Reflections on York

York Racecourse and the Ebor meeting showed our sport in its best light and has given its media a welcome opportunity to lighten the mood in fora. One must hope that immediate and positive use is made of this marketing opportunity – is it too much to expect an article contrasting the profiles of successful owners and their horses in a colour supplement?

York is the best run racecourse that I know and provides reasonable admission prices and fare to witness top class racing for prize money which is exceptional by domestic standards. It results in a dedicated and appreciative crowd, which enhances the experience for professionals and racegoers alike. The reception that the top horses receive is surely evidence that we have an exciting and emotionally moving “product” which could be successfully marketed to a far wider audience given the funding and the will.

The leading characters were all multiple season horses: the magnificent Baaeed, the admirable five years old Alpinista and the fairy tale Highfield Princess, a five years old who had started winning off a mark of 57, successful in her twenty ninth start. Her jockey struggled to pull her up twelve days after she had won a contrasting Group One in France. I hope network TV features a short documentary on the logistics involved in competing in those races and the resilience of this mare in achieving the feat. The sport is too often reactive to negative publicity and the opportunity to get our retaliation in first with this horse should not be missed. She was bought on a budget – memo to new owners; she stands plenty of racing with apparently growing appetite for the contest – memo to animal rights and she negotiated European travel – memo to eurocrats and HMG.

Two years olds should be in the early chapters of their biography and this meeting often serves as a watershed between early season form and more enduring performances. It offers the first juvenile contests that appear in top ten monthly betting turnover tables. The Gimcrack was won authoritatively in a style that suggests Noble Style would be a match for those domestic rivals who have already competed in pattern company. The Lowther went to an outsider, but Swingalong was a clear paddock pick, the biggest, strongest and scopiest filly in the field, it seems unlikely those behind her have as much capacity to progress.

The Ebor highlighted the drain on staying resources, with two of the bottom weights fighting out a photo finish: neither would have had a high enough rating to compete in recent years. The luckless second Alfred Bouchier and his able trainer Ian Williams further highlighted the resilience a mature thoroughbred can show when happy and sound – he had won over two miles on the opening day of the meeting. The Melrose also went to the bottom weight, the blue blooded Soulcombe, by Frankel out of Group One winner Ribbons. He was unsold at 190,000 guineas. Reluctant bidders must have been congratulating their acumen when he started life in handicaps off of 68, but his balance appears to be in the black now, unlike so many of those “Ascot two years olds,” whose ephemeral appeal has already waned. Ribbons beat King’s Chorister into second, this exceptionally game filly is by Golden Horn, also sire of Galtres winner Haskoy and Ebor winner Trawlerman. It appears witless then, that the sire has recently been condemned to National Hunt ranks. Doubly so when one considers the respective maternal grandsires: Soldier of Fortune, Nathaniel and Monsun. Speed was never an adequate substitute for class.

In contrast the two years old sales race was contested between nineteen horses of which only one had registered an official rating above 90 and 80% of the prize money came from owners’ contributions.

One hopes buyers and breeders will draw their own inferences.