Grand Cup preview: Sagaro rematch holds key to Ebor qualifier at York

14th September 2021

Our 2019 Grand Cup preview and betting tips include Austrian School (left)

The second, third and fourth from the Sagaro Stakes all drop back in trip and re-oppose in a cracking renewal of the Listed 1m 6f Grand Cup at York on Saturday (15:00) with a place in the £1,000,000 Ebor Handicap on the line.

Mekong led the trio home at Ascot last month and is a short-price 11/8 favourite with Betway as a result.

Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, this four-year-old Frankel gelding is looking to give his handler a first win in this race and jockey Ryan Moore back-to-back victories.

In Mekong, connections have what looks to be a typical improver with age who has a 50 per cent strike rate over this trip.

After gamely holding on to land an all-weather handicap at Chelmsford by a neck, he ran in the Melrose Handicap here during the Ebor Festival in August.

As Mekong was far from disgraced when beaten only 1 3/4 lengths and fourth to Ghostwatch, he next resumed winning ways when bolting up on bottomless ground in a Haydock handicap.

He then chased home that Godolphin owned rival going down half-a-length in the Noel Murless at Ascot.

That performance in the similar grade affair suggested Mekong was well up to winning at this level.

A first try over 2m on reappearance in the Sagaro saw him confirm previous form with the re-opposing Austrian School but only by a head when runner-up to Gold Cup contender Dee Ex Bee.

The third has very little to find dropping back a couple of furlongs, but has already had a busy campaign compared to just one run from Mekong.

Given the small margin between the two at Ascot, he is plenty short enough at the odds on offer.

Austrian School preferred to stable companion Making Miracles

Middleham handler Mark Johnston saddles a quarter of the eight-runner field with the aforementioned Austrian School looking better suited by the drop back than Making Miracles.

This four-year-old Teofilo colt is four from 16 on the turf, but has placed on nine other occasions and ran out a very ready winner of the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh on reappearance.

Austrian School also began last season well winning two handicaps in a week, first on the all-weather at Chelmsford and then the Chester May Festival.

He was then there or thereabouts finishing no worse than fourth in nine subsequent starts. Johnston loves to actually race his horses and this is Austrian School’s fourth outing of the campaign already.

As he has just a head to find on Mekong and they meet off exactly the same terms, the difference in price is too great and he is thus worth siding with at 5/1 with Paddy Power.

Any further rain that falls on the Knavesmire will suit stable companion Making Miracles, who bolted up in the mud in the Chester Cup on his penultimate start.

The four-year-old Pivotal gelding has posted his best form over further than this trip, but clearly handles soft ground.

Depending on the day and conditions, Making Miracles has it in him to beat Austrian School and vice versa.

That makes a fifth career clash between the two a fascinating subplot. Making Miracles is a top-price 8/1 with Betfair and well worth considering each-way in this.

Raheen House and Gold Mount have things to prove

Two new arrivals also line-up in William Haggas recruit Raheen House and Ian Williams debutant Gold Mount.

Dealing with the former, the five-year-old has joined an in-form stable from Brian Meehan’s yard but needs to recapture past form.

Raheen House won the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket and the Noel Murless as a three-year-old, then rather lost his way last season.

His stamina laden pedigree suggested he could be a contender when stepped up to 2m, but he weakened out of the 2018 Sagaro two furlongs from home.

Radeen House was fourth only three subsequent starts before swapping stables. Punters taking the 7/1 on offer with Unibet are gambling on the change of scenery bringing back his old ability.

Followers of horse racing in Hong Kong, meanwhile, know Gold Mount as Primitvo and he’s on a poor run of just one win in his last 14.

This globetrotting Excellent Art gelding did win four consecutive races when in the care of Alan King, but then went to the Far East.

While the majority of his best form is over middle distances, Gold Mount was far from disgraced when fourth to Cross Counter in the Group 2m Dubai Gold Cup over 2m on World Cup night.

This is a significant ease in grade from that last run and he was only beaten by about eight lengths.

The only negative is the runner-up Ispolini and third home Call The Wind have both had chances to advertise the Meydan form and failed to do so.

At odds of 8/1 with Bethard, there could be more to come from Gold Mount with in-form jockey Andrea Atzeni now aboard for the first time.

There is a feeling Mekong and Austrian School have done more to earn the joint top official rating of 110, though.

Desert Skyline can’t be ruled out either

If there is one horse who looks overpriced on the pick of his form, then it’s Desert Skyline for David Elsworth at 14/1 with Coral.

The five-year-old Tamayuz gelding has been a regular of the cup division but runs here instead of Royal Ascot.

Although he hasn’t scored in 10 subsequent starts after landing the 2017 Doncaster Cup, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Desert Skyline has finished second, fourth and fifth in three starts at this venue and he could come on for his reappearance in the Yorkshire Cup.

This is the easiest assignment he’s had for some time after 15 consecutive races in group company.

Against horses who on paper have only proven themselves as handicappers and at Listed level, Desert Skyline could get in amongst them and make the frame.

Taking the fact he was rated as high as 112 as recently as last August into account, he comes out as the best each-way value in a race which five-year-olds have won four of the last eight renewals of.

Both Buzz and Gian Y Gors have a mountain to climb on official ratings to get in amongst the others in what is a very strong for the grade Listed event.

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