With almost £5m in prize-money available, I’m keen to get among the winners over the 25 races, especially as I’ve had just three successes to date at York this season.
Jim Crowley was top jockey in August in 2017 with four victories. The competition will be sharp for the honour of wearing the ‘Ray Gilpin Red Armband’ – a fitting tribute to the popular racing journalist who passed away in 2015 – once again, generously supported by Leeds-based Sky Bet in his memory.
Whether I will require another of the racecourse’s innovations, I’ll wait and see! A state-of-the-art ice bath, known as an Ice Pod, is being trialled.
Already popular with athletes in the United States, cryotherapy using this special bath complete with its therapy jets, takes the accepted use of ice packs for muscle management to the next level; intriguing, but I hope I don’t need to climb in it!
The £1m Juddmonte International is the showpiece race of the opening day on Wednesday.
Poet’s Word, handled by the Group 1 contest’s leading trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is an understandable favourite, but he faces stiff opposition from up to 10 rivals.
My best chance could be on Fashion Queen in the opener – the Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap.
The Clipper Logistics-owned filly has been mixing it in Group and Listed company in France and Ireland over the last 12 months, so she has a great opportunity to get the Festival off to the best possible start, especially if there is any more rain. She has winning form at York, which is always a plus.
Watch out, too, for Kuwait Station if he takes his chance of a second race in the space of five days, in the closing contest on Wednesday, the richest nursery handicap in the country, again backed by Sky Bet.
He runs at Ripon today, too, and the only time he has tasted defeat was at Royal Ascot. The conditions contest at 2.40pm today is quite a tough race, but he’s won there already and that’s positive.
This afternoon’s feature is the Great St Wilfrid Handicap. My ride, Marie Of Lyon, might look like one of the outsiders at 20-1, but I rate her chances.
Trained by Richard Fahey, she is another owned by Clipper Logistics. A helpful draw and soft ground will assist her, so she could run well, at a big price.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Pontefract where the William Haggas-trained Completion, who I won on at Redcar in May, could be my best chance at 4.05pm.
It’s likely to be Thirsk on Monday, before a trip north to Hamilton Park on the eve of the biggest meeting of the year at York.
The four days on Knavesmire are a massive highlight – and I can’t wait for it to start.
All the top horses, jockeys and trainers will be there along with tens of thousands of enthusiastic racegoers.
Bring it on!
York’s Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival is from Wednesday to Saturday August 22-25. You can find out more on the meeting at www.yorkracecourse.co.uk