The Dante Stakes at York’s three-day May meeting is seen as one of the main Derby trials, North Light (2004), Motivator (2005), Authorized (2007) and Golden Horn (2015) all having won the race this century before going on to success in the Blue Riband at Epsom.
John Gosden has a good recent record in the race, winning two of the last three renewals, and he has entered recent Epsom Trial winner Crossed Baton and 2000 Guineas fifth Roaring Lion this time round. The former is a strong, attractive colt who has improved with each start this season, taking the step up in class in his stride at Epsom last time. Admittedly, he was given an enterprising ride that day, but still showed a determined attitude to hold off My Lord And Master, with Dee Ex Bee, who finished second in the Chester Vase on his next start, a length and a quarter further back in third. This will require another step forward, but he has a nice profile and should continue to give a good account.
Roaring Lion put his poor performance in the Craven firmly behind him when back to form behind Saxon Warrior in the Guineas, running close to the level that saw him make a race of it with that same rival in the Racing Post Trophy last season. He might have done even better if he was with the main group in the closing stages, hanging left and ending up isolated on the near rail. This strong-travelling type will be suited by the step up in trip here, and has the ability to win a good race, though whether he will apply himself enough to do so remains to be seen.
Aidan O’Brien has won the Dante four times in total and is usually mob-handed at the five-day stage, but he has left just four in this year. Kew Gardens has the highest Timeform rating but has been declared for Lingfield’s Derby Trial, so is an unlikely runner, and it could be James Cook who is the pick of his quartet. He could only finish fourth to Crossed Baton at Epsom last time, but he shaped better than the distance beaten suggests, in just about the worst position of all in the straight and unsuited by the way the race developed. Also, he didn’t look the finished article, and this brother to the high-class Found could yet have more to offer. Zabriskie finished just over a length behind James Cook, but he didn’t have any excuses, seemingly not getting home over the longer trip, while Full Moon broke his maiden at Dundalk last time and this will require a big leap forward.
You have to go back to 2002 and Moon Ballad for Godolphin’s last winner in the race, but in the shape of Ghaiyyath and Nordic Lights they have two interesting chances. Ghaiyyath was a smart two-year-old, winning the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket on his final start, but is bred to come into his own over middle distances this season, and it has reportedly been the plan to start off in this race. Nordic Lights isn’t cut from the same cloth as his stablemate on paper, but he has shown by winning both of his starts over a mile and a quarter this season that he is a stronger stayer than his pedigree might have you believe. He had the hood removed when maintaining his unbeaten record at Newmarket last month, defying a penalty in the style of a smart prospect, and he seems sure to progress further.
The Tim Easterby-trained Wells Farhh Go is another who has been aimed at the Dante for his seasonal return and he has some good course form to his name. He won both of his starts over seven furlongs here last season, narrowly outpointing the subsequent Greenham Stakes winner James Garfield in the Acomb Stakes on his final start. This step up in trip promises to suit Wells Farhh Go and he shouldn’t be underestimated.
Mark Johnston won the race with Permian last year and the same connections are set to be represented by Mildenberger this time round. He showed useful form last season, producing his best effort when finishing third to Roaring Lion in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, and took another step forward when winning the Fielden Stakes on his return last month. Mildenberger shaped really promisingly with an eye to longer trips, too, his stamina really kicking in late on, and this looks the logical next step.
Of the remainder, the likes of impressive last-time-out winner Merlin Magic and the improving White Mocha are a couple that need considering, and should both be suited by the step up to this trip. The same can be said for Knight To Behold, who has some strong maiden form from last year, and is another bred to improve over middle distances this season. Al Muffrih finished third to Knight of Behold on debut and, though this would be a tough ask on just his second start, he is with a top yard and would need respecting if taking his chance, while Stephensons Rocket was again too keen on his return at Newmarket recently and may prove better over slightly shorter.
This is potentially a very open renewal, with plenty you can make a solid case for, but in terms of both potential and pedigree, Ghaiyyath makes plenty of appeal. He is a top-priced 20/1 for the Derby, but a good showing here and he will be a lot shorter, and he looks the one to side with for a stable that are having a great time of it. Wells Farhh Go isn’t one to underestimate either, while whichever of Aidan O’Brien’s quartet turn up will have to be respected, too.
Back Ghaiyyath at 3/1 in the Dante Stakes at York on Thursday