Dante meeting Day 2 - 14/5/2015
2.10 York – Betfred “Supports Jack Berry House” (Handicap)
We kick off day two with another notoriously tricky sprint handicap in which cases can be made for most of the field. However, I will try and narrow it down to three or four in the hope of finding the winner.
Twelve months ago, this race went the way of Paul Midgley’s Monsieur Joe who comes back hoping to defend his crown off the same handicap mark (100). Following that run, he ran well in the Betbright Trophy here at the end of the month before turning in solid displays at Espom, Curragh and back here on the Knavesmire in the Listed City Walls Stakes. He didn’t cut much ice over the winter in Meydan but he had a similar preparation to last year’s race. He looks likely to be patiently ridden by Graham Lee and if he gets the splits at the right time, it would be no surprise to see him go close again.
Also of interest is Michael Appleby’s mare Demora who enjoyed another fine campaign last year winning the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Musselburgh and she finished her season with a good third behind Dungannon at Doncaster. She tends to break well and blitz from the front which should suit her here and I’m not sure the undulations at Bath last time worked in her favour. I am also pleased to see Ali Rawlinson get back onboard as he takes another 5lb off her back and with the form of her last run having already been boosted, I fancy her to give another bold showing here.
The Easterbys tend to have a strong hand in the sprints in particular here at York and it is interesting that Mick has managed to secure the services of Ryan Moore for his runner Perfect Pasture. The five-year-old has already won twice on the all-weather this term although he shaped as though something was amiss when last at Kempton in March. He has had a short break since then and if he can resume his progression, he shouldn’t be too far away.
However, it might be best to look at Tim’s stable for the winner and my preference for the race is SEE THE SUN. The four-year-old showed great pace last year to win the Betbright Charity Sprint over six furlongs as he made all and held off the late challenge of Marco Botti’s Naadirr. He was stepped up in company and although he ran well, he couldn’t get his head in front. He dropped back to five on his final start and was just beaten by two more experienced rivals on the day. There was plenty to like about his reappearance at Ripon last month and he is my idea of the most likely winner.
2.40 York – Betfred Middleton Stakes (Group 2)
After BRAGGING’s victory in the Dahlia Stakes on 1000 Guineas day.Where She looked to have improved quite a bit over the winter and despite the muddling gallop, she quickened up well to win that day,Race connections were keen that she go up in trip and therefore the extra furlong should be no problem for her here. The slight doubt that I have is that it is only ten days since her last run but I am sure that Sir Michael would not be sending her here unless he felt she would do herself justice.She will need to improve on her latest run to get her head in front here but I think she is capable of that and I feel that she is the one they all have to beat.
Her main danger looks likely to be Group 1 winner Ribbons who landed the Prix Jean Romanet for her connections last season. She was denied a second Group1 in the Prix de l’Opera in October when beaten only half a length by the smart filly We Are. She was a rapid improver last season as a four-year-old and looks likely to have another good season this term. She does carry a 3lb penalty as a result of her Group 1 exploits and as this is her seasonal debut, I am happy to side with Bragging given she has the benefit of a run under her belt.
I would also like to quickly mention Madame Chiang who won the Musidora over course and distance last term and who finished the campaign by winning the Fillies and Mares race on Champions Day at Ascot. She definitely has ability but both of those wins came on soft ground so whilst I find it difficult to see her getting involved here, given her conditions she should land some prizes during the season.
3.15 York – Betfred Dante Stakes (Group 2)
Following another set of trials last week, I am now starting to get a little desperate for something to put forward as the one to beat in the Derby at Epsom. I am pleased to see that this race looks set to be run on good ground as it should bear some comparison to what conditions will be like for the runners in the first week of June.John Gosden’s Jack Hobbs leads the market on the back of his twelve lengths demolition of some useful rivals at Sandown in April. The fact that he has been raised 24lb to a mark of 109 suggests that handicaps are now out of the question but in all seriousness, he looks to have plenty of ability. I personally think that he is short enough based on what he has done so far and the fact that his trainer also runs Golden Horn also raises some question marks.
I actually think that Golden Horn has a very good chance having won nicely in the Fielden Stakes at the Craven meeting. He looks likely to head to France for the Prix du Jockey Club after this rather than Epsom, but he won with some authority at Newmarket and there should be more to come from him.
Elm Park should be suited by the step up in trip as there were times last year where it looked as though a mile was not far enough for him. Having won his last four starts as a two-year-old including the Racing Post Trophy he deserves plenty of respect but for some reason I haven’t taken to him and I would be surprised if he managed to win here.
Of the two O’Brien runners, I think JOHN F KENNEDY is the most likely winner of the race. I would imagine that with hindsight they feel that they shouldn’t have run him on such bad ground at Leopardstown on his return to action and the form has been boosted since with both of his rivals that day having come out and won since. It is definitely too early to be writing this colt off and as long as that first run hasn’t had any adverse effects, I can see him reassuming his place at the head of the Derby betting tomorrow evening.
3.45 York – Betfred Tv Hambleton (Handicap) (Listed Race)
Perhaps the most interesting runner in this race is Hugo Palmer’s ASCRIPTION who having won at Goodwood and Doncaster a couple of seasons ago, was favourite for many of the big mile handicaps including the Lincoln. However, he has not been seen since finishing down the field at Ascot in October 2013 but is reported to back to form by his trainer. It will be quite something if he can win after such a long lay-off but we are unlikely 14/1 about him in any race after this if he is fit. Therefore in an open race, I am happy to side with him as he looks unlikely to be out of the frame.
