Impressive Entries for Group 2 Races at the Dante Festival




LAST SEASON’S champion two-year-old, Too Darn Hot, is the stand-out name in an intriguing 89-strong entry for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes – the May 17 feature race of York’s curtain-raising three-day festival.

The colt’s trainer John Gosden has a fine recent record in the famous mile and a quarter Group 2 race, landing three of the last four renewals, including the 2015 running with subsequent Investec Derby hero, Golden Horn. The unbeaten Too Darn Hot is one of 14 entries made by the 2018 leading trainer for this year’s £165,000 contest on the Knavesmire.

Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien, has won the Epsom Blue Riband four times in the last seven years and has made 24 entries in the York showpiece – a race that many people identify as the key trial for the Classic showdown. They include Group 1 winner, Magna Grecia, as well as the hugely promising Japan, who won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes on his third and final outing when aged two.

Charlie Hills has made an entry for Phoenix Of Spain, who won the Group 3 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes on the Knavesmire before succumbing by a head to Magna Grecia at Doncaster.

Tom Dascombe could be represented by Royal Ascot winner, Arthur Kitt, who finished runner-up to Too Darn Hot in the Solario Stakes at Sandown prior to running fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Middleham-based trainer Mark Johnston won this race in 2017 with Permian. A year later he saddled runner-up Dee Ex Bee and has made seven entries for this spring’s renewal.

Plans remains fluid for the septet at this stage, but they include the 110-rated Arctic Sound, who has won four of his six starts – including a Newmarket Group 3 – and Living Legend, who struck in a Kempton novice in the manner of a progressive performer last Saturday.

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, assessed: “Living Legend probably deserves to be in the race least (of the Johnston entries) at the moment, given he was allocated a mark of 86 by the handicapper on Tuesday morning and he will have to improve a huge amount to be up to that level.

“That said, he’s an unexposed, exciting horse and one we’ve really been looking forward to. He wintered well and we thought he was capable of a good performance at Kempton, which he delivered.

“We’re nowhere near the bottom of him yet and he could still be anything, so he deserves those lofty entries. There is an argument that he should be running in a handicap off that mark in the near future, but he produced an impressive performance.”

Regarding Arctic Sound, he continued: “We’re not entirely sure what his optimum trip will be and he’s entered in pretty much every Guineas in Europe – the English, Irish, French and German.

“We’ll probably go down that route to begin with, but if you’d have asked me towards the middle of last summer, I would have expected him to improve when he was upped in trip.

“We thought he would go and win the Stonehenge (in which he finished last of six runners) at Salisbury and that was his most disappointing run, but he was very impressive back to seven furlongs at Doncaster and Newmarket. He’ll start back over a mile and then he has the option of going up in trip if he needs to.” 

Full list of entries as at 3 April:

Albuquerque (IRE) Alfaatik (GB) Al Hilalee (GB) Almania (IRE) Almashriq (USA) Anthony Van Dyck (IRE) Apparate (GB) Arctic Sound (GB) Arthur Kitt (GB) Bangkok (IRE) Battle For Glory (USA) Battle of Waterloo (IRE) Beatboxer (USA) Broome (IRE) Buckhurst (IRE)  Cadre du Noir (USA)  Cape Cavalli (IRE) Cape of Good Hope (IRE) Cap Francais (GB)  Casanova (GB) Circus Maximus (IRE) Confiding (GB) Constantinople (IRE) Dark Vision (IRE) Deal A Dollar (GB) Dubai Warrior (GB) Duckett's Grove (USA) El Misk (GB) Floating Artist (GB) Fox Tal (GB) Gentile Bellini (GB)  Ginistrelli (IRE) Grandmaster Flash (IRE) Guaranteed (IRE) Harpo Marx (IRE) Headman (GB) Humanitarian (USA) Il Paradiso (USA) Japan (GB) Kadar (USA) Khuzaam (USA)  Kick On (GB) King Ademar (USA) King of Change (GB) King Ottokar (FR) King Pellinor (IRE)  Kuwait Currency (USA) Lake McKenzie (IRE) Lancaster House (IRE)  Line of Duty (IRE) Living Legend (IRE) Lord North (IRE) Mackaar (IRE) Magna Grecia (IRE) Mohawk (IRE) Mount Everest (IRE) Nayef Road (IRE) Norway (IRE) Old Glory (IRE) Pablo Escobarr (IRE) Pacific Ocean (IRE) Persian Moon (IRE) Phoenix of Spain (IRE) Prince Eiji (GB) Raise You (IRE) Royal Marine (IRE) Royal Meeting (IRE) Sangarius (GB) Senza Limiti (IRE) Sir Dragonet (IRE) Sovereign (IRE) Space Blues (IRE) Stormwave (IRE) Surfman (GB) Sydney Opera House (GB)  Technician (IRE) Telecaster (GB) Themaxwecan (IRE) Three Comets (GER)  Thrilla In Manila (GB) Too Darn Hot (GB) Travel On (GB) Turgenev (GB) Turnberry Isle (IRE) Uae Jewel (GB) Waldstern (GB) Walkinthesand (IRE) West End Charmer (IRE) Western Australia (IRE)



INVINCIBLE ARMY could have a third crack at Group 1 star Sands of Mali, with both horses entered in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, which will be the feature race on the opening day of York’s 2019 season – Wednesday 15 May.

