TIM EASTERBY will be hoping that Golden Apollo can land his second big handicap win in as many months as he aims to become the season’s leading trainer at York.
York Racecourse have had £400,000 in prize money on offer this weekend as it signs off the Flat season with the Coral Sprint Trophy heading today’s racing.
Major Jumbo represents Kevin Ryan’s yard, having run respectfully in several Group Ones this season, and Yorkshire based trainer Easterby saddles Ayr Silver Cup winner Golden Apollo in a bid to follow up last month’s success.
Easterby will be hoping that he can usurp John Gosden (eight winners) in a late bid to land the Charles Clinkard Top Trainer at York title for 2019. He has had five winners on Knavesmire this season and has 27 entries this weekend.
“Everything that gets in, runs,” commented Easterby, who has five entries in today’s feature.
“All are in good form. It’s a matter of what gets in and which gets the best draw.
“Staxton (rated 97) will get in all right and both he and Golden Apollo handle soft ground. Hyperfocus (rated 94) loves soft ground if he got in.”
Other notable runners include the Ryan-trained Bielsa, who was a well-beaten favourite in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster during last month’s St Leger Festival.
Easterby is also hoping that one of his most impressive two-year-olds, Lampang, can land the listed Rockingham Stakes and scoop the £28,000 winner’s prize. Easterby is confident that the colt will handle the projected soft ground.
“A very good horse, he is. It’s a natural step up for him. He didn’t seem to mind the ground at Ripon – it was softish that day,” said Easterby.
Danny Tudhope will land the Living-North-sponsored riding crown at York, having had eight winners on Knavesmire this season. Frankie Dettori has also had eight winners, but Tudhope, based in Thirsk, has had three second-placed horses which gives him an edge over the Italian.
Air Raid bids to provide trainer Jedd O’Keeffe with a second victory in the £100,000 Coral Sprint Trophy at York on Saturday.
The Leyburn-based trainer landed the lucrative handicap with Shared Equity in 2015 and is hopeful Air Raid can carry the same colours of owners Caron and Paul Chapman to success on the Knavesmire this weekend.
The four-year-old has already won three times this season – claiming back-to-back wins at Hamilton in June before returning to the Scottish track to add to his tally in July.
He finished down the field in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood on his latest appearance, but O’Keeffe is confident of an improved performance on the final day of York’s season.
He said: “He’s in really good shape and obviously this race has been on the agenda for quite some time.
“We’re happy the ground is on the slow side and we’re hoping it stays like that – the softer the better for us.”
Air Raid was due to run in last month’s Ayr Gold Cup, but was a late withdrawal.
“He was unlucky to miss the Ayr Gold Cup – he stood on a shoe in the horse box and went lame, so he had to be pulled out on the morning,” O’Keeffe added.
“We’ve prepared for this contest since then.”
Asked to compare Air Raid to Shared Equity, the trainer said: “They both like give in the ground and they’re both big, long-striding horses who will handle York well.
“They’re similar in lots of ways and we’re coming back hoping for a repeat.’’
Air Raid is part of a maximum field of 22 runners, with Kevin Ryan relying on Hey Jonesy as he bids to win the race for the third year in succession.
David O’Meara fires a four-pronged assault, with Summerghand, Gulliver, Intisaab and Cold Stare all declared.
Other contenders include Mick Appleby’s top-weight Danzeno, the William Haggas-trained Aplomb and Michael Dods’ Get Knotted.