A glance at the characteristics of recent John Smith’s Cup winners paints the race as an ultra-competitive affair, with victorious trainers often lowering a workable racing weight further through the judicious use of claiming jockeys in their assault on the prize.
Just one of the last seven to score in York’s prestigious 1m2f heritage handicap carried over 9st even before their jockey’s claim was taken into account. Amongst that successful seven Peter Hyam’s King’s Warrior became the only one to win without the aid of a claimer’s weight concession when scooting up by four-and-a-half lengths last year.
That one shared the lowest official rating amongst the field, with third-placed Media Hype on 91 and whilst there are still the best part of 60 entrants, that may prove a useful lower benchmark as we go panning for ante-post gold. Flying Clarets has been the only victor in the past decade to win with a BHA mark of more than 101 so that mark can form the upper ceiling for our potential ante-post picks.
To further narrow down the field it could be best to concentrate on three and four-year-olds with runners of those vintages taking nine of the last 10 renewals and a couple of runners in particular jump out.
William Haggas’ Danchai – a 14/1 shot for the York race – has just five races to sift through on his career resume and looks one that should still be on the upgrade, having finished out of the first two just once.
His best performances – a close second in the Makfi Suffolk Handicap at Newmarket and a nine–length maiden win – have come over trips of around 1m1f, whereas the four-year-old’s sole non-placed run came over 1m4f, so it seems the 1m2f John Smith’s Cup trip could be ideal.
A staying on second over 1m last time, he could be primed for a big run at something like his optimum trip.
David O’Meara’s Awake My Soul – 16/1 – is another lightly-raced type who looks to be going in the right direction, having won three of the last five starts of his eight-race career.
He finished just three-and-a-half lengths behind Rye House – 10/1 second favourite for the John Smith’s Cup – over this course and distance three runs back when trying to give that rival 6lbs and gets a 10lbs pull in the weights here.
Having scored again since, he could well still be going in the right direction for a trainer in O’Meara who is having an exception season with 73 winners entitling him to fifth spot in the trainer’s championship.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.