Day one of my favourite meeting of the year, I love the Dante festival at York. I’m lucky enough to be going for all three days this year, and really looking forward to it. This is often a very informative meeting, those winning the two feature races often run well in the Oaks and Derby, the two year old races are usually very strong, and we often see a couple of handicappers who go onto bigger and better things. All in all, enjoy your bets, but be sure to add a few into the notebook if they show up strong.
Onto day one on Wednesday….
The opener usually throws a big field at us if I remember right, but just eight go to post this year. It was hard not to be impressed by Hamada when he won at Wolverhampton, backed as though defeat was out of the question. There is a lot more to come from this horse, I’m sure of it and he is by far and away the most interesting horse in the field for me. Banksea is another interesting runner, having his first British run since moving to Charlie Appleby, and he has posted three credible runs in Meydan handicaps this winter. We are not talking about a big priced runner here, but at around 5/2 Hamada looks to be the solid choice in the opener, he could still be well ahead of the handicapper.
It doesn’t get much tougher than a 19 runner sprint handicap, so I will have to throw a couple of darts here in the hope that one hits. The first dart is thrown towards Gin In The Inn, a horse who won nicely at Ripon on his seasonal reappearance. He is currently rated 89, but last year we saw him place off 87 and 90. His wins have come off lower marks, but he still looks capable of running well while remaining in the 80s. The second dart thrown hits Golden Apollo, a horse who ticks a lot of boxes despite this being his first run of the season. He comes here rated 98, and the last of his three wins last season came off 95, so he can be competitive. If he is fully wound up, he is another that looks to have a fair chance.
Gin In The Inn is currently 10/1 while Golden Apollo is currently 16/1.
A race that revolves around Harry Angel. Will he be fullly wound up? Will he race too keen as he has first time out before? Is he good enough to overcome all of this and sweep all before him in the sprinting division? Whatever he goes on to do, at odds on with question marks hanging over him, he is not a horse I want to be back. Brando brings a recent run and victory to the table, while Tasleet won this race last year and they both provide the main opposition. The value in the race may lie with Sir Dancealot, a horse who was less than a length behind Brando and will appreciate the quicker going today. Despite that, Brando is 9/2 and Sir Dancealot is 10/1. While both are not at the same level as Harry Angel, should the favourite slip up then these two are in with a chance of collecting. At over double the price, from a betting point of view I would rather be on Sir Dancealot at 10s.
The feature of day one is the Musidora Stakes, a traditionally strong trial for the Epsom Oaks. This race is over 1m2f, while the Oaks is over 1m4f and that makes a big difference for me. If you are asking me which horse I think will win the Musidora I will say Give And Take, but if you’re asking which out of these has the best chance in the Oaks, I’d say Highgarden. I think the Gosden trained Highgarden is the best horse in the race, but I think she desperately needs further than this, and will come into her own over the 1m4f trip. Give And Take looks set to handle this trip better, and that can be the difference, although I am expecting a good, close race between a number of interesting fillies. At 4/1 I’m happy to chance Give And Take.
My betting slows down as the day goes on and the only one of interest to me in the 4:35 is Excellent Times. He ran nicely over five furlongs on his reappearance despite that being a trip too short and then was drawn out wide at Chester. If you take that form line out of the equation, his Thirsk run makes him an interesting contender. He should be sharp after those runs, and today’s track and distance could be what brings out the very best in him. At 10/1 he is worth a small interest, although this is an extremely tough race and multiple runners have chances.
I’ll not be having a bet in this race unless something catches my eye. I’ve seen there has been money for Rathbone and Charming Kid already which is no surprise. Both Kevin Ryan and Richard Fahey often send out some of their best two years olds at York, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if their representatives were amongst the best they have this season. I thought Mayson Mac ran nicely when winning on debut and I’d like to see him run well here to give the form some credibility, it’ll likely take something nice to beat him.
Nothing much catching my eye in the finale either, although I will take a chance on Regal Mirage. He won nicely up in Scotland last time out, and won four on the bounce last season so he clearly knows where the winning post is. He has a penalty to carry here, and steps up into a much better race but he came away nicely when winning at Hamilton, and that makes him worth a punt against some southern raiders who look to be unexposed and could be anything. At 14/1 off a low weight, he has enough going for him to make him worth a small punt in the last.