The four-day York Ebor Festival begins Wednesday at York, wasting little time in making its presence felt on the racing world. That’s courtesy of Group 1 winners Mishriff, Love, and Alcohol Free headlining the Group 1 Juddmonte International.
That race, one of three Group 1 events on the 28-race meet card, brings the winner a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series event is one of three “Win and You’re In” contests for the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar.
The others are the two other Group 1 races on the York card, the Yorkshire Oaks and the Nunthorpe Stakes. Thursday’s 1 ½-mile Yorkshire Oaks sends its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Friday’s five-furlong Nunthorpe Stakes sends its champion to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Even with dynamic 3-year-old filly Snowfall headlining the Oaks and American invader Golden Pal one to watch in the Nunthorpe, the Juddmonte is the intriguing race. That’s courtesy of a deep and eclectic field of seven runners, including two fillies (Love and Alcohol Free) and four sophomores (Alcohol Free, Alenquer, Mac Swiney, and Mohaafeth). They’ll tangle with 4-year-olds Mishriff – the 13/8 favorite – and Juan Elcano, the 33/1 long shot.
Why is Mishriff the Juddmonte favorite?
Mishriff’s favorite status in the 1 5/16-mile race is understandable, even coming off defeats in the Eclipse and the King George VI. The two horses who beat him, St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse and Adayar in the King George, sit atop the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. The only reason St Mark’s Basilica isn’t here is due to injury.
Before that, Mishriff beat both Charlatan and Knicks Go in the Saudi Cup. He followed that by winning the Dubai Sheema Classic on the Dubai World Cup undercard at Meydan. Trainers John and Thady Gosden cut Mishriff back from 1 ½ miles to 1 5/16 miles. He won in Dubai at the longer distance, but cutting out 1 ½ furlongs puts Mishriff back into his distance wheelhouse.
Mishriff finished second in the King George by less than two lengths, a considerable outing, given the fact he was carrying 11 more pounds than Adayar.
Love didn’t conquer all last time out
As for Love, she finished third in that King George as the 13/8 favorite. That snapped a four-Group 1-race winning streak dating to her 1,000 Guineas victory last June. That streak concluded with Love’s Prince of Wales’ Stakes victory at Royal Ascot in June.
On her best days, Love is capable of running down the boys. That said, all her Group 1 wins came against her own sex. Can she follow Magical as the next great Galileo filly? A win here would go a long way toward that goal.
The two other intriguing Juddmonte names are Alcohol Free (11/2) and Mac Swiney (16/1). Alcohol Free is 3-for-5 this year, winning every other race she enters starting with April’s Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury, seguing to June’s Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, and culminating with July’s Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, where she did beat older males.
Can Alcohol Free, Mac Swiney outrun their odds?
The question here is, can Alcohol Free handle the Juddmonte distance? And can she handle it while shaking off also-ran outings in the 1,000 Guineas (fifth) and the Falmouth Stakes (third)?
Mac Swiney finished a distant fourth at the Epsom Derby as the 8/1 third-favorite. Three weeks later, he was a non-threatening sixth at the Irish Derby at Curraugh. Before that, however, he won the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Group 1 Vertem Futurity as a 2-year-old. At 16/1, there’s potential if Mac Swiney recovers his Group 1-winning form.
That brings us to the Yorkshire Oaks, which brings us back to Snowfall. The Japanese-bred daughter of Deep Impact won the Epsom Oaks by 16 lengths. All she did for an encore was win the Irish Oaks at Curraugh by 8 ½ lengths five weeks later. This, however, rolls Snowfall into older company for the first time, with multiple Group 1 winner Wonderful Tonight awaiting her in the starting gate.
As for the Nunthorpe, Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal brings a three-race winning streak to one of the best sprint events in the world. He knows England, finishing second in the 2020 Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. And he knows how to find a board, having finished no worse than second in five career starts. That includes his signature victory to date in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last year at Keeneland.