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York Ebor Festival and the Juddmonte International Stakes

ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: Await The Dawn wins The Hardwicke Stakes during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot racecourse on June 18, 2011 in Ascot, England  (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)
ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: Await The Dawn wins The Hardwicke Stakes during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot racecourse on June 18, 2011 in Ascot, England (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)
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The popular Ebor Festival kicks off at York Racecourse in England on Wednesday (US TV coverage on HRTV).  The festival features four days of racing with nine group races, including three Group 1s.  Opening day will feature the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes. 

Wednesday: G1-Juddmonte International
Thursday: G1-Yorkshire Oaks (this race is for fillies & mares, three and up, so not a traditional "Oaks" as we think of it.)
Friday: G1-Nunthorpe Stakes

The Juddmonte International is run at 10 furlongs and will feature a decent field of six that is missing So You Think (NZ) and Workforce (GB).  Of the six horses in the field, all but one are trained by Aidan O'Brien or Sir Henry Cecil.

# PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds*
1 3 Await The Dawn J.P. O'Brien A. O'Brien 10/11
2 4 Twice Over (GB) I. Mongan H. Cecil 5/1
3 2 Windsor Palace (IRE) S. Heffernan A. O'Brien 200/1
4 5 Zafisio (IRE) D. Holland J. Hughes 80/1
5 6 Midday (GB) T. Queally H. Cecil 5/2
6 1 Roderic O'Connor (IRE) C. O'Donoghue A. O'Brien 25/1

 

*Odds are approximate odds currently offered by English bookmakers.  (via the Racing Post)

English bookmakers have this as a two-horse race between Await The Dawn and Midday (GB), which makes perfect sense when you look at this race on paper.  

Await The Dawn has turned into the "now" horse for the Ebor Festival after an impressive display in winning the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.  The four-year-old son of Giant's Causeway is a flashy 6-5-0-0 in his career and has won five straight race, including three straight Group stakes.  This is his first try at the top of the class ladder, but he's found what looks to be a pretty nice spot to make his Group 1 debut.  Midday is a quality mare but she's not a dominating pressence.

Midday is one of the more consistent horses, male or female, that you will find anywhere on the planet.  She's been first or second in all of her last ten races, with a win in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita in 2009.  In her last race in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, she dusted the very classy Snow Fairy (IRE) by two lengths.

Twice Over (GB) was off-form for several races this spring but finally bounced back to win a Group 2 race at York at the end of July. I don't know that he beat any horses in that field that are as good as Await The Dawn and Midday, but he's proven he can run at a high level when he's at his best.  But is a six-year-old Twice Over able to run at his best anymore?

Roderic O'Connor (IRE) bounced back after being dismantled by Frankel at Newmarket to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on May 21st.  However, his form has slipped badly in his last two races where he finished a disappointing 8th and 6th in his first attempts in a race longer than a mile. 

Windsor Palace (IRE) and Zafisio (IRE) have astronomical odds for a reason: they have little chance to win this race given the top contenders. Windsor Palace has spent his 2011 getting destroyed by So You Think and hasn't won a race since 2007 when he was a juvenile.  Zafisio has won some Group races in his career but hasn't raced since September of 2010 and he hasn't won a Group 1 race since 2008.