Afsare can step up at York

The Sky Bet York Stakes (3.10) is one of the features on a modest Saturday afternoon’s racing but it provides a great opportunity for the Luca Cumani-trained Afsare to make the breakthrough in Group company.

Now a five-year-old, he made a very promising start to his career when finishing off his first season on the track with a narrow victory in the Hampton Court Stake at Royal Ascot 2010.

He struggled to build on that form last season but returned this season looking ready to finally take the next step forward.

He began this term in a Group 3 at Newmarket, looking like he needed the run but he wasn’t disgraced in finishing fourth behind the progressive Questioning.

He then went Italy, where he finished second behind Crackerjack King in a Group 1 race at the Capannelle.

While it’s hard to put a finger on the true worth of the form, the winner has since joined Marco Botti and was very strongly supported to win the Coral Eclipse at Sandown just three weeks ago. He disappointed when finishing fifth behind Nathaniel but the fact that he was backed into 5-1 is surely an indicator - if an inexact one - that he is highly regarded by his new trainer.

Afsare then dropped back to Listed company for the Ambant Gala Stakes at Sandown and duly obliged.

Ridden prominently by Kieren Fallon, he chased the pace set by Cai Shen before kicking for home shortly after turning into the straight.

He found plenty all the way to the line, beating Songcraft by two and a half lengths.

The runner-up was making his British debut but he was fit from having had four runs at Meydan earlier in the year, dead-heating for third behind Mikhail Glinka in a Group 2 on one occasion.

Today’s ground is likely to be much faster than that which Afsare won on at Sandown but he has winning form on Good-Firm going and so that is not an issue.

As mentioned, he has struggled in Group company in the past but he still gives the impression that he’s capable of making his mark at this level and this may not be the most taxing of Group 2s.

The standard is set by Planteur, who is trained by the aforementioned Marco Botti, though he represented French trainer Elie Lelouche up until the end of last season.

In his first run for Botti, he ran a stormer to finish third behind Monterosso and Caponi in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, coming home half a length in front of So You Think. He followed that up by filling the same spot behind Golden Lilac and Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix d’Ispahan.

His trainer expressed his disappointment with his seventh-placed finish behind So You Think in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his most recent outing - an effort for which his official rating was subsequently dropped four pounds.

He won last season’s Group 1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp - form that stands out in this field - but the real concern is that would like some cut in the ground.

After a summer of frustratingly soft conditions, the forecast is good to firm going.

Planteur has undeniable claims on his best form but under those conditions, there must be strong doubts that he will be able to show it today.

Another interesting runner, who could make some each-way appeal, is Henry Cecil’s Jet Away. He disappointed last time but that could be attributed to the soft ground and the mile-and-a-half trip.

Prior to that he beat subsequent Group 2 Princess of Weles’s Stakes winner Fiorente quite comfortably in a Listed race at Goodwood. However, he was given a very clever ride that day and the bare result may have flattered him somewhat.

He can travel quite keenly and that could be an issue in a race where there isn’t a guaranteed pacemaker. That is something which also may not suit Planteur but could play to the strengths of Side Glance, who has to prove his stamina for this trip.

He finished strongly to take third place behind Frankel in the Queen Anne Stakes but I would argue that he was flattered by his proximity to second-placed Excelebration.

He was unable to go the pace when Frankel and the runner-up quickened up but rather stayed on late to almost run down Aidan O’Brien’s horse for the consolation money.

If this turns into something of a sprint, he could well take a hand in proceedings.

Afsare, however, seems adaptable in terms of how he can be ridden and jockey Kieran Fallon is sure to be aware of the pace angle.

If it looks like there will be no pace, expect him to be on or very near the lead from the outset.

With the ground in his favour an no issue with stamina, it is very hard to imagine he will finish out of the frame.

At odds of 4-1, he looks the best value.

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