DAVID O’MEARA is hopeful that Custom Cut, one of the most improved horses in Flat racing, can return to winning ways in the prestigious Sky Bet York Stakes on Saturday.
The £100,000 race on the Knavesmire, a Group Two contest over a mile-and-a-quarter, is the most valuable of the Go Racing in Yorkshire Summer Festival which continues at Wetherby tonight.
The 13 entries are headed by Custom Cut who won five Listed and Group races in a row last season, and returned this season with victory in the Group Two bet365 Mile at Sandown Park in April.
Although he disappointed in the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury when well beaten by last season’s 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder, the six-year-old gelding was then a creditable second at Epsom’s Derby meeting and Nawton-based O’Meara gave a positive update yesterday.
“It was a good run at Epsom under the penalty and we have had this race very much in mind for him since then,” he said. “We are looking forward to seeing how he gets on over a mile-and-a-quarter. He won the Strensall at York over a mile-and-a-furlong and there is stamina in the pedigree, so we’re hopeful.”
French challenger Prince Gibraltar is an intriguing contender while Malton trainer Peter Niven’s versatile Clever Cookie could drop back in trip if the ground is not too quick – unsuitably fast conditions mean the horse has not raced since winning the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup at York at the end of May.
As expected, Brian Ellison’s Top Notch Tonto is also entered, though he, too, would appreciate some rain between now and Saturday.
Meanwhile, York Dante and Epsom Derby hero Golden Horn is set to put his unbeaten record on the line in Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot – John Gosden’s champion heads a potential field of 11.
North Yorkshire jockey Brian Toomey is set to be in action again at next week’s Galway Festival after trainer Phil Kirby confirmed Kings Grey as an intended runner.
Two years on from suffering a fall at Perth which left him fighting for his life, Toomey made his long-awaited comeback aboard the 11-year-old in a selling hurdle at Southwell earlier this month.
But the odds-on favourite failed to provide the 26-year-old, who spent 157 nights in hospital, with a fairytale return when he was pulled up.
Kirby reports his veteran none the worse, though, and plans to let him return over fences in Ireland.
“It always was part of the plan to go to Galway,” said the Middleham handler. “We weren’t sure after what happened at Southwell, but the horse seems absolutely fine. Nothing came to light, so we’re hoping he just had an off-day – I hope that’s the case as it’s a long way back from Galway otherwise!”
However, Brave Spartacus is unlikely to run in the prestigious Galway Plate in spite of his superb victory in Market Rasen’s Betfred Summer Plate for trainer Keith Reveley and his in-form son James, who was in the saddle.
As Brave Spartacus returned to his Saltburn stable with a few battle scars, Reveley Snr says the horse could wait for the 888sport Handicap Chase at the Lincolnshire track on September 26.
“He’s fine, but I think we’ve ruled out Galway. He’s got scrapes on his stifle and a little nick on his hock, and Galway is only a fortnight away,” said Reveley. “Jumping is his big asset and James knows him so well.”