YORK’S eight time top trainer, Richard Fahey, is hoping to start the new season on the Knavesmire with a winning week at the Dante Festival.
The sizeable Musley Bank team will include Growl in tomorrow’s Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, Forest Ranger in Betfred Dante Stakes and the marvellously named, Brian The Snail, in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Westow – the latter two contesting their respective races on Thursday.
Five-year-old Growl, one of 13 in the richest ever renewal of the Group 2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, is making his seasonal bow and the recent rainfall won’t present a problem to him.
Forest Ranger faces a step up in grade and distance in the Group 2 Betfred Dante Stakes. He won a mile conditions race at Newcastle last month but this is an altogether tougher assignment with Cracksman, Rekindling and the unexposed Crystal Ocean among the eleven declared runners.
Brian The Snail, owned by Godolphin, will be hoping to add to his unbeaten career record in the five-furlong Listed contest in which eight are set to face the starter.
Fahey said: “The rain will have helped Growl. It will hinder others and help us. We’re very happy with him but it’s a very warm race. I’m sure he’ll run well.
“It has been the plan all year for Forest Ranger to go to the Dante. But it’s a fantastic Dante this year if they all turn up – extremely competitive. We’ve got a small outside chance. I’m a fraction worried about the trip because he’s a horse with plenty of pace.
“The race at Newcastle we earmarked for him and, as far as I’m concerned, came through with flying colours. We’ve been very comfortable with him – he’s a huge horse now and is going to improve with racing.
“Rain helped me to make the decision to declare Brian The Snail. I wouldn’t have wanted to run him over five furlongs on fast ground. The slower ground will help him. We like him a lot. It’s another stepping stone for him – the next level. But we’d be very happy with him. He won a handicap at Ponte last month, carrying a big weight and did it well.
“It’s a tough week for us if we don’t have any winners – it’s a great week if we do!”
TRAINER John Gosden is set to send four of his emerging talents to York for key races during its season-opening Dante Festival, which starts this Wednesday.
Cracksman (6/1 with Betfred for the Derby) will on Thursday bid to become Gosden’s third straight winner of the Group 2 Betfred Dante Stakes, after the triumphs of Golden Horn (2015) and Wings Of Desire (2016). He is unbeaten in his two races to date, including victory in the ‘Classic Trial’ at Epsom last month.
Shutter Speed has also won both of her starts and will seek a career hat-trick when she contests the Group 3 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes on Wednesday. She delivered a smart display in landing a conditions race at Newbury last month.
A year ago Gosden won the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes with So Mi Dar, who returns to York for the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes on Thursday. It will be the lightly-raced four-year-old filly’s first racecourse assignment since finishing third in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly last October.
Friday’s Betway Yorkshire Cup will see Gosden’s strong team represented by progressive stayer, Muntahaa. After finishing third in a Doncaster conditions race, he showcased an upwardly mobile profile with victory in the Group 3 registered as the John Porter Stakes at Newbury in April.
Newmarket-based Gosden said: “Shutter Speed won nicely at Newbury and we rather feel, at this stage, around a mile and a quarter is her trip. When she ran at Newbury, the plan was the Musidora. We said that straight away and we’re staying with the plan. She is a nice type of filly – she could do no more than what she has done so far.
“So Mi Dar has obviously been off a very long time, waiting for the Middleton because there’s nowhere else to go. She’s liable to be a little fresh and will come on a great deal for her first run.
“Cracksman has only had two runs in his life. The Dante is closer to the Derby than usual due to a late Easter. We’ve lost a week, which is not helpful. On the other hand he needs the experience to race if we are even to consider Epsom.
“It’s the smartest trial but I still see it as a trial. He came out of his last race and he learnt a lot; he has been in good order since and ate well (The record books show that a 16-day gap between the Dante and Derby need not be a barrier to success as demonstrated by the fact that Authorized won both races with a similar timeframe in 2007).
“Muntahaa ran nicely in the John Porter. Obviously, it’s logical to come to the Yorkshire Cup – a Group 2 after a Group 3 win. It didn’t work out for him in his first race of the year – that went a little bit wrong. But he ran a nice race the other day and he’s on good terms with himself.”
