PROGRESSIVE four-year-old, Yafta, is reported to be in fine form ahead of his outing in the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes at York on Wednesday.
Trained by Richard Hannon, Yafta was one of ten declarations received for the £125,000 Group 2 – the opening-day sprint feature, as racing gets underway on the Knavesmire for 2019.
A dual winner last year, including the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury, Yafta was a narrowly beaten runner-up on his seasonal return in Newmarket’s Abernant Stakes last month.
The son of Dark Angel suffered a less than straightforward passage on the Rowley Mile before eventually going down by a head.
But he is in sparkling shape ahead of his York engagement, according to Richard Hills, assistant racing manager and former retained rider to owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Hills said: “He’s absolutely flying and Richard’s team are really, really chuffed with him.
“He was making a challenge between horses at Newmarket but was stopped in his run and lost momentum. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, but I thought he was an unlucky loser.”
A four-time winner who has finished second on a further six occasions in 12 career outings, Yafta holds an entry in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
While Hills said he could not be sure if Yafta could reach such heights, he highlighted the horse’s toughness and versatility as key attributes.
Hills added: “He was hardly out of the first two last year. He’s a proper warrior, hence why we kept him as a four-year-old.
“He’s got the speed for six furlongs and the stamina for seven, so he’s a versatile horse and I couldn’t say what his best trip is. Obviously we’re stepping up in grade at York and it’s a cracking race, but he’s a decent horse.
“Whether he can get to Group 1 level we don’t know, but this is the next step up and he tries so hard.”
Included among Yafta’s nine opponents for the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes is the Henry Candy-trained Limato, who secured the Listed Garrowby Stakes over this course and distance last season.
Yorkshire-based trainer Kevin Ryan is a familiar face in the Knavesmire Winner’s Enclosure and he is set to launch a three-pronged challenge on a contest he has won twice before. Brando – who finished runner-up to champion sprinter Harry Angel twelve months ago, is set to be joined by stable companions, Hey Jonesy and Major Jumbo.
Malton handler John Quinn has declared fellow course regular El Astronaute, while James Tate will try to take the prize back to Newmarket courtesy of the progressive Invincible Army, who won the Listed Cammidge Trophy on his seasonal return at Doncaster.
The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 15 May 15 – Friday 17 May inclusive.