HEAVY rain earlier in the week has wreaked havoc with this week’s Dante meeting at York by turning the ground soft.
John Gosden withdrew both Cracksman and So Mi Dar, ante-post favourites for yesterday’s two big races, before racing even started.
Only eight runners have been declared for this afternoon’s Yorkshire Cup (3.30pm), which is the first leg in the Long Distance division of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
And with more rain forecast again that field may shrink further.
Favourite Muntahaa is another Gosden-trained runner yet to race on a surface any worse than good to soft, so his participation isn’t guaranteed.
That said, he was a nice winner of the John Porter Stakes at Newbury last month and is a definite player here if the ground doesn’t deteriorate too much.
Dartmouth is another leading fancy yet to encounter really soft ground, although there was plenty of cut when he won at Royal Ascot last summer.
The five-year-old seems to be getting better with age and it’s interesting that Sir Michael Stoute is looking to start off his season over this extended trip.
His win in the Ormonde at Chester last season suggests he shouldn’t have any issues seeing out the trip and he won’t be far away if taking his chance.
Former St Leger winner Simple Verse shaped like a stayer to follow when winning the Park Hill at Doncaster last season and ended the campaign with a close-up third to Sheikhzayedroad on QIPCO British Champions Day.
Without sounding like a broken record, her best form has also come on a sound surface, so conditions have to be a concern on her reappearance.
Clever Cookie, who has form figures of 1111527 when the ground is soft or worse, certainly won’t be inconvenienced.
To be fair to him too, the fifth and seventh place finishes both came in Group One company.
The concern with him is that he appears to have two ways of running, although this looks his perfect trip.
Instead, I’m going to throw a few quid at Charlie Appleby’s ENDLESS TIME at 13/2 with Ladbrokes.
She is lightly raced as a five-year-old, but showed last season she is a tough nut to crack when given soft conditions and a stamina test.
Her final two starts last season came in Group One company and she finished runner-up on both occasions, not beaten far either time.
With her stable in great form she looks sure to be there or thereabouts, even on her first start since October.
Newbury has also had plenty of rain this week, although a warm day yesterday would have dried conditions out a little.
The best bet on their bumper eight-race card looks to be CLEAR SPRING at 8/1 as he bids for a hat-trick of wins in the Starlight Handicap (2.35pm).
He loves plenty of cut in the ground and lines up here off a 2lb lower mark than when successful 12 months ago.
The nine-year-old lost his way a little after that victory and rounded off last season with three fairly woeful performances.
However, he has been gelded since and looked a reformed character when just getting a bit tired late on at Newmarket earlier this month.
That would have put him spot on for today’s race and he can go well with conditions in his favour.
Finally, switching my attentions to Newmarket, I’m keen on the chances of SAIGON CITY in the staying handicap (3.55pm).
I had been keen to tip the seven-year-old in last week’s Chester Cup, but he wasn’t declared for that contest and looks to have a far easier task on his hands this afternoon.
Formerly trained by Luca Cumani, he has flourished since switching to in-form Declan Carroll’s yard and ran a hell of a race on his reappearance when second to Chemical Charge at Doncaster last month.
Muntahaa was third in that race before coming out and winning the John Porter Stakes at Newbury, while the fourth turned a valuable handicap on 1000 Guineas day into a procession.
He looks dangerously well-handicapped off just 93 and has plenty of form in the book on soft ground if conditions don’t improve.
Clear Spring 2.35pm York
Endless Time 3.30pm York
Saigon City 3.55pm Newmarket