BOY! LOOK OUT FOR EBOR ‘X’ FACTORS: It’s the big York Festival starting tomorrow, but Daqman’s usual ABC Guide to the feature race of the week (the Ebor) is missing today, as he considers that currently-unknown ‘X’ factors of draw and claiming boy riders may be vital.

‘CHIP’ IS DOWN IN VOLTIGEUR: Instead, he checks out the stats and the form on tomorrow’s Great Voltigeur, including the chances of the big improver, Thomas Chippendale.

This is the age of the claimer. Now and then a good crop of young apprentices comes along and they ride off with the top handicaps. This century, which has brought a new era of tight, computerised handicapping, a claim can make the difference.

The 2012 season has seen the rise and rise of Michael Murphy and Darren Egan, and it will not have been lost on Ebor trainers gearing up for the big weekend that two of the last three winners of Saturday’s great race have been ridden by boys: Dale Swift and Gary Carroll.

In fact, they performed the old one-two in last year’s renewal when Swift had another top claimer a length behind him in second, Joseph O’Brien.

I would normally bring you a big-race ABC guide at this time of the week but, in the case of the Ebor, the jockeys are not declared and there is another significant factor which is currently unknown: the ‘X’ factor of them all for the race.

‘X’ is the stalls bias, which has seemingly been decisive in the last six years. Five winners in that time have come from stalls 14 (twice), 16, 18 and 22 (with 19 or 20 runners in each case). The three highest stalls have best-finished 216201 in the last six seasons for two wins and two seconds.

So, when you see the final decs., you are looking for a horse aged four or five years old (seven of the last nine), drawn high and with a boy on board.

The SPs of the winners also suggest that the form book is a poor guide, so making a blind date with the high draw is no fool thing: 11-1, 14-1, 20-1, 25-1 (three times) and even 100-1 have turned up in the last nine years.

I shall, of course, dig deeper than this, and hope to ‘jackpot’ the winner. Meanwhile, with the International seemingly another exhibition race for Frankel, I’m taking a look at the Great Voltigeur field for tomorrow’s opening day:

Thomas Chippendale A Group-2 penalty is costly in this race. The last nine to carry it have all lost, including Irish Derby runner-up Midas Touch (2nd in 2010), Mastery and Father Time (2nd and 3rd in 2009), and Boscobel and Soapy Danger before that.

Thomas Chippendale’s 3lb extra arises from his level-weights half-length and neck King Edward V11 defeat of Noble Mission and Thought Worthy, whom he now meets on the revised terms.

Encke Comes right into it on collateral form. In only the fourth race of his life, he went down by only a nose to Noble Mission in the Gordon Stakes. The winner of this race has had a winner and two seconds in the Voltigeur in the last five years.

Energizer Has his work cut out here, according to his Group-3 win at Royal Ascot: the second and third that day were a handicapper and a Listed winner.

But he’s bred for stamina and that was his first run at 1m 2f. The further step up in trip might bring him into the picture.

Main Sequence Will actually drop in grade here, having run his last two races in Group 1, only fourth in the Grand Prix in Paris but runner-up to Camelot in the Epsom Derby. Best from that Derby has won this four times in the last nine years.

Noble Mission Second to Thought Worthy at Newmarket but was giving 5lb and turned the same horse over at Royal Ascot, albeit with Thomas Chippendale the winner.

Despite the weights turnaround tomorrow, it has to be said that Thomas Chippendale was making the big leap from handicaps that day and may not have stopped improving.

But Noble Mission seems to be Sir Hency Cecil’s number one, and he reckons the colt now mature enough to remove the hood, which has been a feature of his Group races so far.

Thought Worthy His fourth in the Derby might have been good enough in an ordinary year but has to overturn defeats by Main Sequence, Noble Mission and Thomas Chippendale.

Intriguingly, Thought Worthy’s stablemate Michelangelo was two-and-a-half-lengths third to Noble Mission in the Gordon Stakes, the same position filled in the same race before the same stable’s Arctic Cosmos won the St Leger.

So, though the puzzle of the Great Voltigeur may be hard to solve, John Gosden has these twin keys to the St Leger. Unless you think the door is already locked and bolted by Camelot.

BET 7.5pts win THREE BARDS (3.05 Yarmouth)
BET 5.7pts win SCOMMETITRICE (5.15 Brighton)
BET 12pts win (nap) CACTUS VALLEY (7.30 Warwick)

* Daqman’s selections are backed to win 20 points (unless otherwise stated in jackpot bets) so, if you divide 20 by his stake, you know the Betdaq offer taken at the time of writing. Very often, as today, just one winner will cover any loses on the other bets.

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