EXCITING filly Shutter Speed will bid for a first Group-race victory when she contests the £100,000 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York on Wednesday – the first day of the racecourse’s new season.
Shutter Speed will face four rivals in the extended mile and a quarter Group 3 race in which she will seek to make it three wins from three starts.
The John Gosden-trained filly was victorious in a maiden on her sole outing as a juvenile before reappearing as a three-year-old in a conditions race at Newbury last month.
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s homebred by Dansili, gave an impressive performance winning by two and a half lengths. The form of the Newbury race was given a significant boost when stable-mate Enable – also carrying the famous Juddmonte colours – comfortably landed the Listed Cheshire Oaks at Chester last week.
Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager to Prince Khalid, said: “Shutter Speed has come on very well since her Newbury run. It’s probably going to turn out to be a pretty decent race – we were delighted that Enable came out and won the Cheshire Oaks last Wednesday, which franks the form a little bit.
“Shutter Speed herself has been in great shape and we are really looking forward to running her at York. The main thing for us is for her to have a good race and get into a good rhythm.
“York will be a good test for her and hopefully will provide us with a good indication of where she should go. She has the option of the Oaks at Epsom and the Prix de Diane as well.
“Enable will go to the Oaks, all being well. But if we thought it was the right thing for Shutter Speed to go, we would still go with her. Her pedigree suggests that a mile and a quarter could be her best trip but we’ll see.”
Shutter Speed’s rivals will include the Jim Bolger-trained Vociferous Marina, who won a Listed race at Navan last month. Also in opposition will be the unexposed Sandown maiden Serenada from the powerful yard of Newmarket trainer Roger Varian. The field of five is completed by Miss Infinity (Mark Johnston) and debut winner Vintage Folly (Hugo Palmer).
Wednesday’s other highlight is the Group 2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes – worth £125,000 – which has attracted 13 runners. Group 1 winner The Tin Man makes his seasonal bow as does last year’s 1-2 in Magical Memory and Suedois.
Evergreen Clever Cookie is on course to make his seasonal return at York in this Friday’s Betway Yorkshire Cup, the Group 2 race that he landed in grand style 12 months ago.
The nine-year-old is one of 15 horses remaining at the latest entry stage of the £165,000 contest, staged over a mile and three-quarters.
Trained near Malton in Yorkshire by Peter Niven, Clever Cookie powered to a 5/2 success at his local track where he has won on four occasions to date.
Fast ground has prevented Clever Cookie reappearing before his Yorkshire Cup defence but Niven is upbeat about the condition of his stable star.
He is also pleased that there has been some rainfall on the Knavesmire, leaving the ground as ‘good to firm, good in places’ on Sunday morning.
Niven said: “The idea is to run…a drop more rain would be nice. He is in great form with himself but is behind in his work.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get a race but he wouldn’t have run at any of the trials, as such, because it was too quick anyway.
“He has had a bit of an interrupted sort of ‘prep’. But for the last six weeks he has been good. He has done enough to warrant a run, put it that way.
“He has got a little bit lazier, like the rest of us as we get older. But he is still very enthusiastic. He loves going out every day – he loves the routine. He is very happy in himself.
“Hopefully, it’s York on Friday and if things go well, he’ll be back there the week after as well for the Listed race that he has won a couple of times (the weddingmates.co.uk Grand Cup, on 27 May.)
Last year’s victory was an emotional one, especially as Niven’s mother, Jo , who bred the horse, was also at York to watch. It was the 11th win in 25 career starts for dual-purpose performer.
“I look back very fondly on it,” added Niven about the Betway Yorkshire Cup triumph. “They’ve all been great days in their own right but that was obviously the biggest win.
“But the fact that the whole family was there – my mother was down from Scotland – was very nice.”
The Niven team have a great affection for Clever Cookie and the trainer, who rides him out daily, has fingers crossed that there are more big days ahead of him.
