The Ebor Festival preview from our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff

The Ebor Festival on the Knavesmire at York dates back to 1843, when the Ebor Handicap first appeared on the card. Today, it is the premier flat racing meeting in the North of England, and is of international interest

The feature on the first day, Wednesday, is the Juddmonte International, one of the most significant Group 1 races in the British flat racing calendar. The Acomb Stakes and the Great Voltiguer are the supporting Group level contests on day one of the four day Festival

Thursday is Ladies Day, so it is fitting that the highlight is the Yorkshire Oaks for fillies and mares, with the Lowther Stakes and the Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes the supporting Pattern races, while Friday hosts the Nunthorpe Stakes over 5 furlongs for the sprinters as well as the Lonsdale Cup Stakes over 2 miles

The final day of what is always top class meeting, Saturday, is the day of the Ebor Handicap, an event steeped in history since the nineteenth century, and the founding race of the Festival itself. The City Of York Stakes and the Strensall Stakes complete the Group races on the card

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The Juddmonte International looks a red hot renewal this year, but Aidan O’Brien’s St Mark’s Basilica is a late withdrawal after a front shoe unfortunately hit his hind joint on the gallops

However, John & Thady Gosden could not have hit peak form at a better time, and arrive here after seeing Palace Pier land the Jacques le Marois at the weekend, the most important mile race in the French flat racing calendar. With Mishriff perhaps back to better form after following home St Mark’s Basilica in the Coral-Eclipse, a good duel is in store with Aidan O’Brien’s second string, the filly, Love. Second string she may be on paper, but she won the Yorkshire Oaks here last year so Love is as good a rival as Mishriff would want to meet in search of more Group 1 honours

William Haggas, too, is in a purple patch, and is double handed with Alenquer and Mohaafeth. Their respective jockeys, Tom Marquand and Jim Crowley have made frequent visits to the winners’ enclosure in the last few weeks so the Somerville Lodge handler must arrive back in his home county brimming with confidence

The Yorkshire Oaks, on Ladies Day, sees the outstanding Snowfall attempt to land her third Oaks trophy of the season after taking the Epsom Oaks with a record-breaking winning distance, before doubling up in the Irish Oaks at The Curragh. Aidan O’Brien looks to hold all the aces for this race with last year’s winner, Love, also in the mix

David Menuisier is keen to run his stable star, Wonderful Tonight, but will be praying for some rain up in Yorkshire to aid her cause, while Sir Mark Prescott’s Alpinista is one on the up and remains unbeaten this term

The Nunthorpe Stakes is the feature for Friday, and it’s time for the speedballs to line up for this Group 1 prize. This year’s renewal promises to be a scintillating affair, even without the usual appearance of Battaash, the 2019 &2020 winner. The seven year old Dark Angel gelding was retired by trainer Charlie Hills after failing to fire in the King George Stakes at Goodwood last month, a race that he had prevailed in for three previous seasons

The winner of the King George at Goodwood was French raider Suesa, and William Buick returns to the saddle in Friday’s highlight. Once again she will meet Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol, who she beat by 3 lengths at Goodwood and will once again be in receipt of 3lb from that rival

Wesley Ward has openly stated that he holds Golden Pal in the highest esteem, amongst the best that he has trained, so last year’s Norfolk Stakes (Royal Ascot) runner-up has to enter calculations

However, the new star in the French sprint ranks has to go up against York specialist, Winter Power. Local trainer Tim Easterby must rate his three year old filly as his best chance of a visit to the winners’ enclosure at the Festival and she was most impressive in landing the City Walls Stakes here over course and distance last month. With good ground likely to prevail, Winter Power looks easy to back returned to her favoured track

Saturday brings us the Ebor Handicap, a fiercely competitive contest which could feature Tony Mullins’ Princess Zoe, last year’s most progressive mare who does need conditions to fall in her favour. Holding an alternative entry for the Lonsdale Cup on the Friday, the trainer will take whatever preferred going that presents itself – any rain will be welcomed

However, another Irish raider makes plenty of appeal in Johnny Murtagh’s Sonnyboyliston, who ran in the Silver Cup Stakes here over course and distance last month. Finishing within 5 lengths of the winner, Hukum, was a decent performance and form that has been underlined over the weekend with Hukum landing the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes

William Haggas looks to hold at least a decent each way claim with Roberto Escobarr, who benefits from plenty of course form here, having scored twice from four starts on the Knavesmire, but his first string has to to be the progressive Ilaraab, two from two around here

Willie Mullins can never be excluded from the reckoning, and may well have lined up Saldier for a crack at this valuable prize. A late recruit to the flat since his arrival from France, he may have found the surface a little quick in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot, but conditions could be more suitable here and he returns to action after a decent win in the Grade A Galway Hurdle Handicap

Some top class racing lies ahead up in Yorkshire, with some of this season’s outstanding talent on show. Snowfall and Saldier fly the flag for Ireland, while French raider Suesa will attract plenty of support from across the English Channel. Home fans will have to pay plenty of attention to Yorkshire born William Haggas, who holds a strong team from his Somerville Lodge stables, while another Newmarket inmate, John Gosden, now training with son Thady, has his guns loaded for the big battles later this week

This Ebor Festival Preview has been brought to you by our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff 

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