Willie Mullins targets Ebor honours with Ivan Grozny

Last year's ante-post favourite Ivan Grozny finally gets the chance for Betfred Ebor glory at York on Saturday.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was brought down in the Galway Hurdle earlier in the month, but is no mean performer on his day and connections are hoping this will be his year after he was an enforced defector through lameness the day before the race 12 months ago.

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: "He didn't get too far last time in the Galway Hurdle, but he's none the worse for that.

"He was one of the favourites for the Ebor last year and had to be pulled out at the last minute.

"He's probably not as well-in (at the weights) this year and has plenty of weight, but he seems in good form at home.

"It's a race that we've had a bit of luck in, as Sesenta won it and Wicklow Brave was second. We wouldn't be sending him unless we thought he had a good squeak.

"He likes some ease in the ground, but I think a strong gallop really suits him where he can settle as he can be a bit free-going.

"I think if they go a good gallop and he settles, that will be the key."

Two of Newmarket's pre-eminent training names are looking to end a long wait for another winner of the historic handicap.

Sir Michael Stoute was last on the mark in 1996 through Clerkenwell, while handicap king Sir Mark Prescott must go back even further, to Hasten To Add in 1994.

Both field leading contenders on the Knavesmire, with Flymetothestars carrying the hopes of Prescott, having been third in the Northumberland Plate.

The four-year-old is owned by Middleham Park Racing, whose Tim Palin said: "The draw (stall 21) is bob-on and he's a lightly-raced improver, but he hasn't raced on turf yet.

"That's a bit of an unknown, but he has a turf pedigree so the hope is he'll be as good as he is on the all-weather.

"He's probably not been 100 per cent for most of his life, which is why we don't want to run him on firm ground.

"I've spoken to Sir Mark and If there's any firm in the ground we'll have to walk the track and could end up taking him out.

"He's in great form, though, and it's all systems go."

Dubka invariably plies her trade in good company and will be having her first run in a handicap since winning at Newmarket in September last year.

The Dubawi filly was last seen just failing in a Group Three at Goodwood.

Stoute said: "She's tough and she stays well. I would think that run at Goodwood was the best she has produced so far.

"The dam (Rosika) nearly won the Ebor so let's hope she can win it."

Few horses deserve a big win more than Nakeeta, who has finished second in a number of major handicaps.

His trainer Iain Jardine said: "He's due a change of luck in one of these big races and it was always the plan to get him into the Ebor all year.

"Callum (Rodriguez) is a good lad and takes off a handy bit of weight, so there are plenty of positives."

Hopes are high in the Mark Johnston camp for a good run from Goodwood winner Soldier In Action, who must defy top weight.

Assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said: "A mile and six at a track like York is a positive and we are hopeful he can run a big race."

Lord Yeats has helped contribute to a good summer for Jedd O'Keeffe, winning twice.

O'Keeffe said: "Ideally we'd want a bit more rain, but it can't be too fast given the rain on Wednesday.

"I've been wanting to step him up to this trip for a while and I'm hoping it will bring about some more improvement."

Eve Johnson Houghton saddles Scarlet Dragon and said: "He's better off at the weights as Hollie (Doyle) can use her claim and he's 2lb well-in because he went up for Goodwood (third in a Group Three).

"We're hoping for a big run, but obviously it is a bit of a lottery."

AP


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