He said: “He is very important to us. He’s the top man in the yard and hopefully can stay like that for another couple of years. He gets a lot of attention.”
The Betway Yorkshire Cup looks sure to attract a high-class field from the staying division with stars such as Dartmouth in the Royal silks, globe trotter Big Orange and Classic winner Simple Verse on schedule to line up. Four-year-olds Dal Harraild and Muntahaa could add further intrigue.
York’s season-opening Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 17 to Friday 19 May inclusively.
TRAINER Joseph O’Brien is hoping Rekindling can boost his Investec Derby credentials with a big performance in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York on Thursday 18 May.
The High Chaparral colt is among 21 horses in the renowned Group 2 ‘trial’ race at the latest entry stage. Permian, winner of the Listed Newmarket Stakes last Saturday, and Century Dream have been supplemented at a cost of £12,000 each.
Rekindling made a fine start to his season when winning the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month.
That was his first outing for O'Brien's string, having been trained in 2016 by David Wachman, who retired at the end of that season.
The Ballysax Stakes success was Rekindling’s second from four career starts and he is now a 14/1 chance with Betfred for the famous Classic at Epsom, staged on 3 June.
O’Brien said: “We were delighted with his reappearance – his first run for us. He’s a quite laid-back horse so it’s very hard to know how good he is.
“He never is a horse that sparkles at home, so you have to kind of take things for granted and look forward to him on the racecourse.
“We were hopeful he’d run well but we were over the moon, obviously, when he won.
“We’ve been very happy with him since. He seems in good form and the plan is to go onto the Dante. It will be a very competitive race, I’m sure. We’re looking forward to it.
“He won one of the Derby trials in Ireland. At the minute, he has all the credentials to be an Epsom Derby candidate. I suppose he has to go to York and show us that he is.”
O’Brien, 23, is in his second season as a trainer, having enjoyed many high-profile wins as a jockey – including on Camelot and Australia in the Derby. Now he is dreaming of taking Rekindling to the Classic.
He added: “It’s unbelievable to have a horse to think about even going to a Derby.”
So far O’Brien has been the only person in the Derby trials to head the Ballydoyle battalions of his father, Aidan.
The trio of Ballydoyle horses that followed home Rekindling in the Ballysax Stakes filled the first three spots in last Sunday’s Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown. This week at Chester, Venice Beach led home another 1-2-3 for Aidan O’Brien in the Vase, while Cliffs Of Moher won the Dee Stakes.
O’Brien snr has seven of the 21 entries in next Thursday’s race on the Knavesmire, which has seen an already record prize fund further boosted by the supplementary entries, to reach £185,700. Trainer John Gosden has won the last two runnings of the Dante and could be represented by leading Derby contender Cracksman as well as Monarchs Glen in the famous Juddmonte silks.
On the same card, 10 fillies and mares have been left in the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes. Breeders’ Cup heroine Queen’s Trust and last year’s Tattersalls Musidora winner, So Mi Dar, are among those on course to chase the record £125,000 pot.
TRAINER James Fanshawe is hoping to start The Tin Man’s 2017 campaign in next Wednesday’s Group 2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, the sprint highlight of the opening day of York’s Dante Festival.
The son of Equiano, who carries the colours of Fred Archer Racing, is one of 15 potential runners remaining at the six-day entry stage for the richest ever staging of the six furlong contest, now worth £125,000.
Fanshawe’s charge is the only runner with a Group 1 penalty in the field, having triumphed in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes last October.
He had a number of potential Duke of York rivals behind him that day – notably Brando, who made a winning return in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket’s Craven Meeting last month.
It has been Fanshawe’s long-term plan to kick-start The Tin Man’s season on the Knavesmire and the Newmarket-based trainer has been pleased with progress this spring.
He said: “The Tin Man has wintered well and the plan is to run at York on Wednesday. He will run as long as the ground isn’t firm, so we are hoping that the track gets a bit of rain between now and then.
“He seems in good form and looks very well. This has been the plan and it is the ideal starting point for him. He likes Ascot so ideally the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot will be on his agenda as well as the other top sprints later in the year.”
