York’s Dante Festival holds importance for more than just the classic generation, as it signals the beginning of the Long Distance division of the QIPCO Champions Series with the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup – the feature race on the final day of the meeting.
The logical place to start is with last year’s winner, Clever Cookie, who came out on top in what looked a substandard renewal for this grade 12 months ago. This is his first run of the season, and whilst that isn’t a cause for concern (he won the Ormonde Stakes at Chester on reappearance in 2015), history is against him in that no winner of this race has won the Yorkshire Cup on more than one occasion since 1981. To add to that, Clever Cookie looked as if his best days were behind him on his final start in the Doncaster Cup last September, having seemingly gone off the boil for the season, and is best watched here with something to prove.
One with Group 1 form to her name is Simple Verse, the 2015 St Leger winner, who herself was off the pace in the first half of last season, before Ralph Beckett produced an excellent training performance as she won the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September after a three month break. That run was followed by a respectable third in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot, and whilst she could potentially play a big part, the fact that she has generally shown stronger form in the latter stages of the season means others are therefore preferred from a betting perspective.
Another with St Leger form is John Gosden’s Muntahaa, marginal favourite at the time of writing, who improved markedly through his three-year-old season, before finishing fourth in the Doncaster classic on his final start of the campaign. Muntahaa’s progression has continued this term, with the four-year-old following up a solid reappearance when fourth at the Lincoln meeting with a Group 3 success at Newbury last month. Whilst he seemingly didn’t stay the distance in the St Leger last season, he was given an aggressive ride that day, and is worth another chance at this sort of trip with a change in tactics. However, given the fact that his stamina is under question, he’s best opposed at his current price in the market, with co-market leader and Timeform top-rated Dartmouth the preferred option at 4/1.
Sir Michael Stoute’s five-year-old looked a Group 1 horse in waiting last year, putting in a career-best performance to win the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Dartmouth has hinted on a few occasions that further would suit, but that victory in the Hardwicke afforded a tilt at a weak renewal of the King George VI Stakes, before remaining at middle distances for two more starts last term. Owned by the Queen, Dartmouth is the class act in this field, and he can use this race as a springboard to picking up an elusive win at the highest level later in the season.
Endless Time built on a highly progressive three-year-old season by taking the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks on reappearance last July, before three tries at the highest level. She looked amiss in the first of those, the Yorkshire Oaks, but looked better than ever in the Prix Vermeille at Chantilly. Charlie Appleby’s mare showed this distance would be no problem when second on her final start over 1m7f at Saint-Cloud in October, and she has to enter calculations receiving weight all-round. Crimean Tatar is lightly raced with just three starts, but has improved markedly for each run, winning a listed contest at Kempton on his final start at two. He ran close to form in Group 3 company on reappearance at Newbury last month, and remains open to improvement, but this rates as his toughest task to date.
Back Dartmouth in the Yorkshire Cup at 4/1