Israr has the chance to strike in Pattern company for the first time at York on Saturday when he heads a field of seven for the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup Stakes.
John and Thady Gosden’s four-year-old got on the scoresheet twice last season, progressing expertly through the handicap ranks and picking up valuable prizes at both Newbury and Doncaster.
He then took a rise in grade in his stride when returning in the Group Three Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury last month, forcing the now-retired Haskoy to pull out all the stops as he went down by a short head to a filly who was given single-figure quotes for the Ascot Gold Cup.
“Israr ran well first time out this year,” said Thady Gosden.
“He’s stepping up in trip which should suit him and they do a great job with the ground at York, so hopefully conditions won’t be too quick. He’s quite versatile, but like most he wouldn’t want it lightning fast.
“He’s improving and he took the step from handicap to stakes company well last time.”
William Haggas’ Roberto Escobarr won this two years ago and returns to the Knavesmire on the back of victory in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown, while Hughie Morrison’s Lonsdale Cup hero Quickthorn is another with course experience on his side.
Also engaged is the Archie Watson-trained Hambleton Racing stalwart Outbox who is out to snap a near two-year losing run on home soil at the track he almost scooped Group Three honours behind Hukum in 2021.
“His career-best effort is over course and distance,” said Cosmo Charlton, head of racing for the owners.
“He’ll enjoy the quick ground. We’re hopeful of a good run. Everything’s right for him – ground, trip and track.”
It could be a big afternoon for Hambleton, who are doubly represented in the supporting Oakmere Homes Supporting Macmillan Sprint Handicap with Kevin Ryan’s Washington Heights and another of Watson’s string, Garner, who goes handicapping following a pair of taking victories in maiden and novice company.
“Washington Heights has done brilliantly this season so far,” continued Charlton.
“He has run a cracker on each of his last two starts and we’re hoping for another big run. We think York suits him well. He has some solid course and distance form to his name. He ran well in the sales races last year and we’re hoping he has a good each-way chance in a strong race.
“Garner is more of an unknown quantity. His inexperience could be an issue in a very competitive race, but he’s in good form at home and he won easily at Lingfield in a novice, his first start for us. We’re hoping his mark is fair and that he can make an impact in a race of this nature.”