John Gosden believes that the Sky Bet Ebor will become a classier race in 12 months time when the York handicap increases its prizemoney from £500,000 to £1million.
Gosden won the staying handicap on the Knavesmire with Muntahaa on Saturday, with stable companion Weekender finishing on his heels.
Stratum, the 3-1 favourite, found all the trouble in the world on the far rail before crossing the line in 12th, and is already the sponsor’s 12-1 favourite for next year’s contest.
Ghostwatch, who won the Melrose on the same card and therefore gains automatic entry, is 16-1 second favourite alongside Muntahaa, who also gains an automatic berth, and Weekender. Marmelo, who won the Sky Bet Grand Cup Stakes, also has an entry.
“It’s rather like Cheltenham, where all of those big races you can no longer sneak in to at the bottom,” Gosden told Racing UK.
“When they put that money up they want the best horses to come here. Consequently you are going to wind up with a 10-14b spread of high-class handicappers.”
Weekender was burdened with topweight of 9st12lb due to his rating of 112, while Mountain Bell slipped in at the bottom off 102 and 9st 2lb.
Led by Sir Anthony McCoy, there have been suggestions on the Knavesmire this week that it would be a good idea for Lonsdale Cup hero Stradivarius to run next year in the Ebor. Without the £1million bonus Stradivarius won, Bjorn Nielsen’s charge picked up just £127,597 on Friday and winning the new race would be more lucrative.
The race conditions will also be amended from next year, with three-year-olds prevented from taking part to ensure this significant boost in funds does not distort the Pattern programme. There have been only two three-year-olds to have made the cut in the last decade.
Gosden seemed to rule out the idea of his staying star dropping back in trip to be burdened with a welter weight.
“You are not going to get a Group horse,” he added. “We’ve knocked on the door of Group races [with Muntaaha] and we haven’t won one. Those horses are going to be rated 116, 118, 120, 122, 125. They are not going to get in.
“You might want to run a horse here off 114, or 116 maybe, but you wouldn’t want to run one off any higher and lug around 10st.”
Asked whether Muntahaa and Weekender might make the race in 12 months time, Gosden joked: “Well, if we are all kicking along and Willie Mullins doesn’t buy them!”
SkyBet - 2019 Ebor: 12-1 Stratum, 16-1 Ghostwatch, Muntahaa, Weekender, 20-1 Supernova, 25 Blakeney Point, Corgi, Mekong, Mustajeer, Nakeeta. Others on request.