DANDY Nicholls feels there is only a “cigarette paper” between Orion’s Bow and Kimberella in today’s William Hill Great St Wilfrid at Ripon.
Nicholls has won the £70,000 sprint twice before with Ice Planet in 2005 and Tajneed three years later.
Neither of those went in with claims as strong as Orion’s Bow, who won five on the bounce before coming off second best behind bottom weight Dancing Star in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood a fortnight ago.
Kimberella was a few lengths behind his stablemate that day, but the time before had put up a career-best when winning a competitive race at York by two lengths and he was narrowly touched off in this 12 months ago.
The pair are only rated 1lb apart by the handicapper, but the bookmakers favour Orion’s Bow and the sponsors have him as their 9-2 favourite, with Kimberella next in at 8-1.
“You’d have to say both have a good chance. Orion’s might have lost his winning run at Goodwood but he was beaten by an improving filly,” said Nicholls.
“Things didn’t go Kimberella’s way at Goodwood but before that he’d put up a career-best.
“Given we know how well Kimberella acts at Ripon, that might even things out but there are other horses who go very well there, too.
“Both of them are at the top of their game. I’ve won this twice and it’s definitely my best chance of winning it again since Tajneed.
“I don’t favour one or the other, both might have to run in Group races soon, Orion’s is 106 and Kimberella is only 1lb lower, there’s a cigarette paper between them.”
Nicholls trains locally to Ripon near Thirsk and another man with not far to travel is Bryan Smart, who sends two from his Sutton Bank base.
Nameitwhatyoulike was agonisingly touched off in the consolation race last year but has a course and distance win to his name, while Mythmaker has never run at the North Yorkshire track before.
“Both have got a chance and I’ve got one drawn on each side, which is nice,” said Smart.
“We had plenty of rain on Wednesday night and Thursday which means the ground can’t be too quick, it should be genuine good ground.
“Nameitwhatyoulike loves Ripon, he’s a superstar there and was just touched off in the consolation race last year. He could run very well.
“The other horse is younger and has done very little wrong, he was drawn on the wrong side at Newcastle but before that ran a big race at York.
“He’s also been gelded since he last ran. There’s not a lot between them.”
Top-weight is Sheriff Hutton trainer Mick Easterby’s Perfect Pasture, winner of the Scurry Handicap at the Curragh last month, while his Ryedale rivals David O’Meara and Richard Fahey, responsible for the last five winners between them, are well represented.
O’Meara runs Intisaab, Louis The Pious and Mujassam, while Fahey has Alben Star, Nuno Tristan and Tatlisu to cheer home.