Fanshawe has used the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes as a launch-pad for a top sprinter before. Group 1 winner, Society Rock, was victorious at York in 2013 ahead of finishing second to Lethal Force in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes
In addition to Brando, other entries to note are last year’s winner and second, Magical Memory and Suedois, the latter a Group 3 winner who carries the colours of George Turner and Steve Parkin of the sponsor, Clipper Logistics.
Trainer Charlie Appleby could be triple-handed with Baccarat, Comicas and Jungle Cat all remaining at the six-day entry stage. The second-named of that trio was second on Dubai World Cup night in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen – the latter a close-up fourth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on the same card at Meydan.
The opening day of York’s Dante Festival will also stage the Group 3 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, where smart three-year-old fillies will put their Investec Oaks credentials to the test hoping to become the seventh to do the York-Epsom double.
The Godolphin owned Benbatl, who has been working impressively since his excellent run in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, is very likely to put his Derby claims on the line in the Betfred Dante Stakes on Thursday 18th May.
The Saeed Bin Suroor trained 3-y-o, who was too backward to appear as a juvenile, was an impressive winner on debut at Doncaster at the beginning of April. He subsequently improved on that by running a cracker, for one so inexperienced, to finish a close up third in the Group 3 Craven Stakes.
His recent homework has suggested to Bin Suroor that the upgrade in class to the Group 2 Betfred Dante Stakes, with the increase in distance, will lead to an even better performance.
The latest Irish star colt to test himself in the Betfred Dante looks set to be Rekindling; victorious already this year at Leopardstown in the Ballysax Stakes. Now handled by newcomer to the training ranks. Joseph O’Brien, the son of well known Ballyodyle maestro Aidan. O’Brien said the race would be a "good stepping-stone" looking towards the Investec Derby. To date, ten colts have done the York-Epsom double. Talking about the Group Two Betfred Dante Stakes, he said: "It's always a very competitive race and we'll know exactly where we stand afterwards." Aidan would know having landed the prize with Cape Blanco in 2011.
Kevin Ryan’s two highest rated horses are both on track to run at the Dante Festival.
Brando, who did so well last year and recently won the Group 3 Abernant Stakes at Newmarket, will return to action in the Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes on Wednesday 17 May, the first day of York’s three day Dante Festival.
Syphax, who lost his unbeaten record when finding only Forest Ranger too strong on his seasonal debut at Newcastle in April, is set to renew rivalry with his conqueror of that day in the Betfred Dante Stakes on Thursday 18 May.
Ryan reports the colt to have come out of the race well and jockey William Buick who rode the horse for the first time at Newcastle is looking forwarding to renewing acquaintance with the exciting prospect on the Knavesmire.
Charlie Appleby is aiming two of his most exciting horses at the forthcoming Dante Festival.
Comicas, who was last seen running a personal best to finish second in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai, is hoping to confirm his excellent run on dirt can be translated to the lush grass of the Knavesmire in the Group 2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes on Wednesday 17 May, the first day of York’s three day Dante Festival.
Appleby is also likely to unleash the exciting older filly Skiffle in the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes on the Thursday of the Festival. Skiffle showed huge promise last year in top quality races including the Investec Oaks.
The two Appleby horses represent the massive Godolphin operation, who are also likely to be represented by Syphax in the other major race on that day the Betfred Dante Stakes. Syphax has already tasted victory on the Knavesmire having running out an impressive winner of the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes at the prestigious Ebor Festival in 2016. Godolphin subsequently purchased the colt after his York victory but kept him with Kevin Ryan stable based in Yorkshire.
Syphax ran an excellent race on his debut in 2017 when only finding the highly regarded Richard Fahey trained Forest Ranger too good for him. His victor that day is also likely to reappear in the Betfred Dante which promises to be another exciting renewal of this premier Derby trial.
TRAINER Michael Bell is hoping it will be third time lucky for stable stalwart Big Orange who is among 38 horses to remain in contention for the feature race of Friday 19 May, the Betway Yorkshire Cup, at today’s first forfeit stage.
