Stoute chasing Ebor Bliss

YESTERDAY'S Nunthorpe success for Margot Did was a clear indicator that the rain had got into the ground at York and that makes the early moves for this afternoon's Betfred Ebor all the more puzzling.

Modun, trained by Michael Stoute, looks like being sent off favourite but he has questions to answer on the forecast conditions. He was sent off favourite for the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot but he was unable to land a telling blow there. The testing ground which materialised at that meeting appeared to be an obvious reason for his failure and, if so, it's hard to have faith in him today.

It's worth noting that Ryan Moore chose to ride him over stable-companion Blissful Moment, who finished second behind Fox Hunt. The first two home from that race also take their place here and yet it's Modun who has been attracting the real support.

The Stoute stable rarely gets it wrong when favouring one horse over another but Blissful Moment is the one who appeared to handle the ground at Ascot and should have no trouble with today's conditions.

He's been off the track since June but he appeals as a potential improver and, off a low weight, should not be far away.

Fox Hunt must carry top weight but his reserves of stamina seem limitless and he could be a shade overpriced at 16-1. He's a lot worse off at the weights with Blissful Moment for the Ascot meeting, but he ran a huge race when a fast-finishing fourth behind Opinion Poll in the Goodwood Cup and should be hard to keep out of the frame.

On truly fast ground, Saptapadi would have been a confident selection to get amongst the places but enthusiasm for him has also been tempered by the going. He was a real eye-catcher when a close fifth behind Twice Over in the York Stakes last time out. He suffered interference in running when staying on strongly in the closing stages that day, and the return to a longer trip is very much in his favour.

The form of that race received a huge boost when Twice Over landed the Juddmonte International on Wednesday, while fourth-placed Class Is Class also did his bit by winning a Group 3 next time out.

Saptapadi, who was with Michael Stoute before switching to the Brian Ellison stable, looks as though he might have more to give and is reluctantly over-looked.

It’s noticeable that David Wachman's Mount Athos has been attracting some support but he finished 12th of 16 and 11th of 15 on his only two tries on soft ground. Coincidence?

I’m not entirely comfortable with the description of the ground at York but, if it races as it did yesterday, I would have reservations about getting involved with most of the runners at the head of the market.

It appeals as a race in which an upset is looming and is certainly one for minimum stakes.

Blissful Moment, at 11-1, represents good each-way value, while Fox Hunt should not be overlooked if further rain hits the course.

Away from York is where the best racing is this weekend and I'm particularly keen to see how Frederick Engels gets on in the Prix Morny at Deauville tomorrow. Perhaps the pocket is having a minor influence when I say I believe he would have won the Phoenix Stakes had he not been badly hampered in the closing stages, but I firmly believe it. He tends to do his best work in the closing stages and was yet to be asked a question when meeting with interference at the Curragh. Despite being beaten three times, he is one of the best two-year-old colts of the season and he can get back to winning ways in France.

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