RICHARD FAHEY believes York Racecourse's Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival is rapidly gaining parity with Royal Ascot - Flat racing's most important festival of the year.
The Musley Bank trainer even reckons Knavesmire's four-day spectacular, which gets under way next week, could eventually even surpass the Berkshire showpiece if it continues its current progress.
The former seven-time champion trainer at the track has a host of prospects as he bids to gain precious winners at his local track, just 20 miles down the road from his Malton base.
“It’s a big one and always has been – but it’s becoming a bigger one,” said Fahey when asked about the importance of the Ebor Festival in the calendar.
“It’s probably nearly as important as Royal Ascot. If it carries on with the progress, it is going to be the most important meeting of the year.
“The racing is fantastic and the prize money – I don’t know how much it has gone up in the last few years, but it has definitely gone up in the last three years...drastically. It’s incredible and hats off to everybody involved.”
Prize money for the meeting, starting next Wednesday, will be more than £3.5 million and Fahey is keen to grab a piece of the ever increasing pie.
He added: "If you get some winners, it’s enjoyable, if you don’t, it depresses you. It’s the sort of effect it has on you. But I’m quite lucky – there’s quite a few I’m looking forward to.”
Fahey is particularly keen on Gabrial's Kaka, who goes for the £80,000 Clipper Logistics Stakes, staged over a mile next Thursday, while in the signature contest, the £265,000 Betfred Ebor on Saturday, he could be double-handed with Angel Gabrial and Gabrial.
The Dr Marwan Koukash-owned Angel Gabrial won the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate at Newcastle in June before being beaten at Glorious Goodwood – a performance Fahey is inclined to forgive.
He said: “I just thought the Goodwood race was a little bit messy, a little bit inconclusive. Angel Gabrial will also get an entry in the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup on Friday, so we will have a look at both races and make a decision closer to the time. He will be definitely be at York and is in good order.”
For Gabrial – also owned by Koukash – running in the Betfred Ebor would represent a significant step up in distance to an extended 14 furlongs, having never gone beyond a mile and a quarter before.
Fahey said: “It is a big step up in trip. Marwan is quite keen to have a go. His pedigree suggests he might stay. We’ll see what happens.”