The globetrotting six-year-old will be hoping to add a further Group 2 triumph to his previous success at this elevated level, having recorded back-to-back victories in the last two renewals of the Goodwood Cup.
But, to date, York has not been a happy hunting-ground for Big Orange, who has disappointed on his two previous course appearances.
He was seventh in the weddingmates.co.uk Grand Cup – a Listed contest – and had only one behind him in the 2015 running of the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup.
However, Bell believes Big Orange can be excused for not delivering his best form on the Knavesmire…yet.
He said: “He has run twice there. The first time we changed the tactics and tried to drop him in but that backfired. Then he also ran again in the Lonsdale but that was on the back of a hard race in the Princess of Wales’s (at Newmarket) and a hard race at Goodwood. There’s no logical reason why he shouldn’t be effective at York, so we want to go there all guns blazing.
“We feel that the Yorkshire Cup fits in nicely – timing-wise – with possibly running in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. Provided there are no extremes of ground – and that he’s healthy and well – I am sure he will be there.”
His last run in England was on the Sussex Downs nine months ago. Since then he has been campaigned in Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai.
Most recently, he contested the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup (sponsored by Al Tayer Motors) in which he was a very creditable fourth. That performance at Meydan in late March is all the more impressive, given the back-story.
Bell explained: “Bearing in mind 48 hours before the race he had a temperature of 104, I think it was a very, very good run. He had a heat wobble. Although on race day he was fine, that is not the ideal preparation.
“He couldn’t canter the day before the race. Not that you can get a horse fit in a day but it can’t have been a positive – it must have been detrimental. And he ran, I wouldn’t say a career-best, but he wasn’t far off his best ever form.”
Almost a month later and Bell reports his charge to be in “very good form” at home. And, unsurprisingly, Big Orange is a very popular figure around the stables at Fitzroy House in Newmarket.
Bell added: “He is a great character – a huge presence in the yard, physically as much as anything else. The longer horses stay around in Flat racing yards, the more attached you get to them. He has taken us all round the world, not once but twice, so he’s a great friend.”
The £165,000 Betway Yorkshire Cup is a Group 2 race, staged over a mile-and-three-quarters of the Knavesmire and is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
York’s season-opening Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 17 to Friday 19 May inclusive.
The picture for the feature races at the Dante Festival became a little clearer as the next stage of entries passed on 26th April.
The richest ever stagings of the four Group Two contests have been rewarded with strong potential line- ups across the three days (Wednesday 17-Friday 19 May).
The fastest race of the week, the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes could see the bulk of the £125,000 staying in the White Rose County as seven different yards from within its boundaries hold nine combined entries, including the 2016 runner up in Suedois trained by David O’Meara.
Some thirteen winners of the Investec Derby have previously highlighted their talent in the Betfred Dante on Thursday and once again eight of the top ten in the betting for the Epsom Classic have held their ground for York. Forest Ranger, a recent winner at Newcastle, could see the new season start well for Richard Fahey, as the Musley Bank yard seek to defend their York Trainer’s title.
The heroine of the 2016 running of the Tattersalls Musidora, So Mi Dar, is an eyecatcher for a follow up course and distance victory in the Betfred Middleton. The powerful Aidan O’Brien operation could be reperestned by Seventh Heaven who landed the Group One Darley Yorkshire Oaks on the Knavesmire last August.
Some four horses to have already won at Group One level remain in the frame for the Betway Yorkshire Cup on Friday. The winners of both the English and Irish St Legers could oppose her as Harbour Law and Wicklow Brave retain their entries. Simple Verse (St Leger 2015) and Order of St George (Gold Cup at Royal Ascot 2016) complete the illustrious quartet.
