The Yorkshire Ebor Festival will feature nine two-year-old thoroughbreds at the post Friday, with Lilbourne Lad as the tepid Twinspires 2-1 morning line favorite, competing for Group honors in a wide open edition of the $218,500 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2) at York Racecourse.
With a fourth-place finish in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Group 1) at Curragh Racecourse on August 7, Lilbourne Lad gets a quick return to the post by trainer Richard Hannon who has won the Gimcrack four times since 1988.
He’s been racing in good company and in the Phoenix Stakes Lilbourne Lad was only beaten 2½-lengths by Timeform top-ranked La Collina (111), Power (113) and Tough As Nails (107). However, with a 110 Timeform rating and a win in the Dubai Duty Free Railway Stakes (Group 2), Lilbourne Lad is the only horse in the field with a Group win to his credit and appears to be the deserving favorite.
Royal Applause, the grandsire of Lilbourne Lad, was a first-class sprinter and winner of the 1995 Gimcrack Stakes (G2). At stud, Royal Applause has 11 winners in 37 runners for a 30% strike rate.
Burwaaz, the 6-1 morning line third-choice, has yet to earn Group honors but in five starts, he has one win and three second-place finishes and if he repeats his previous form he should be competitive.
In his last race, Burwaaz was a 1¼-length runner up to Timeform rated Requinto (110) in the Molecomb Stakes (Group 3) at the Goodwood Racecourse Glorious Goodwood festival. Prior to that, Burwaaz finished second to Timeform top-rated Harbour Watch (118) in a conditions stakes at Newmarket Racecourse.
Burwaaz suffered his only out-of-the-money finish in the Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) at Royal Ascot where he was beaten 2¾-lengths by Timeform ranked Bapak Chinta (115) and runner up Boomerang Bob (107).
Exceed And Excel, the sire of Burwaaz, was a first-class Australian sprinter and he is ranked fifth on the Racing Post Top sires of two-year-olds list with 15 winners in 44 runners for a 34% strike rate.
Justineo has never been out of the money in three starts and he comes into the race with a 2½-length win as the odds on favorite in the Russian Standard Vodka E.b.f. Maiden Stakes at Newmarket on July 29. Justineo trailed the seven-horse field most of the race but showed a good turn of foot to pull away in the final furlong and win with ease.
Justineo is a descendant of the Danzig sire line and since 1990 that line has produced eight Gimcrack winners: Approve (2010), Showcasing (2009), Shaweel (2008), Conquest (2006), Amadeus Wolf (2005), Country Reel (2002), Rock of Gibraltar (2001) and Mull Of Kintyre (1999).
Oasis Dream, the sire of Justineo, also sired the Grimcrack winners Approve and Showcasing and he is ranked 11th on the Racing Post Top sires of two-year-olds list with 10 winners in 23 runners for a 43% strike rate.
Classic Champion Thoroughbred Montjeu is the damsire of Justineo and he currently has five two-year-old winners in eight runners for a 63% strike rate. Some of his best two-year-old runners and top money earners include: Fame And Glory, Authorized, Motivator, St. Nicholas Abbey and Jan Vermeer to name a few.
Sardanapalus is making a big step up in class but he looked impressive enough in his maiden win at Hamilton Park on July 14 for trainer Kevin Ryan to give him a shot at Group honors. Ryan trained the 2005 Gimcrack winner Amadeus Wolf.
Sent off as the 5-4 favorite in his maiden debut, Sardanapalus broke slowly and had traffic problems but settled nicely when moved to race free and clear on the outside of the nine-horse field. Sardanapalus made a nice move to take the lead in the final 50 yards and kept on to win by a neck.
Jockey Phil Makin retains the mount for the Gimcrack and if Sardanapalus looks good, he may be worthy of a wager.