In terms of the rest of the field, the one that makes most appeal is William Haggas’ Homage who won here on his final start in October. He didn’t run a bad race in the Cambridgeshire despite finishing tenth and I think there might be more to come from this five-year-old. He had a couple of foot issues last year which restricted him to only a few runs but they seemed to have been ironed out by the end of last season. He won on his return to action last season and should be thereabouts once again.
Completing the shortlist is Karl Burke’s You’re Fired who seemed to appreciate the quicker ground when winning at Ripon last time. He had previously disappointed in bad ground in Ireland but he won going away last time without his jockey having to use the persuader on him. He has gone up 7lb on the back of that, but if he can turn in a similar performance again, I’m not sure that will be enough to stop him.
4.20 York – British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes (Listed Race)
John Gosden’s TENDU looks likely to be popular in the market having looked as though she might give the smart Limato a race at Ascot. She was on the opposite side of the track to the winter but made some good late headway to get second and this race should provide some compensation for her. She looks a smart filly who has already tackled Group 1 company when chasing home Tiggy Wiggy when fifth in the Cheveley Park Stakes and she looks to have a bright future ahead of her. She is from a smart Juddmonte family and with the benefit of that run, she looks hard to beat.
The fact that Tendu was held up last time might mean that she is vulnerable to a horse getting away on the front end and Charlie Appleby’s Blue Aegean could do just that. She has had a good season on the all-weather and was a little unfortunate to get collared close home on All Weather Finals Day having looked as though she had things wrapped up turning for home. She is a filly with plenty of natural speed and whilst she will bowl along in front, it will be up the other to see if they can pick her up.
I would also like to mention Bryan Smart’s Fendale as one to keep an eye on who having won his first two starts, did not have much luck after that. He wasn’t suited by the step up to six furlongs in the Gimcrack and although he travelled well, he didn’t really finish his race off. He ran into all sorts of trouble at Ayr next time before the ground went completely against him on his final start. He looked a colt with plenty of ability last term and if he can resume his progress, he might be worth keeping an eye on as the season goes on.
4.50 York – Stratford Place Stud Licence To Thrill EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes
This race has thrown up some smart winners in the past including the likes of Group 1 winner Lord Shanakill and there are several horses in this year’s renewal, who on paper at least look as though they could continue that fine tradition.
Roger Varian’s Munira Eyes is from the first crop of multiple Group 1 winner Cape Blanco and is a half-brother to a pair of winners, one of which was a Grade 2 winner at Santa Anita. This colt was purchased for 78,000 guineas as a yearling in October and given that this yard have done well with their juveniles in the last couple of years, he is worth a second look although the yard’s runners often come on for their first run.
Richard Hannon needs no introduction when it comes to two-year-old races and he saddles the Zebedee colt Zebadiah here. Having been bought for £140,000 as a yearling, he doesn’t come from a particularly good family but his price went up significantly from foal to yearling which suggests to me that he must have developed quite significantly. The Hannon’s tend to buy horses on their appearance rather than the page, so although this colt doesn’t have a great page, he could still be quite smart.
Of the runners with experience, I like Seastrom who showed plenty of greenness on debut at Nottingham as he went left out of the stalls and looked quite outpaced early on. However, he was given a sensible ride by Shane Gray and having found his feet, made good headway in the closing stages to finish fourth. He should come on for that run and the extra furlong should also benefit his chances. He was expensive at 425,000 guineas as a yearling and on the back of his debut effort, we should get an idea of what he is capable of.
However, the preference is for Kevin Ryan’s debutant BLUE HUMOR who was bought for $260,000 as a yearling at Keeneland by David Redvers. He is a full-brother to Shumoos who was a smart two-year-old for Brian Meehan, who beat Frederik Engels by four and a half lengths before being short-headed in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. Kevin Ryan tends to like to send his best juveniles to York and this colt is more expensive than what he usually has to work with. He should be forward enough for his first outing and it would be no surprise to see him well-supported tomorrow and go very close on debut.
5.20 York – Investec Private Bank (Handicap)
Our final race on day two looks set to revolve around two last time out winners in Moscato and ARAMIST.
To start with Sir Mark Prescott’s gelding Moscato thrived when stepped up in trip last season winning four of his six starts in handicap company. He made a winning return to action at Ascot last weekend in an apprentice handicap, a victory for which he escapes a penalty. Given his trainer’s record, it would be no surprise to see him continue his improvement this term but the draw in stall 10 has not been too kind to him. The four-year-old likes to make the running and I’m not sure how easily he will be able to get over from that draw here, but he still looks to have a very good chance.
His main rival, Aramist was an impressive winner at Musselburgh last time as he stayed on strongly over 1m5f to win by three and a half lengths at the line. The extra trip could even bring about some improvement in this five-year-old and despite having to concede weight all around here, he looks well-placed to go close again here.
I should also mention Michael Appleby’s Mawaqeet who isn’t the easiest but this trainer managed to snap a long losing run when he won over hurdles at Stratford in March. He was beaten a head over course and distance when trained by Sir Michael Stoute off this mark and although he is far from reliable, I would be concerned about him taking advantage of a lenient mark for last year’s winning stable.