THE DUKE OF YORK CLIPPER LOGISTICS STAKES (Group 2) to be run on Wednesday 17 May
Acapulco, Ardhoomey, Baccarat, Blue de Vega, Brando, Caravaggio, Comicas, Dancing Star, Final Venture, Gracious John, Growl, Jungle Cat, Kimberella, Magical Memory, Mobsta, Mokarris, Nameitwhatyoulike, Orion's Bow, Quiet Reflection, Raucous, Suedois, Tasleet, The Tin Man, Tupi, Washington DC, Yalta
THE BETFRED MIDDLETON STAKES (Group 2) to be run on Thursday 18 May
Abingdon, Ajman Princess, Aljazzi, Blond Me, Chain of Daisies, Endless Time, Journey, Laganore, Love Potion, Natural Scenery, Nezwaah, Queen's Trust, Rosental, Seventh Heaven, Skiffle, Smart Call, So Mi Dar, Somehow, The Black Princess, Turret Rocks, Zhukova
THE BETFRED DANTE STAKES (Group 2) to be run on Thursday 18 May
Across Dubai, Atty Persse, Auckland, Belgravia, Benbatl, Best of Days, Best Solution, Bin Battuta, Brutal, Call To Mind, Capri, Churchill, Cliffs of Moher, Contrapposto, Cracksman, Crystal Ocean, Diodorus, Douglas Macarthur, Eminent, Ensign, Exemplar, Finn McCool, Forest Ranger, Frankuus, Itsakindamagic, Lancaster Bomber, Latin Beat, Lethal Impact, Manchego, Marine One, Middle Kingdom, Mirage Dancer, Monarchs Glen, Orderofthegarter, Peace Envoy, Rekindling, Rivet, Salouen, Sir Edwin Landseer, Sir John Lavery, Spanish Steps, Spirit of Valor, Swiss Storm, Syphax, Taj Mahal, Tamleek, Tartini, The Anvil, Thunder Snow, Utah, Venice Beach, War Decree, War Secretary, Wings of Eagles, Wolf Country, Youmkin, Yucatan
THE BETWAY YORKSHIRE CUP STAKES (Group 2) (British Champions Series) to be run on Friday 19 May
Arctic Fire, Aussie Reigns, Battersea, Big Orange, Carntop, Cleonte, Clever Cookie, Clondaw Warrior, Cohesion, Crimean Tatar, Dal Harraild, Dartmouth, Diamonds Pour Moi, Duretto, Endless Time, Forgotten Rules, Harbour Law, High Jinx, Higher Power, Ivan Grozny, Lord Yeats, Marmelo, Moonrise Landing, Motherland, Mountain Bell, Muntahaa, Natural Scenery, Order of St George, Platitude, Quest For More, Renneti, She Is No Lady, Simple Verse, To Be Wild, Twilight Payment, Wall of Fire, Wicklow Brave, Winning Story
Wednesday 5 April
TRAINER Laura Mongan believes that the Group 2 Betway Yorkshire Cup at York on Friday 19 May is “the perfect starting point” for 2016 St Leger winner Harbour Law.
The Lawman colt really put Epsom-based Mongan on the map with his superb Classic success last September. Owner Mrs Jackie Cornwell has kept the horse in training as a four-year-old and his initial challenge is scheduled to be the mile and three-quarter contest that offers record prize money of £165,000.
Harbour Law features among a bumper 50-strong entry – up from the 28 at the same stage twelve months ago. It is a case of quality as well as quantity, with the both the 2016 & 2015 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot winners, Trip To Paris and Order of St George, both featuring, amongst some seven stayers to have already scored at the highest level.
Mongan has already given Harbour Law “a couple of pieces” of fast work this spring and is looking forward to her stable star returning to action in the Betway Yorkshire Cup.
She said: “We think that’s the perfect starting point for him – with the view, all being well, to go onto the Gold Cup. They’d be our main early targets. We think we’ve got a horse good enough.
“I think, the further the better with him. The mile and six furlongs at York will suit him but the best of him will show over longer trips.”
Harbour Law, not seen out since scoring in the Classic at Doncaster last September, enjoyed a winter break at his owner’s property in Dorset.
Mongan added: “He has been back with us since mid-January. We’re very lucky to have him back. He looks great and holidayed well. We couldn’t be happier with him.
“He always was a beautiful stamp of a horse and he looks better, stronger – great in himself. So we’re very excited, if not a little nervous! (But) it’s a lovely pressure to have.
