Past Winners » Willing Foe


I think that Motivado is a poor Ebor favourite. He has been all the rage since he was so impressive in winning that handicap at Glorious Goodwood, a Sir Mark Prescott plot, and he is officially 6lb well-in, despite the fact that he has to shoulder a 4lb penalty. However, he is inconsistent, his best form is on good or fast ground, he has disappointed on easy ground in the past and, crucially, he has run poorly on the two occasions on which he has run at York. He may well win, but he is far too short in my book …

I am also backing Willing Foe at 14/1. He is a little higher in the weights than you would ideally like on 9st 2lb (seven of the last 10 winners carried 8st 12lb or less), but the Ebor is an evolving race from a trends perspective, as classier horses run in it, and 10 years is probably too far to be going back in terms of trends analysis. It is simply a different race now to the race that was run in 2002, when just three of the 23 runners were rated 100 or higher. Today, nine of the 20 runners are rated 100 or higher, and 13 are rated 99 or higher.

An analysis of more recent trends tells you that two of the last four winners carried 9st 1lb or more. Also, of the 24 places (1,2,3,4) available in the last six renewals, 16 were filled by horses rated 99 or higher, and nine were filled by horses rated between 99 and 101. Willing Foe is rated 101. He wouldn’t want to be much higher, but that rating gives him a chance.

More than that, however, he has the potential to out-perform that mark by a fair way today. He is really lightly-raced for a five-year-old, having run just eight times in his life, just twice last season and once this season. That run was at Ascot, when he ran a nice race to finish third behind Fattsota and Cill Rialaig. It was a little disappointing that he couldn’t win that, but it was a decent race (the sixth horse home was Tropical Beat, who ran a cracker in the opening handicap yesterday). Also, Frankie Dettori wasn’t hard on him once his winning chance had gone, he just kept on rather than picking up, which left the impression that a step up from that 12-furlong trip would bring about improvement, which isn’t surprising, given that he is by stamina influence Dynaformer and a full-brother to Ribblesdale winner Michita.

He proved when he finished second behind Zuider Zee in the November Handicap at Doncaster on his final run last term that he is well able to cope with these big-field handicaps and with easy ground, the long straight at York will suit and, if the step up in trip can bring about just a little more improvement, he should be right in the mix.

WILLING FOE WON (Adv 14/1, SP 12/1)