Invincible Army impressed last Saturday when speeding to a two-length success in the Listed Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster. His trainer, James Tate, had long ear-marked that race as a stepping stone to the £125,000 Group 2, staged over six furlongs on the Knavesmire.

But his four-year-old charge may end up facing old adversary Sands of Mali, who got the better of him in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes back in 2017. The pair were also involved in a thrilling finish to a Group 2 at Haydock last May in which Sands of Mali got up by a nose.

The latter colt went on to top-class glory, scoring on British Champions Day in the feature Sprint last October. As a result of that win he’d have to carry 5lb more at the weights than Invincible Army, should the pair go head to head at York in mid-May.

Newmarket-based Tate said: “It has kind of been the plan since we put him away for a break at the back end of last year, that we’d go for the Cammidge and then the Duke of York.

“He is already a dual Group 3 winner but we got beaten a nose in the Group 2 last year, so we could really do with a win in a Group 2.

“Anything can stop you with a horse, but if he is good on raceday the only thing that would stop us is very fast ground. So we will be hoping it’s not too quick on 15 May.

“I’m very pleased with his development, from what we’ve seen so far. He has been working well and looks bigger and stronger.

“We left a little bit to work on with his prep race and I also loved his attitude at Doncaster. As a two-year-old he was often all over the place – I remember him breaking someone’s foot when they tried to lead him up for a Group 3 at Kempton.

“At Doncaster I thought he was ever so professional, walking around relaxed but confident and he continued that right the way through the race. I think he has improved from three to four, but we’ll get a better test of that in the Duke of York, hopefully.”  

In total 37 horses are listed in the initial entry for the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, including three-time Group 1 winner, The Tin Man. Fellow top-class performers Brando, Limato, Suedois in the sponsor’s colours and Mabs Cross are also among those named.

Full list of entries as at 3 April:

Sands of Mali (FR) The Tin Man (GB) Limato (IRE) Mabs Cross (GB) Airshow (GB) Brando (GB) Cardsharp (GB) City Light (FR) Donjuan Triumphant (IRE) Dreamfield (GB) El Astronaute (IRE) Emblazoned (IRE) Eqtidaar (IRE) Equilateral (GB) George Bowen (IRE) Gifted Master (IRE) Hey Jonesy (IRE) Invincible Army (IRE) Laugh A Minute (GB) Le Brivido (FR) Major Jumbo (GB) Ornate (GB) Projection (GB) Smash Williams (IRE) Snazzy Jazzy (IRE) Son of Rest (GB) Speak In Colours (GB) St Patrick's Day (USA) Suedois (FR) Urban Beat (IRE) Vanbrugh (USA) Yafta (GB) Eirene (GB) Moyassar (GB) No Nons Astronaute (IRE) Emblazoned (IRE) Eqtidaar (IRE) Equilateral (GB) George Bowen (IRE) Gifted Master (IRE) Hey Jonesy (IRE) Invincible Army (IRE) Laugh A Minute (GB)




Lanigan and Johnston yard poised with potential challengers

SEA OF Class could make her seasonal reappearance at York after being entered in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes, which will be run on Thursday 16 May.

The William Haggas-trained filly was one of the stars of the 2018 season, winning two Group 1s – the Darley Irish Oaks and then the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on the Knavesmire.

But arguably her best performance came in defeat at Paris Longchamp where she went down to the brilliant Enable by a diminishing short neck in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Sea Of Class remains in training aged four and is one of 18 horses in the initial entry for the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes, contested over a mile and a quarter.

The entry also contains last year’s surprise 1,000 Guineas winner, Billesdon Brook. Multiple Group 1 runner-up and defending champion, Coronet, is also listed; as are Nyaleti and Threading from the record-breaking yard of Middleham-based trainer, Mark Johnston.

The Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes is under consideration for Nyaleti as she looks to build on a very good three-year-old campaign, which concluded with back-to-back top-three finishes in Grade/Group 1 races.

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, said: “She has been all around the world already, including finishing second in an Italian Group 1 on her final outing last year.

“She has lots of options on the table for her reappearance. She could either start in the Middleton, or something like the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket or even the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.

“Last year she came up a bit short at the top level in this country, but she was twice placed in Group 1 company abroad. We’re well aware that we might need to travel again to try and win a Group 1, but we’re prepared to do that and she’ll be entered far and wide.”

Threading was a high-class two-year-old in 2017, winning the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes at York. She returned to the track last May to land a Listed prize but her form dipped after a very creditable effort in behind Alpha Centauri at Royal Ascot.

