TOM Tate will make a late decision before deciding whether Prince of Johanne, his Royal Ascot winner, takes his place in today’s 53rd John Smith’s Cup, which carries a £150,000 prize fund and will attract in excess of 30,000 spectators.
The Tadcaster trainer is concerned that his Royal Hunt Cup winner might be hindered by soft ground and the extra trip – today’s one-and-a-quarter-mile feature is two furlongs longer than the prestigious Ascot handicap.
Perversely, Prince of Johanne remains Tate’s first and only winner of the 2012 campaign, though it has been pointed out to him that he has one more Royal Ascot winner to his name than his famous brother-in-law, Michael Dickinson.
“I think we’ll play it by ear on the day,” says Tate, who also saddles the eight-year-old Kings Gambit, who was beaten a short-head by the Jamie Spencer-inspired Wigmore Hall in the 2010 renewal.
“King’s Gambit is off the same handicap mark when he was beaten by a short-head. It would be nice to think he’s as good as he was. I don’t think I’ve ever trained a stronger character – he’s like an old boxer. My heart will be in my mouth.”
All eyes will be on Hayley Turner as she bids to become the first female jockey to win the race on Stand To Reason, though Sally Hall did train the 1980 winner Fine Sun from her Middleham base.
While Malton-based Richard Fahey’s Area Fifty should be respected, his stable has won the race three times in the past decade, the one to beat is ante-post favourite Mijhaar.
Trained in Newmarket by Roger Varian, Mijhaar was last seen finishing a close third behind Gatewood in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot, one of five winners at the meeting for William Buick.
Prior to that effort, he had filled the same position over a mile – a trip that was on the short side for him – in the Betfred Hambleton Stakes at York on Dante day in May.
Sheikh Ahmed’s four-year-old has yet to finish out of the first four in any of his six career starts and Varian – one of the rising stars of the training ranks – is hopeful of another solid performance.
“Mijhaar ran a great race at Ascot and seems to have come out of that in good shape,” said Varian, who has booked Neil Callan for the riding duties.
“He has run well at the track before, a mile-and-a-quarter is his optimum trip and soft ground holds no fears for him.
“The John Smith’s Cup is one of the most competitive races of the season but if he can reproduce his recent performances then he should be thereabouts.”
York is trialling a new innovation at the John Smith’s Cup meeting in which it will become the UK’s first track to have an HD image of the photo-finish on display for racegoers and connections.
The trial with Racetech combines their expertise and York’s investment in HD technology and it means that a dedicated screen will show the same picture that British Horseracing Authority judges Jonathan Dimsdale or Brian Goodwill will have assessed in the box.
The same HD image will then be sent around the course and be shown on its many HD television screens.