“All he did last season was mature and improve, looks-wise and mentally. I’m pretty sure that he has carried on doing that. He is doing everything right at home – that’s all I can ask for.”
Evergreen Clever Cookie – now nine – could bid to give trainer Peter Niven back-to-back victories in the race. The course specialist has three other Knavesmire triumphs to his name.
Wednesday 5 April
YORKSHIRE-based trainer Kevin Ryan has the Betfred Dante Stakes (Thursday 18 May) as an early-season target for his exciting three-year-old, Syphax.
The colt, who was purchased by Godolphin during the off-season, is one of 84 entries for the richest ever renewal of the Group 2 contest which is widely recognised as the leading ‘trial’ for the Investec Derby. This year’s entry offers £165,000 in prize money so it is no surprise that it includes the top five in the betting for Epsom’s globally-renowned Classic.
Ten winners of the Betfred Dante – including Golden Horn, two years ago – have gone on to take the Blue Riband. The Knavesmire showcase also has a rich history of throwing up French and Irish Derby winners with Ryan himself responsible for The Grey Gatsby in 2014. The striking ‘grey’ followed up his home turf success with victory in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.
Syphax was last seen winning the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes, a Group 3 for two-year-olds staged at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival. He beat subsequent Royal Lodge Stakes winner Best Of Days and the pair could meet again at York on 18 May.
Ryan is reluctant to draw comparisons between Syphax and The Grey Gatsby but is hopeful that he has a high-class prospect on his hands.
He said: “We had planned to go straight to the Dante but the plan is now to run at Newcastle on 14 April in a conditions race. It will be good to get a run into him before going to York.
“He has done fantastically well over the winter and I am very happy with him. He obviously won the Acomb at the track and all being well he can go there in good shape.”
Godolphin are represented by 15 colts while the trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team make up over a third of the initial entry with 29. Among them are current Qipco 2000 Guineas/ Investec Derby favourite and champion juvenile Churchill, as well as the highly regarded, War Decree.
Another intriguing ‘possible’ is Rivet, the colt landed his maiden victory at York last August and then won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, for Skipton born handler William Haggas. Fellow Newmarket trainer John Gosden, has won the last two renewals of the big race with the aforementioned Golden Horn (2015) and twelve months ago with Wings Of Desire. Among the master of Clarehaven’s eight entries for this year’s contest is Crowned Eagle, an Oasis Dream half-brother to Wings Of Desire, who ran out an emphatic winner of his maiden at Nottingham last November.
Gosden also looks to have a strong hand in the Betfred Middleton Stakes, the Group 2 that focuses on the fillies & mares on the second day of the Dante Festival (Thursday 18 May). Another contest that has seen prize money increase, a total of 23 horses have been entered in the £125,000 contest, run over the same extended ten furlongs as the Dante.
Gosden’s trio include Journey, the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares winner as well as So Mi Dar, who was an impressive winner over course and distance in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes last May.
The other Group 1 winners who could feature in the line-up are Breeders’ Cup heroine Queen’s Trust (Sir Michael Stoute) and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Seventh Heaven, who followed up her Darley Irish Oaks success with victory at York in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks of 2016.
Also among the entry is the defending champion, Beautiful Romance, who racked up the air miles following that success with a trip to Australia last autumn. The daughter of New Approach, owned by Godolphin and trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, ran with credit in the Melbourne Cup. She then enjoyed success at Meydan this winter – scoring in Group 3 company.
Wednesday 5 April
SPRINT queen Quiet Reflection could make her seasonal reappearance in the Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes at York on Wednesday 17 May. The richest ever renewal of the contest now worth £125,000
The Karl Burke-trained star was given the 2016 Cartier Sprinter Award after winning two Group 1s – the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the Sprint Cup (Haydock Park).
Owned by Ontoawinner, Hubert Strecker and Karl and Elaine Burke, the four-year-old filly remains in training for 2017 – and is delighting connections with her physical progress.
Quiet Reflection is very much on target for a return to the track in May, with the six-furlong sprint showpiece of York’s opening day, under serious consideration.
