Two fallers, one fatal, make for difficult viewing on opening day at York

<span>Racegoers watching Dancing In Paris win the Stuey Weston & Friends Getting Out Handicap at York.</span><span>Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA</span>
Racegoers watching Dancing In Paris win the Stuey Weston & Friends Getting Out Handicap at York.Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

A faller in the second and third races, one of which involved a fatal injury, made for difficult viewing for racegoers and armchair fans alike as York – the Ascot of the north – opened its 2024 season on Wednesday. The result of the Group Three Musidora Stakes,with the odds-on favourite, Friendly Soul, finishing well beaten behind Secret Satire, a 22-1 shot, was also not one for many punters to celebrate.

There is no need to look back any further than last year’s running of the Musidora to find an example of a surprise winner – Soul Sister – that followed up in the Oaks 16 days later. Andrew Balding’s filly will now bid to give her trainer a second success in the Epsom Classic on 31 May, 21 years on from the first with Casual Look.

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Soul Sister had a good deal more going for her 12 months ago with a view to Classic success, including pedigree – by Frankel, whereas Secret Satire is by the sprinter, Advertise. On that occasion an emphatic finishing kick from off the pace carried her four lengths clear at the line and earned a glowing endorsement from her jockey, Frankie Dettori.

Secret Satire, by contrast, pulled hard in the early stages, as much as anything as a result of the slow early pace. While she was pulling away again at the line, her stamina for the step up to a mile-and-a-half will remain a significant worry for many punters. But the point of Classic trials is to give backers the chance to weigh it all up for themselves and Anna-Lisa Balding, representing her husband, said: “Oisin [Murphy, the jockey] was confident when we legged him up and he’s come back in and been very complimentary.”

Balding added: “It’s 21 years since we won the Oaks and it’s just lovely to have runners in those big races. It’s the time of year when all the geese are swans and all the smiles on the mornings can turn the wrong way round, but that one will really put a smile on Andrew’s face.”

Like Soul Sister last year, Secret Satire is likely to be up against a warm favourite from the Aidan O’Brien stable when she goes to post at Epsom. Ylang Ylang, a running-on fourth in the 1,000 Guineas, remains clear in the market at around 5-2, with her stable-companion, Rubies Are Red, next in the list at 8-1. Secret Satire could still be backed at 25-1 in a place on Wednesday evening, although 16-1 or below was the more general offer.

There was a difficult start to the afternoon as Hispanic, making his debut for the Mick Appleby stable, clipped heels and unseated Rossa Ryan in the early stages and suffered a broken leg as he fell. There was then a fall at a different point in the straight in the next race, the Group Two Duke Of York Stakes, when Tiber Flow and Tom Marquand came down after being short of room with just over a furlong to run.

The stewards inquired into both incidents and found that Hispanic’s fall had been the result of accidental interference. The inquiry into Tiber Flow’s fall was adjourned until Thursday as William Buick, who rode the winner, Mill Stream, had left the course.

Caviar can hit the heights

If we ignore the Covid-affected season in 2020 when the Dante Stakes at York was run in July, two of the past eight winners have followed up in the Derby 16 days later and five of the past nine have won at least one Group One race later in the season, but it could be significant that only one of the past 10 had not had at least one run at three.

That has to be a concern for anyone looking to back Ancient Wisdom, the favourite, in Thursday’s renewal as Charlie Appleby’s colt, an impressive winner of the Group One Futurity at Doncaster in late October, has not seen a racecourse since. Al Musmak, the second-favourite, has been absent since finishing second in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket in September, but Andrew Balding’s Caviar Heights (3.45), their main rival according to the betting, arrives on the back of an emphatic four-length success at the Guineas meeting.

Caviar Heights looked likely to be much better at three during a low-key juvenile campaign, posted a notably strong winning time at Newmarket this month and with his fitness edge he looks like the pick of the prices at around 9-2.

York 2.15 As deep and competitive as any sprint handicap this season but Bergerac, a dual course winner, is back below his last winning mark and could outrun odds of around 33-1.

Salisbury 2.30 Lightly raced Duke Of Verona still has scope for progress for an in-form yard.

York 2.45 Julie Camacho’s Symbol Of Light, a 20-1 shot, has yet to win since being bought out of Charlie Appleby’s yard in the autumn of 2022, but is very feasibly weighted if headgear and a wind op since his last start have an effect.


1.50 Medieval Gold

2.20 Imaginarium

2.50 French Highlands

3.20 Windance

3.50 Cuban Cigar

4.20 What A Johnny

4.50 Wal Buck’s

5.25 Takt De Touques



2.00 Beau Jardine

2.30 Duke Of Verona

3.00 Pont Neuf

3.30 Miss Stormy Night

4.00 Master Builder

4.32 Oxford Comma

5.02 Spartan Warrior



2.15 Bergerac (nap)

2.45 Symbol Of Light

3.15 Free Wind

3.45 Caviar Heights (nb)

4.15 Unbreak My Heart

4.45 Andesite

5.20 Per Contra



5.10 Break My Soul

5.40 Island Run

6.10 Millies Mite

6.40 Mermaids Cave

7.10 Hecouldbetheone

7.40 Kalkas

8.10 Jubilant



5.52 Sun Dancer Girl

6.22 Young Endless

6.52 Dark Thunderstorm

7.22 Pannonica

7.52 Bang On The Bell

8.22 Diamond Dreamer

York 3.15 Free Wind won this first time up last season with something to spare and a repeat of that level of form should suffice again.

York 4.15 The admirable Big Evs, last season’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner, returns to action but looks too short at odds-on first time up and Unbreak My Heart, who has a run under his belt, does not have much to find on ratings.