All roads lead to York for the opening meeting of the 2006 season on the Knavesmire, the traditional three-day May Festival next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (May 17, 18 & 19), when the seven-race programme on each day begins at 1-45 p.m. (gates open at 11-15 a.m.)
This meeting is sure to provide important clues to the prestigious races coming up in the UK and Europe, including the forthcoming Classics such as the Vodafone Derby and the Oaks, as the equine stars and the top riders put down their markers for the season.
The Tattersalls Musidora Stakes and The Duke Of York Hearthstead Homes Stakes are Wednesday’s Group races. Top class three-year-old fillies line-up for the Group 3 Musidora Stakes – a leading trial for the Oaks next month – and supported for the 21st time by Tattersalls, Europe’s leading bloodstock auctioneers. Regular York sponsors, Hearthstead Homes, the Leeds-based national housebuilders, support the £100,000 Duke Of York Stakes for the fourth year. This Group 2 race over six furlongs should attract the very best sprinters.
New sponsors to York, leading online bookmakers, Blue Square, support a trio of races on Wednesday including The Blue Square Stakes, a Handicap and Listed race for three-year-olds over seven furlongs which should produce a competitive contest, while the opening race is The Newton Investment Management Stakes, a valuable Handicap over the extended mile and a quarter.
Britain’s most famous and informative Derby trial, The totesport Dante Stakes (Group 2), takes pride of place on Thursday, supported for the fourth year by totesport – the biggest commercial sponsor in British racing. With prize money of £145,000, The totesport Dante Stakes is also the richest of the Derby trials, and the last two winners of this race – North Light (2004) and Motivator last year – both went on to achieve Derby glory at Epsom the following month.
Thursday’s programme also includes The totesport.com Handicap Stakes for sprinters, The totepool Middleton Stakes (a Group 3 race for fillies and mares won last year by the Irish-trained All Too Beautiful), The Bank Of Scotland Corporate Hambleton Stakes (a Handicap and Listed contest now held over one mile), The GNER 10th Birthday EBF Maiden Stakes for two-year-olds, The Sportsman Racing Stakes (a race over the round course for stayers over two and a half miles supported by the new racing and sports betting daily newspaper), while another race for stayers, The toteexacta Handicap Stakes (one mile and three-quarters) is the concluding contest.
The Emirates Airline Yorkshire Cup takes pride of place on Friday, with leading stayers competing in this Group 2 race which offers prize money of £140,000. One mile and three-quarters is the distance in this year’s renewal of the Yorkshire Cup, which is sponsored for the fourth time by Emirates Airline.
There’s a couple of Listed races for fillies on Friday; three-year-olds take their chance in The Michael Seely Memorial Fillies’ Stakes, while juvenile fillies are in the spotlight in the opening race, The Langley’s Solicitors EBF Marygate Stakes. Competitive, valuable Handicap races that should attract plenty of runners, comprise the rest of Friday’s programme with support once again from the Ripley Collection, the Yorkshire based jewellery firm.
Newmarket trainer, Mark Tompkins was the leading trainer at York last season, securing The Minster Jaguar Trophy with seven winners last year on the Knavesmire, while eleven winners were enough for Kieren Fallon to clinch the Budget Car Rental award for York’s top jockey of 2005.
A touch of magic will be added to the popular totesport ‘Punters’ Panel’ when magician John Danbury helps select the winner of the feature contest, leaving the expert panel to offer a preview to the action on each day. A trio of giant screens will provide racegoers with an even closer view of proceedings on the track.
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