Even if you don’t usually follow the ins and outs of the flat racing season religiously, there is a real sense of jubilation over the York Ebor Festival this year. That sense of excitement is permeating around racing coverage at the moment. Why? Well, the big crowds are finally back in the stands for a major British racing festival for the first time in what seems like an age. The big prize money is back, too, all £4.7 million of it – more than double what was on offer last year.
But even if the Ebor Festival gets a lift simply by way of racegoers feeling like racing has returned to normal again, a major festival always needs a story, a narrative, to explode into life to really capture the imagination. Many will be looking at the Juddmonte International Stakes, as it’s the flagship race of the festival, but an injury to market leader St Mark’s Basilica has removed some of the star power.
Snowfall will be well backed on Day 2
And yet, even if the Aidan O’Brien-trained St Mark’s Basilica had been fit and firing, for some the eye was inevitably drawn to the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Ladies Day of the Festival (19th August). Snowfall, who is currently priced around 2/5 in ante-post markets, is the name on everyone’s lips, and the 3yo tops the tips for Day 2 at the York Ebor Festival. Snowfall is chasing a bit of history in the Yorkshire Oaks, hoping to join Enable (2017) as a winner of the Irish Oaks, the (Epsom) Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks.
That treble has been achieved plenty of times in the past, but it is the manner of Snowfall’s performances that suggest we are witnessing something special. A 16-length victory in the Oaks at Epsom in June was the kind of sensational run that lifted the mood during a relatively subdued Epsom Derby Festival. It wasn’t quite fast enough to beat the record time (2m 34s) set by Love in 2020, but it was a blistering finish that instantly made Snowfall a star, as well as landing Frankie Dettori a 5th Oaks triumph.
Love is drafted into the Juddmonte Stakes
Speaking of Love, it was initially thought the 2020 Oaks winner would go head to head with Snowfall in the Yorkshire Oaks, but the former was drafted into the Juddmonte Stakes to replace St Mark’s Basilica. That set up a rematch with Mishriff, who was just ahead of Love in the King George last month. Mishriff, ridden by David Egan, is now arguably the best rated horse in the world, following his 6l victory yesterday, and capping a terrific week for the Gosdens, with their second Group I after the Jacques le Marois on Sunday.
But whilst the Juddmonte Stakes has always been an intriguing battle, it still lacks the star power of St Mark’s Basilica – the horse with the joint-highest rating in the world today (alongside Adayar). Yet, while a short price won’t be to everyone’s liking, Snowfall can blitz the competition in the Yorkshire Oaks in front of a full house. The filly can deliver the kind of run that will lift the crowd, and give the bookies nightmares.
As always, York never fails to produce the best.