The ground was on the soft side of good at York for yesterday’s opening day of the Dante meeting, but Thursday is forecast to be dry. Underfoot conditions should be just about perfect for spring flat racing.
The Middleton Stakes is the first group race on the card, and it looks a fascinating but slightly underwhelming renewal of this Group 2 contest. Ryan Moore could try and make every yard of the running on Passion who gets further than today’s extended 10f trip, but her sole success in her 3-y-o season came over an additional half-mile and I would be disappointed if Queen Power (2.10) or Silence Please did not have too much speed inside the final quarter.
Queen Power – 9/4 with MansionBet – is without a win in two years, but this looks a gilt-edged opportunity for the 5-y-old who has only had ten careers starts and looked ready for a step back up in distance when runner up over 9f at Newmarket on her reappearance. The mare can pull hard which has often compromised her finishing kick and the selection would not want the race to develop into a sprint. If Moore does not make it, I wonder if Silvestre De Sousa will dictate his own gallop.
The mile handicap is a belter, and my cliff horse King Ottokar is ridden by Andrea Atzeni for the first time. I am sure there is a big race to be won with the horse this term and he will appreciate today’s conditions more than the fast ground he encountered at Doncaster in the Lincoln.
Brunch (2.40) represents the stable of Michael Dods who has made a slow start to the season but whose string have shown signs of a resurgence in recent days. Brunch – 6s with BetVictor 4 places – finished second in the Lincoln back in March from a 1lbs lower mark and is 4lbs better off with Johan for the short head he was behind that rival at Ayr back in September. Both Brunch and Johan have good draws in six and five respectively and they should have track position on Matthew Flinders who may be forced to cover ground from stall fifteen.
If the Middleton Stakes looks substandard the same cannot be said of the feature race of the meeting the Dante Stakes which looks a good renewal of the premier Derby trial.
Uncle Bryn was a huge disappointment at Epsom, but I know there are many around the Gosden yard who feel that was not his running. He was coltish in the preliminaries – there was a filly in the field – but will not have such a distraction this afternoon.
Hurricane Lane is out of a two-mile winner and he looked in need of at least 12f when scoring at Newbury on his reappearance. He looks more of a Queen’s Vase/St Leger prospect to me.
The unbeaten High Definition (3.10) was heading the Derby market before being usurped at the weekend by stablemate Bolshoi Ballet who ran away with the Derrinstown at Leopardstown on Sunday. He looked a quality colt when landing the Gp 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh back in the autumn and gets the vote for Aidan O’Brien who, surprisingly, has not won this Gp 2 prize since Cape Blanco in 2010. After the facile win of Snowfall in the Musidora on Wednesday the selection is 6/4 with William Hill at the time of posting.
One note of caution the colt was due to run at Lingfield on Saturday but the trainer pulled him out citing some of his bloods were not 100%. The lads at Coolmore must be happy that he will be able to do himself justice today although they are running out of time if they want to get a run in to him before Epsom.
Acklam Express leads Winter Power (3.40) 2-1 in their head-to-head record but I hope to see the latter level the score for Tim Easterby in the listed 5f sprint for three-year-olds. Both fillies carry a 5lb penalty and Acklam Express is race fit having run well in defeat at Meydan in recent months, but I am a big fan of Winter Power – 3s with 10Bet – who was improving at a rate of knots towards the end of last season and who is fitted with a tongue tie for her reappearance.
The ITV cameras are also at Salisbury where I hope to see Wahraan (2.25) reverse recent Windsor form with Lord Protector on 2lbs better terms. The selection – 7/4 with BetVictor – was keen and did not get the best of trips at the Thameside track but finished well although the unbeaten Lord Protector always looked to have things under control. Richard Kingscote takes over in the saddle for the first time on Sir Michael Stoute’s colt.
Evaluation (3.55) is by Dubawi out of the Queen’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Estimate and he was never put in the race behind Lord Protector and Wahraan at Windsor over 10f and he promises to be a different proposition stepped up to 12f on his handicap debut. Soapy Stevens looks a big danger having just been touched off on his handicap debut from a 1lb lower mark at Doncaster last time. The selection is 11/4 with 10Bet.
There is a good 12f handicap at Newmarket this evening with Rodrigo Diaz making his reappearance on turf having landed a hat-trick of all-weather handicaps in August and September. He is 10lbs higher than when scoring at Wolverhampton last time but looked well ahead of the handicapper despite winning by less than a length.
Marginal preference, however, is for Aaddeey (6.40) who is 2lbs higher than when runner up at Newbury over 10f on his reappearance when he was slowly away and forced to cover ground before finishing well. He is not guaranteed to appreciate this evening’s step up in trip on breeding, but he was certainly not stopping at Newbury and he gets a narrow vote.
** His Newbury run was franked when the winner landed the finale at York on Wednesday. He was cut into Evens with MansionBet on the back of Flyin’ Solo’s fluent Knavesmire victory.