Dante Festival meeting preview, York, May 16-18
The jewel in the crown of Flat racing in the North of England, York racecourse hosts its first action of 2018 this week as the three-day Dante meeting comes to town. Prize money over the Festival has risen for the seventh year in succession to £1.2million, with a feature race on each day sitting within the top 250 contests in the world.
Wednesday’s action includes the £100,000 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, a contest for three year old fillies and a traditional trial for the Investec Oaks, with six champion fillies going on to achieve Classic glory. John Gosden has a fine record in the race and saddles Highgarden under Frankie Dettori as the pair bid to follow up their success in the race 12 months ago with Shutter Speed.
Champion sprinter of last season, Harry Angel, will surely prove hard to beat in the fastest contest of the week, the Group Two Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, staged over just 1200m. Expect to see the winner in the mix for all the summer’s big sprints. Last year’s victor, Tasleet, bids to take the spoils again.
The Betfred Dante, the race that gives the Festival its name by honouring the last Yorkshire-trained winner of the Derby back in 1945, is staged on Thursday. A Group Two contest, the winner has gone on to win the Investec Derby ten times, with Golden Horn the last to achieve that double two seasons ago.
Friday’s principal event is The MansionBet Yorkshire Cup, and with £165,000 on offer to the leading stayers over 2800m, it is a valuable and highly-rated Group Two ‘Cup’ race. Part of the British Champions Series, it is also for the first time in the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers Million Bonus, an initiative to support the programme for British stayers. Among those on course for the race is last year’s Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius.
2.20pm (BST) Sky Bet First Race Special Jorvik Handicap (2400m)
2.55pm Infinity Tyres Handicap (1200m)
3.30pm Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes (Group 2) (1200m)
4.05pm Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (Fillies’ Group 3) (2000m)
4.35pm Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap (1400m)
5.05pm British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes (1000m)
5.35pm Oaks Farm Stables Handicap (2400m)
Horse in focus - Harry Angel
Harry Angel, one of the sport’s sprinting stars, will make his first appearance of the season in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes. The Clive Cox-trained colt won the Darley July Cup at Newmarket and the Sprint Cup at Haydock in a glittering 2017 campaign that led to him being crowned as the leading sprinter in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. Jockey Adam Kirby resumes his partnership on the Godolphin owned colt as part of a select field of seven.
Lambourn-based Cox reported this week: “We are looking forward to bringing him to York. We had a tricky spring and I think it’s fair to say this is a starting point. So I’d be pleased when he has got his first run under his belt. But he is in good nick and the yard is going well at the moment. He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. He makes the heart race on every occasion you see him on the racetrack.”
2.20pm (BST) Betfred ‘Supports Jack Berry House’ Handicap (1000m)
2.55pm Betfred Middleton Stakes (Fillies’ Group 2) (2000m)
3.30pm Betfred Dante Stakes (Group 2) (2000m)
4.05pm Betfred TV Hambleton Handicap (1600m)
4.35pm British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes (Listed) (1000m)
5.05pm Stratford Place Stud Breeds Group Winners ebfstallions.com Maiden Stakes (1200m)
5.35pm Investec Wealth Handicap (3200m)
Horse in focus - Wells Farhh Go
Tim Easterby is hopeful his rising star Wells Farhh Go is fit enough to do himself justice on his return to action in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York, with a Classic tilt potentially on the cards. The son of Farhh, unbeaten in two starts, overhauled subsequent Greenham winner James Garfield in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes at York last August and has been pleasing the Yorkshire-based trainer at home ahead of his return to action.
Easterby said this week: “He’s in good form. I’m very happy with how he looks. Basically, it’s his first run of the season and a stepping stone to the future.
“He wants a mile and a half (2400m) really,” Easterby said. “I’m looking forward to it. He’s an exciting horse to have and we’ve had a few offers we’ve had to resist.”
2:20pm (BST) Langleys Solicitors British EBF Marygate Fillies’ Stakes (Listed) (1000m)
2.55pm Longines Irish Champions Weekend Fillies’ Stakes (Listed) (1600m)
3.30pm MansionBet Yorkshire Cup (Group 2) (British Champions Series) (2800m)
4.05pm Whixley Handicap (2000m)
4.35pm British EBF Frank Whittle Partnership Fillies’ Handicap (1400m)
5.05pm Yorkshire Equine Practice Handicap (1000m)
5.40pm 7im Supports Cystic Fibrosis Care Handicap (2400m)
Horse in focus - Desert Skyline
Stamina tests proved the making of Desert Skyline last season and his supporters will be hoping for further progression this season as he bids to prove himself among the best stayers around. Third behind Stradivarius and Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup, his biggest day came in the Doncaster Cup under Silvestre de Sousa as he stayed on strongly to beat Thomas Hobson and Sheikhzayedroad.
Desert Skyline returned to action with a decent third to Torcedor in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot recently, and he will need to reverse that form if he is to take this, but David Elsworth is unlikely to have had him fully wound up for his first start of the campaign and a much-improved showing would come as no surprise.