Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The famous York Ebor race meeting without a crowd — unthinkable. Similar to a wedding with no guests.

But that is the scenario on Wednesday when, due to Covid-19, only trainers, jockeys and a handful of owners will be allowed onto the Knavesmire track.

Having missed only two York meetings myself  in 20 years and witnessed Frankel’s scintillating win in 2012, it will be a tough few days for Yorkshire racing fans, but the country’s top horses will still be in action.

Wednesday’s card is headed by the grade 1 Juddmonte International in which — in the absence of Enable — Charlie Appleby’s Coronation Cup and Coral-Eclipse winner Ghaiyyath is all the rage. Bet365 quotes William Buick’s mount as the 12-10 favourite.

Buick is confident of a big run. “He’s a horse with a high cruising speed and knows how to use it.”

Trainer Charlie Appleby is also brimming with confidence. After the Coral-Eclipse, he told reporters: “He’s a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and was never going to lie down. Our plan was to work for another crack at the Arc, and if Enable’s there we’ll take her on again.

“We’re in good shape. This has been a great year for Ghaiyyath and it was always our plan to head for the Juddmonte. His prep has gone well to date, he looks great and is giving us all the right signs.

“In Group One races I fear all of them, but if this horse is on song on the day, I feel he’s the one they’ve all got to beat,” concluded Appleby.

Star race mare Enable will be in Paris in October, but not at York. John Gosden’s star filly was entered for both the Juddmonte and Yorkshire Oaks, but the decision has been made that her next race will be on the polytrack at Kempton Park in early September.

Frankie Dettori, Enable’s regular pilot, also will not be at York, with the charismatic jockey opting to ride in France last weekend which means — due to new government virus regulations — he will have to self-isolate for 14 days on his return to the UK.

“With Enable and Stradivarius both not going to York, it made my decision a lot easier,” said Dettori.

Gosden will still be represented in the Juddmonte, with James Doyle now booked for the ride on Prince Of Wales Stakes victor Lord North, who is a 4-1 chance in the antepost market.

Bookies believe Kameko, winner of the 2000 Guineas but only fourth in the Investec Derby, could throw down a challenge to Ghaiyyath. They quote Andrew Balding’s runner, who is reverting to 2,000m, as the 7-2 second favourite.

As usual, Aidan O’Brien will bring a strong team from Ireland and his raiding party is headed by Oaks winner Love, who will start a red-hot favourite for Thursday’s grade 1 Yorkshire Oaks. The filly is now 3-1 second favourite for the Arc de Triomphe in October.

Gosden’s Frankel filly Frankly Darling, winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, rates the main threat to Love.

• In a media release, the Racing Association has announced that the Equus awards ceremony will take place in mid-September. This will allow the panel to take into consideration the graded races at Greyville on August 29, which will be deemed to have been run on their original date.

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