Johnston added: “She was disappointing towards the back end of last year and we just want to see the same level of spark she showed when finishing second in the Coronation Stakes in June. She will definitely start over a mile – maybe in something like the Snowdrop at Kempton – and we’ll try and get her head back in front. The Middleton is a fall-back option if we want to go up in trip afterwards.” 

Trainer David Lanigan is another with decisions to make about where to campaign a talented filly. His charge Worth Waiting won four races last year, including a Group 3 in Deauville. She returned to France where she ran a very creditable fourth in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille.

Her preparations for the new season are well underway and Lanigan will make a call nearer the time as to whether Worth Waiting will return in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes or stay closer to home to tackle the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket.

Lanigan confirmed: “It’s just a question of seeing how she comes in the next three weeks and then make a plan.

“She has wintered well and looks like she has filled out her frame. She was never a gross filly but has done very well, so I’m pleased with her.

“Hopefully she’ll progress. She’s had a good lay-off and is coming back nicely.” 

Speaking last week, Champion Trainer John Gosden indicated that improving filly, Lah Ti Dah could well return to the Knavesmire, scene of her impressive Listed race triumph in the EBF Galtres Stakes last August.

Full list of entries as at 3 April:

Billesdon Brook (GB) Sea of Class (IRE) Coronet (GB) Dramatic Queen (USA) Lah Ti Dar (GB) Maid Up (GB) Mrs Sippy (USA) Normandel (FR) Nyaleti (IRE) Poetic Charm (GB) Queen of Time (GB) Rasima (GB) Rawdaa (GB) Shenanigans (IRE) Sun Maiden (GB) Threading (IRE) Who's Steph (IRE) Worth Waiting (GB)



CLASSY middle-distance campaigner Laraaib could step up in trip for a shot at the £165,000 Matchbook Yorkshire Cup at York on Friday 17 May.

The Owen Burrows-trained five-year-old signed off for 2018 with a gritty half-length victory in the mile and a half Group 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot. It meant he finished the year on a high after being laid low in midsummer with a viral problem.

The strapping son of Pivotal is lightly-raced and has a fine record of four wins from eight career starts.

On paper Sheikh Hamdan’s horse looks open to further improvement and could return in the John Porter Stakes at Newbury on April 13 before coming under consideration for the York Group Two. That would mean a first crack at a mile and three quarters for Laraaib, which Burrows feels could be within his range.

The Lambourn-based trainer said: “He was a big, unraced two-year-old and then won his first three starts as a three-year-old. I slipped him into the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and he wasn’t quite right after that so we finished him for the season.

“Last year he started off at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard and was beaten only by Poet’s Word, so I was thrilled with him that day. It went wrong for him at Royal Ascot where he was drawn very high and missed the kick. I took him next to the Princess of Wales’s at Newmarket. He ran so badly that he must have had something wrong with him, hence we did some tests. We had a virus in the yard and he was one that was affected.

“So to get him back to win the Cumberland Lodge was a big performance and he had to really tough it out on very soft ground. He handled conditions well that day but doesn’t need it bottomless.

“If we can keep him healthy I’m hoping for a real productive year with him. He wouldn’t go much further than a Yorkshire Cup distance – I’m not saying he’s a Gold Cup horse or anything like that.

“But he is a good horse to have. He is a five-year-old now with not a lot of mileage on him and, physically, he has done very well. He was always a big-framed horse and he has grown into that. The lads that ride him at home are saying he feels stronger this year, so I’m hoping that there is a bit more improvement from four to five.”

The Matchbook Yorkshire Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, which showcases 35 of the UK’s finest Flat races. The entry for this year’s renewal includes outstanding stayer, Stradivarius, who landed the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million in 2018. The colt started his run of success with victory in the Yorkshire Cup last May and his trainer John Gosden has already indicated that will be this season’s starting point. Also in the 34-strong initial entry are fellow middle-distance stars Kew Gardens, Flag of Honour and Capri as well as a series of other fascinating prospects.

Full list of entries as at 3 April:

Flag of Honour (IRE) Kew Gardens (IRE) Raymond Tusk (IRE) Stradivarius (IRE) Thomas Hobson (GB) Aircraft Carrier (IRE) Austrian School (IRE) Capri (IRE) Cypress Creek (IRE) Danehill Kodiac (IRE) Dee Ex Bee (GB) Defoe (IRE) Desert Skyline (IRE) Elegiac (GB) Game Starter (IRE) Ispolini (GB) Laraaib (IRE) Low Sun (GB)Marmelo (GB) Max Dynamite (FR) Mildenberger (GB) Mootasadir (GB) Mustajeer (GB) Outbox (GB) Proschema (IRE) Red Galileo (GB) Sevenna Star (IRE) Sir Chauvelin (GB) Southern France (IRE) Time To Study (FR) Twilight Payment (IRE) Weekender (GB) Young Rascal (FR) Pilaster (GB)

The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 15 May – Friday 17 May inclusively.