York Ebor Festival 2023: Mullins Chasing Another Melbourne Cup Spot

The eyes of the horse racing world will be on York Racecourse next week as the prestigious Ebor Festival is staged at the historic venue.

The four-day meeting is packed with Group races and top-class handicaps, making it one of the biggest betting events of the year in the United Kingdom.

This year’s meeting has taken on added significance following the news that the winner of the Ebor Handicap will gain automatic entry to the Melbourne Cup.

The Victoria Racing Club has made the Ebor the seventh ‘win-and-you’re-in’ race to make it an even more attractive proposition for Europe’s top staying handicappers.

The top horse racing betting sites in Australia will undoubtedly be paying close attention to the outcome of the Ebor given this latest development.

York chief executive William Derby believes the creation of a formal link-up between the two races will help to boost the profile of each event.

“It is fantastic to officially connect two iconic races in the Ebor Handicap and the Lexus Melbourne Cup with the introduction of a ‘golden ticket’ for the Ebor winner into the race that stops a nation and indeed much of the world,” Derby said.

“With the York winner having finished in the top ten at Flemington in three of the four years preceding the pandemic, this great news will give confidence to winning connections that their start at Flemington is secure, further linking two great races.

“We look forward to welcoming the 2023 Lexus Melbourne Cup to the Bet Ebor Festival in August on its annual tour across the world and are hopeful it can return to Britain after the first Tuesday in November.”

Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins has set his sights on the Ebor in the hope of adding another string to his bow for the Melbourne Cup in November.

His Vauban is the bookmakers’ ante-post favourite for the big race at Melbourne after recently recording an excellent victory in a Group 3 event at Naas.

The talented dual-purpose horse previously ran out an impressive winner of the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot, beating stablemate Absurde by over seven lengths.

Absurde subsequently ran poorly over hurdles at the Galway Festival, but is being lined up for a tilt at the Ebor later this month.

Mullins said the French import ran a little too freely on that occasion, and has backed him to bounce back in style in the Ebor at York.

“He’s a very keen horse and (at Royal Ascot) I said to Frankie (Dettori) to make sure he tries to settle him,” Mullins told Sporting Life.

“He came wide to get him settled and was then probably a little bit further back than he wanted to be.

“When it came to the business end of the race, Frankie said he got a great run through them up the inside and came through to win but he probably wouldn’t have beaten Vauban.

“I think in a race of the nature of the Ebor there will be much more pace which will make the jockey’s job easier when he gets there.”

Mullins could have two other runners in the Ebor, with Jackfinbar and Lot Of Joy other possible contenders for the race.

Jackfinbar finished fourth in the Guinness Handicap at the Galway Festival, but can be marked up for that run after being handed a poor draw.

Lot Of Joy could also take her chance in the big York handicap and would be an interesting each-way proposition if she makes the final cut.

The five-year-old won the Swedish St Leger in 2021 before joining Willie Mullins, and has since finished third in the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh.

The Camelot mare needs several horses to withdraw from the Ebor, with the safety limit set at a maximum field of 22 runners.

Despite the horse running two disappointing races at Galway, Mullins believe she will be seen to better effect if she lines-up at York.

“If she got in, she would probably take her chance,” Mullins added.

“She definitely does have a bit of class on the flat. She disappointed in the GPT (at Galway), but with a massive weight, though.

“Probably a return to good flat ground and light weights might suit her well.”