ROGER Varian is hoping that his Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes entry, Surfman, can deliver on his significant promise for owner breeder Peter Winkworth.
Surfman, a half-brother to Group 1-winning filly Kitesurf, has already shown huge potential in easily winning his last two races, after making his debut at Nottingham last October.
Now the son of Juddmonte Farms star Kingman, is poised for a step up in class at York after yesterday’s confirmation stage saw 12 colts remain in the £165,000 Group 2.
Varian said: “We’ve always held him in the highest regard and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he’s as good as we think he might be.”
Surfman broke through in a Nottingham novice race a month after his first outing. But it was on his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle on April 30 that he really stood out as an exciting prospect, landing a mile and a quarter novice contest by 14 lengths.
Varian assessed: “He beat a poor field, let’s be honest. He didn’t beat a lot but he beat them 14 lengths on the bridle. And it did the horse good to get out there – get an away-day from Newmarket.
“We didn’t learn much about him – we knew he was a nice horse and he proved he was a nice horse. But we didn’t learn how nice he is. His next start, we will do.”
That next engagement looks likely to be on Thursday in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai backed Dante Stakes, the mile and a quarter race, still regarded by many shrewd observers as the most informative Derby trial.
Surfman, who holds an entry for the most famous Classic of them all, warmed up for York with a piece of fast work in Newmarket on Friday morning.
Varian added: “He has worked well and he has come on for his run.
“He’s a highly promising colt. He has always worked at home like a pretty smart colt – we’ve got high hopes for him going forward.
“And if we do run in the Dante that’s going to tell us a little bit more where we are.
“I think York – a galloping track, a flat track – should suit him well. It looks a very hot race – we’ll have to see what shows up and see how we measure up. But I think he’s pretty good himself, so fingers crossed.”
If Surfman could triumph on the Knavesmire it would be a romantic result as Varian and Winkworth are old allies, stemming back to the days when the latter used to train.
“Peter is one of the sport’s enthusiasts and he has put a lot into the game over the years,” said Varian.
“I actually rode him a winner in my very short and undistinguished riding career. He supported me back then as a teenager – I was a 7lb claimer and it was over hurdles that I rode him that winner – and it’s nice that he has supported me as a trainer as well.”
Among the possible rivals that Surfman may face is last year’s champion two-year-old, Too Darn Hot, who was forced to miss the Qipco 2,000 Guineas after suffering a small setback. His trainer John Gosden is also represented by Turgenev at the latest forfeit stage.
Ballydoyle trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has left in a brace of geographically named contenders in Japan and Western Australia. While there are three Yorkshire based entries; record-breaking Mark Johnston from Middleham, has Dark Vision and Nayef Road as possible runners, while Karl Burke from nearby Coverham, could saddle Kadar.
The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 15 May 15 – Friday 17 May 17 inclusively.
For tickets please call 01904 620911 or visit www.yorkracecourse.co.uk