PROGRESSIVE young sprinter Ekhtiyaar is all set to tackle the Catherine Kinloch Paver Memorial Macmillan Charity Handicap at York on Saturday.
The six figure, six-furlong prize is the feature contest on Britain’s biggest charity raceday.
With a prize fund of £100,000 it is one of the season’s most valuable contests for three-year-old sprinters and has been won in the past by the likes of Cadeaux Genereux, Sheikh Albadou and more recently, Twilight Son.
The Sheikh Hamdan-owned Ekhtiyaar has some way to go before he is mentioned in the same breath as that trio but he certainly looks a sprinter to follow.
A winner of his second start at Yarmouth last October, the son of Bated Breath was runner-up on his seasonal reappearance at Doncaster before taking a six-furlong handicap at Newmarket a month ago.
He overcame trouble in running that day to beat a field of improving sprinters by a head with many of Saturday’s potential rivals in behind. He was raised 5lb for that victory by the handicapper – an increase which his trainer, Roger Varian, is hopeful will not halt his progression.
The Newmarket-based trainer said: “The handicap programme for three-year-old sprinters is a lucrative one and this race is a standout being such a valuable contest. As such, the plan was always to come here with Ekhtiyaar following his victory at Newmarket and I think the course will suit him given he is a strong-travelling type.
“The horse has been in good form following his victory last month and he posted an impressive performance on that occasion, given he was forced to switch entering the Dip as a gap was closed by a horse hanging in front of him. It is not easy to regain momentum in rain-softened ground and the way he picked up inside the final furlong was quite taking, with the front three pulling a long way clear of the remainder.
“The overall time of the race was good and a 5lb rise for the win seems a very workable assessment of the form by the handicapper. The better ground won’t be a problem and I hope Ekhtiyaar holds very solid claims, for all a number of horses arrive here on steep upward curves and I expect the race to be as competitive as the prize fund suggests it ought to be.”
Another highlight on the card is the Best Western Hotels Ganton Stakes, a Listed contest over a mile. The boosted £50,000 prize could see some real old favourites, with the likes of Custom Cut, Kool Kompany, Gabrial and Mondialiste as well as 2yo Course Record holder Dutch Connection, all featuring in the initial entry.
Saturday’s card will also see ten people even getting the chance to ride around the famous Knavesmire in the nine-furlong charity race – the Best Western Hotels & Macmillan Ride of their lives. Each rider is required to raise at least £3,000 with the aim to beat last year’s combined total of £150,000- help them on their Justgiving pages.
The day gets underway at 1:50pm with The Queen Mother’s Cup, a race for lady amateur riders which was won in 1988 by The Princess Royal.
Racing also takes place on the Knavesmire on Friday with the first of seven races taking place at 1:50.