The annual, four-day Ebor Festival meeting at York Racecourse gets underway on Wednesday in England, and among its biggest horse races, the most lucrative of them all kicks off the action.
Juddmonte International Day features the International Stakes, which is a Group 1 showcase featuring a copious £750,000 purse, with £425,325 awarded to the winner. Friday fosters the Nunthorpe Stakes—another Grade 1 race. It is a five-furlong thriller and a test of sheer straightaway speed.
Capping it all off on Saturday is the Ebor Handicap, which generates the most money of any European flat race and sports Grade 2 status.
What follows is a closer look at these respective races, completed with predictions as to who will come out on top in each one.
This is undoubtedly the biggest prize York has to offer every year, and although there are only six horses slated to compete in the 10-furlong turf, the field is deep.
Al Kazeem is the 5-to-4 favorite due to the five-year-old's wins at the Prince Of Wales' Stakes at Royal Ascot, in the Tattersalls Gold Cup before then and in the Coral Eclipse—all Group 1 races.
The closest challenger should be Toronado, whose close battles with 2000 Guineas and St. James' Palace Stakes champion Dawn Approach were capped off with a magnificent, half-length victory in the Sussex Stakes' "Duel on the Downs."
Hillstar was another success story at Ascot in winning the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes, and should be considered a dark horse challenger. The same goes for Declaration of War, who ran to victory at the Queen Anne Stakes with the successful father-son, trainer-jockey tandem of Aidan and Joseph O'Brien.
Meanwhile, Trading Leather and Rewarded round out the sextet of horses, but would be true surprises to cross the finish first.
It's anyone's race to win given the talent on display, but look for the oddsmakers to prove right in labeling Al Kazeem the prohibitive No. 1 choice to get to the winner's circle.
Prediction: Al Kazeem by two lengths
*Field information: h/t Ged Egan of AtTheRaces.com.
Two-year-old horses and older can compete in this event, which lends itself to even greater excitement due to the short nature of the race.
As mentioned before, it is only five furlongs, and since it is on a turf track, the Nunthorpe Stakes should be over in a blur and be as entertaining as ever.
In 21 career starts, Shea Shea has collected 10 victories. However, he hasn't been as successful in his 2013 campaign in England, finishing second at Royal Ascot's King's Stand Stakes and just outside of the money in fourth in the July Cup.
Shea Shea is still considered the favorite, though, and will be jockeyed by Frankie Dettori—who has won the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes three previous times.
Sole Power—who beat Shea Shea at Ascot—should be a top contender since he won the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2010. Glorious Goodwood's King George Stakes winner Moviesta figures to be a significant factor as well.
Given how close Shea Shea was to victory in the King's Stand in losing by a neck and his experience, in addition to that of his jockey, expect him to live up to the hype as the least risky bettors' proposition.
Prediction: Shea Shea by a half-length
*Field information: h/t The Telegraph.
Although not quite as high-profile as the aforementioned two races, there will still be a considerable amount of hype surrounding this showdown on Ebor Day.
Sir Michael Stoute's resumé as a prolific trainer is undeniable, and he could very well add to it, since his pupil, Duke of Edinburgh Handicap winner Opinion, is running in the race.
Stoute had thought of running Opinion at Goodwood, but decided against it. It was a wise choice with Opinion coming off a fifth-place effort in Hayden, and it leaves the four-year-old fresh for a great run on this one-meter, six-furlong jaunt.
The most prominent challenger figures to be Tiger Cliff, who pulled out of the running for John Smith's Northumberland Plate earlier this summer but got a win in his last race under the late, great Sir Henry Cecil in May.
Tiger Cliff won at Newmarket, then came in second at the Ascot Stakes. Given that track record, look for him to pull off the slight upset.
Prediction: Tiger Cliff by three lengths
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