SIR Michael Stoute will bring a team brimming with talent to York for the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, which runs for four days from next Wednesday.
The Newmarket trainer has a superb record at the famous meeting, winning no less than 16 Group 1s on the Knavesmire. He has also triumphed three times in the prestigious handicap that gives the Festival its name – the Betfred Ebor.
On the first day, Stoute will bring Ulysses for the eagerly-anticipated clash of the big guns in the £1million Juddmonte International. Fellow stars Churchill and Barney Roy are also set to line up in the extended mile and a quarter contest, ranked as the best race in Britain on its three year IFHA average, but Ulysses beat the latter by a nose in a thrilling renewal of Coral Eclipse in July.
Stoute’s charge was subsequently beaten by the race sponsor’s outstanding filly, Enable, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, over a mile and a half.
“We are planning to go,” said Stoute, confirming his intentions to run Ulysses in the Juddmonte International. “He is taking his racing very well and we’re pleased with what we see.”
As for the decision to drop back from 12 to 10 furlongs, he added: “He’s competent at both trips. He loves top of the ground but he goes on any. You’ve only got to look at the King George and you’ve got your evidence there.
“I think it will be a high-quality race – it’s very interesting. We’ve had some great races for the International in the past and we’ll probably have a great one this time.”
On the same afternoon, the Newmarket-based trainer will saddle Mirage Dancer in the Betway Great Voltigeur. Stoute has won the mile and a half Group 2 race on seven previous occasions, the latest being in 2013 when Telescope struck.
Mirage Dancer is a lightly-raced son of Frankel who has shaped with bags of promise in both of his runs at three. His last start saw him beaten just over a length into third place in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Stoute said: “We’re just leaving nice gaps between his races. He is progressive. We like the horse and he keeps improving. This would be as far as he would ever want to go.”
No trainer has more than Stoute’s tally of nine Darley Yorkshire Oaks victories – although Matthew Dawson also won the race nine times in the 19th century. Next Thursday he plans to be double-handed in the £350,000 Group 1 with Queen’s Trust and Abingdon, tasked with taking on Enable.
Queen’s Trust, a Breeders’ Cup champion from last autumn, has run better this year than a glance at her bare form may suggest. Abingdon has shown up particularly well when competing on fast ground, notably when winning a Listed race at Pontefract by 10 lengths in June.
Stoute said: “Queens Trust hasn’t had the rub of the green this year. In the Prince of Wales’s, she got badly interfered with and was really coming home. Then the ground was too soft for her in the Nassau. But she is in good shape – she’ll run a big one.
“Abingdon is solid. She’s won at the track – the Galtres last year – she has been running well this year and I hope she’ll be in the frame. I’ll be happy with that. Loves top of the ground – good is no problem. But with her, she doesn’t want it softer than good.”
On the same afternoon, the British EBF and Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes is the next scheduled assignment for Mori. The beautifully-bred Frankel filly is out of Midday, so her pedigree has York Group One winners on both sides, was only pipped by a neck in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Stoute said: “The plan is for Mori to go to the Galtres. The Ribblesdale was the best race she has run to date. She is progressive and we are very happy with her.”
The last of Stoute’s victories in the Ebor was provided by Clerkenwell in 1996. Since then, though, he finished second in 2010 with Rosika, who is the dam of his intended challenger, Dubka, on Saturday 26 August.
Dubka showed that she is very much made of the right stuff when beaten just a neck over a mile and six-furlongs – the Ebor distance – in a Group 3 at the Goodwood Qatar Festival earlier this month.
Stoute, who plans to run only her in the race, said: “She’s tough, stays well. I would think that run at Goodwood was the best that she has produced so far. The dam nearly won the Ebor so let’s hope she can win it.”