Here’s hoping the ground remains fast for Paradias at York on Friday

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August 23

York’s Ebor meeting was an immediate must when I was promoted the chief racing correspondent for The Sporting Life in 1985, and we are again blessed with four fantastic days racing.

Alan King is not averse to gate-crashing one of the big Flat Festivals, and he saves his pair of aces for the latter part of the week, with Paradias tackling the Heritage Handicap on Friday. while the ultra-consistent HMS President represents Barbury in Saturday’s Ebor, the richest Flat handicap in Europe.

Having watched the opening day’s racing on the Knavesmire today, Alan was delighted to hear jockeys unanimous in declaring that the ground was riding fast.

He said:”I think the return to a mile and a half will suit Paradias, and I’ve always thought that he was a better horse when the ground rode fast, so, hopefully, York will steer clear of any rain that is about towards the end of the week.”

Apart from Messrs Dodds-Smith, Farrell, Hodgson and Coupland, who pay the training bills to Alan, I’d like to think that I am Paradias’s biggest fan.

Like Alan, I’m convinced that Paradias wants a mile and a half – he was staying on strongly at the end when a creditable sixth on his first attempt at this trip at Newmarket last-backed end, having been beaten only a neck in the big 11-furlong handicap at Glorious Goodwood.

Paradias was gelded last winter, and he has been running consistently well over a mile and a quarter this season, winning at Sandown and finishing on top of the placed horses in the Chesterfield Cup back at Goodwood, where he clearly found the ground easier than he would prefer.

HMS President, who has already won the Henry Ponsonby syndicate members more than £200,00 in prize money, has run three cracking races since being switched to Alan last spring.

Besides winning over this trip at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting, HMS President had narrowly been beaten at Kempton after a six-month winter holiday, and in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot he ran another corker, being only pipped in the dying strides by Irish raider Okita Soushi.

It is rare for a trainer to be able to make much use of the grass gallops in August, as we have become accustomed for the ground to be too fast at this time of the year, but the sort of summer the UK has encountered in 2023 offered Alan an invitation which he was not going to refuse.

So it was a privilege to see a group of Alan’s horses do some fast work on the grass, including five-year-old Stowell, who is a new recruit to the Barbury team, having previously been with John Gosden and George Boughey.

Stowell only won a maiden for Gosden, but he did finish third in a Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and also a John Porter Stakes at Newbury. Subsequently, Stowell underwent wind surgery and was also gelded, but the new owners (Opulence Thorughbreds who bought him for 95,000gns at Tattersalls Sales in July) took the view that maybe Stowell was getting bored of Newmarket and needed a change of scenery to rekindle the flame.

Looking at Stowell this morning do a sharp blast on the grass with two others suggested that a switch to the Wiltshire countryside might have revitalised his appetite, and, with a couple of Alan’s youngsters having their first experience of the grass in the next trio coming past, it was no wonder that Alan headed back to the yard with a smile on his face.