Yorkshire-based trainer Burke said: “She has wintered brilliantly – we’re really pleased with her. We’re just starting to pick up the speed in her work now and she should be fully fit the first week of May, with the intention of either going for the Duke of York or possibly the Temple Stakes the week after.
“Hopefully the ground will be decent at York and we can go there – I just wouldn’t want to run her on real fast ground.
“She has definitely filled her frame. She was 10 kilos heavier through most of the winter, although a few kilos of that have come off now. After Christmas – after her break – when we started riding her again, I think she was 12 or 13 kilos heavier than when she finished last season.
“Like a lot of those sprinters, they fill their frames as they get older – she has definitely done that. She’s definitely stronger and hopefully that will transfer into her running a bit quicker on the track.”
A campaign for Quiet Reflection’s season almost maps itself, Royal Ascot and after that, she could take in the Darley July Cup before possibly tackling the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes back at York. Burke also mentions the Sprint Cup and QIPCO Champions Day as being very much in his thinking.
Whenever and wherever she runs, Burke is keen for all who are connected to her to soak up every minute of it, with a view to her achievements being celebrated once more at the end of season Cartier Awards.
Burke, who trains at Spigot Lodge in Leyburn, said: “It would be nice to think that we can be invited to those type of awards again.”
He added: “It’s what you do the job for – get up early in the mornings for – to find a horse like her. We have to really enjoy it this year.
“Whatever she does, she owes us nothing and I think it’s important that we all enjoy and take it in this year. Last year there was a bit of pressure to get there – now we’ve done it, they can’t take it away from us.”
Last year’s Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes winner Magical Memory is also pencilled in for a return visit to the Knavesmire. The popular grey gelding is among the 36-strong entry for the race.
Owned by Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, the five-year-old hasn’t won since his victory in the race last year but he did finish a close-up fourth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Sam Hoskins, racing manager for Kennett Valley Thoroughbreds, said: “The plan is to head straight to York. Last year he won at Newmarket (Abernant Stakes) before but it’s a long season and hopefully he will arrive at York in good shape.
“He had a minor setback last September but appears over it now and is training well. It’s all systems go for York and it would be great if he could reproduce last year’s win.
“York has been a lucky track for us – Tullius won the Skybet York Stakes a couple of years ago and of course Magical Memory won last year. We are really looking forward to going back there.”
Caravaggio, an unbeaten two-year-old star of 2016, has been given an entry by trainer Aidan O’Brien. The Tin Man, who took the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes, is the third Group 1 winner entered for the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes.
Wednesday 29 March
The five-year-old, Magical Memory, enjoyed his finest hour in 2016 when winning the six-furlong Group Two feature on the Knavesmire, and is hoping to repeat the feat in 2017.
A setback in the autumn resulted in an early end to that campaign, but connections of the Charlie Hills-trained grey remain optimistic he can prove himself one of the best speedsters around.
"He had a little setback in the autumn. He was going to go for a Group Three at Ascot, but he injured his check ligament," said Sam Hoskins, racing manager to owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds.
“He's done really well for his extended break. He probably won't go to Newmarket for the Abernant but is likely to go straight for the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes which he won last year”.
The Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes is run on Wednesday 17 May the first day of York’s Dante Festival which concludes on Friday 19 May with the highlight on that day being the Betway Yorkshire Cup.
Monday 20 March
The Richard Fahey trained filly Melesina showed her liking for France when making all under Alexis Badel to add victory in the Listed Prix La Camargo to last season's Group 3 success in the Prix Les Reservoirs.
Carrying the colours of Nick Bradley Racing, the daughter of Dark Angel had been kept busy with starts in the UAE versions of the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks and trainer Richard Fahey is now planning to step Melesina back up in trip.
"She's very tough and genuine, very easy to train," said Fahey. "I’ll look at the Musidora at York over a mile and a quarter, or there's the Chester Race as well."
The Tattersalls Musidora is run on the first day of York’s Dante Festival which takes place from Wednesday 17 May through to Friday 19 May.