The race with the oldest commercial sponsorship in Britain, the John Smith’s Cup is a top-quality mile-and-a-quarter handicap event and with a maximum field of 22 runners charging round the Knavesmire it should be some spectacle too.
Our shortlist of six was tough to pick, but should all go well:
It would be terrific to see an old favourite of ours land another huge handicap, and it must be noted that he is drawn in stall 1 this year. Last season when competing in this race, Charlie Hills’ six-year-old came into the event on a 5lb higher mark and had to come from gate 24 yet finished a strong fifth.
He’s not at his very best it would seem, though his run in the Hunt Cup at Ascot can be marked up a little, and he seems to be in an awkward position between being well handicapped enough to win another heritage race like this and being a few pounds short of winning a Group 3.
The money horse during the week for Ed Walker, five-year-old Caradoc did his best work on this track last year but that was when running third in a 1m4f handicap.
He has won over this mile-and-a-quarter before and ran well at Epsom last time which may have been looked upon simply as a prep, but he needs to find another chunk of improvement off this handicap mark of 100 to be involved in the finish under James Doyle.
While a Godolphin horse winning a big handicap wouldn’t be a huge surprise in itself, it is more usual these days to see the Charlie Appleby-trained runners getting more of such opportunities. In Saeed bin Suroor’s Great Example however, the boys in blue could land the showpiece at York.
A lightly-raced four-year-old with a progressive profile, a closer look at his CV marks him out as one who could find the most improvement in this field and therefore be very much the best handicapped of the lot.
The way he won at Nottingham last summer despite hanging left, followed by solid runs at Goodwood and Newbury, have shown him to be very capable and if ready to go first time out this season he can comfortably outrun his mark of 100.
Cieren Fallon has been booked too and that’s a smart move, a Group 1-winning jockey taking off another 3lbs which is an outright bonus.
John Gosden will no doubt keep getting more and more improvement out of this horse, and it’s not as if the great man consigns himself only to Pattern races with many a big handicap landed from the yard in recent seasons.
A solid seasonal opener on unsuitably soft ground at Haydock was followed by a narrow handicap win at Doncaster recently and while he’ll of course need to up his game to be involved here under Frankie Dettori, he remains capable and so has to be shortlisted.
Trusting a top trainer like William Haggas to have a horse ready after a long break is not a problem, so what we should expect from this fascinating contender is outright improvement from what he achieved last season and that gives him a shout.
Third to Forest Of Dean at Goodwood, he is now 1lb lower in the weights and yet should be a good handful better now so is in theory well-weighted.
The obvious negative here about Sir Michael Stoute’s runner is his wide draw and but for that he could have been considered a likely favourite.
Already a two-time winner before the break, the son of Shamardal was gelded in the winter and returned to the track with a taking success at Sandown over a mile with his 7lb rise for that win not considered enough on its own to stop him going in again.
Despite the relative lack of prize money compared to ordinary years this is once again a frightfully competitive and fascinating handicap race.
Should Caradoc be as good at York over a shorter trip, Solid Stone be able to overcome a wide draw or Sinjaari be still on the upgrade after a break they would all hold chances.
Another fresh horse who for our money has the most potential to improve in this race however is Saeed bin Suroor’s GREAT EXAMPLE and so he gets the vote. Double-figure prices when betting opened up, he seems great value and should not be far away even if meeting trouble from stall 6.