The opening day of York’s three-day Dante meeting is today’s highlight with ITV screening the first five races where the ground was described as good – good to soft in places – on Tuesday morning.
The opening 12f handicap is an absolute cracker with any number of lightly raced sorts who could still make up into Pattern performers. My two against the field each way are Shandoz and Sam Cooke (1.40) with marginal preference for the latter who did not win in five starts last season but has only had eight career starts, can go well fresh and won his sole previous start on the Knavesmire. Ralph Beckett has his string in fine form and the 12/1 five places with William Hill looks a shade too big.
Art Power would be a confident selection for the Duke Of York if the ground were good to soft or worse, but there is little rain forecast for the area and he is reluctantly overlooked. That said there was significant rain at Beverley on Tuesday afternoon.
I hope to see Starman (2.40) take high rank amongst the sprinting division this term and he gets a narrow vote from Oxted as long as the ground is no worse than good. The selection disappointed on soft ground in the Champions Day sprint but trainer Ed Walker suggested prerace that he thought his Dutch Art colt would struggle with conditions. He needs a sound surface to be seen at his best.
He was slowly away from the stalls when scoring in listed company over C&D back in September, but he cannot afford such a luxury at this level. Oisin Murphy takes over in the saddle with regular pilot Tom Marquand required for Nahaarr.
The Musidora Stakes is a genuine Oaks trial with the beautifully bred, but lightly raced fillies Teona and Noon Star (3.10) facing off with recent Pretty Polly winner Mystery Angel. I would be disappointed if the latter were good enough, however, and I hope to see Noon Star – a daughter of multiple Group 1 winner Midday – improve again and enhance her classic claims.
The selection – 7/4 with 10Bet – was well on top at Wetherby on her reappearance when the further she went the better she went over that 10f trip. There are mixed messages from the form although the fourth horse home – Sherbet Lemon – won the Lingfield Oaks Trial on Saturday.
The filly will not come into her own until she tackles 12f although the same can be said of Teanoa who makes her turf debut having looked very smart when landing the odds by 9L on tapeta at Newcastle back in November. Both main protagonists are exciting fillies with genuine classic aspirations. It would be no surprise if the winner were vying for favouritism for the Oaks by the close of business.
At Newton Abbot, Rock On Rocco did us a favour at Ludlow last time and a 5lbs rise is fair given the ease of that success, but it was not a race that took much winning and he must prove he is as effective going left-handed. I thought Rebel Royal (2.50) was just getting into contention when he came down three out at Kempton last time and he gets the nod with Alan King applying cheekpieces on the 8-y-old for the first time. The selection – 7/4 with MansionBet – is another who has done most of his racing right-handed, but I am convinced there are races to be won with him over fences.
At Worcester, An Tailliur (4.35) looked ill at ease for long periods of his race at Market Rasen on Friday but was well on top at the end and he is taken to defy a 7lbs penalty in the conditional jockey’s hurdle. Kevin Brogan takes off a valuable 3lbs and the step up in trip to today’s 2m 4f trip on good ground has brought about considerable improvement. He can continue to progress during the summer and is 7/4 with William Hill.
Robert Bevis and Jordan Nailor landed a massive gamble with Danilo D’Airy on Saturday and they team up with Unblinking who has been backed from 33s into 5s with William Hill in the opening exchanges. Today’s better ground will suit, and he is fairly treated over timber on his best all-weather form.
He has shown some promise over timber and although he finished last of six at Ascot from a 19lbs higher mark over 3m when trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, he travelled very well for much of the race until his stamina gave way. It would be no surprise if he went very close for a trainer whose representatives look well worth a second glance going forward.