dropped. The yard's horses were enduring a string of near misses early in the week but a welcome winner at Ascot on Friday turned things around and this Shadwell-owned gelding can end the weekend with another positive.
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