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Timefigure review: York Dante Festival

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Timeform's Research and Development team look at the best timefigure performances at the York Dante Festival, including an outstanding performance from Harry Angel in the Duke of York Stakes.

Day One

The Duke of York Stakes featured a single-figure field for the first time this century, but ranks as an outstanding winning performance by Harry Angel, who ran right up to his best (132) in defying a penalty and beating Brando by two lengths.

Outsider Ornate took them along at a steady gallop, with Harry Angel racing freely just in behind, before he was let loose around two furlongs out. The pace contributed to a timefigure of 121, the third-highest on the Flat in 2018, and Harry Angel’s final three furlongs of 34.30 seconds (103.3%) gained a tiny sectional upgrade.

The Musidora wasn’t a strong renewal, the winner, Give And Take, emerging with a rating as low as any previous winner this century. The race was slowly run, producing a slow timefigure (70), with the first six finishing in something of a heap, and no significant sectional upgrades. On historical standards of what’s needed at Epsom, these fillies - five of whom hold Oaks entries - will collectively need to do a lot more to make any impact, though the same can be said of many of the trials this spring.

George Bowen was an impressive six-length winner of the Infinity Tyres Handicap, posting a personal-best performance, from rather out of the blue, but the timefigure is good, at 113, largely thanks to the strong pace set by eventual second Foolaad. However, these sort of full-throttle efforts are easier explained than reproduced.

The closing handicap looks form worth following, the race boasting a good timefigure (95), virtually in line with the winner’s performance rating. Reverend Jacobs got a fine ride from the front under James Doyle, finishing slightly faster (102.7%) than par, and both he and the heavily-supported second, Zeelander, who did very well from further back than ideal, are two up-and-coming handicappers to follow.

Day Two

The headline act from day two was certainly Roaring Lion, who ran away with the Dante, though in form terms it was actually no better than he managed for fifth in the Guineas. The race, more a test of speed than stamina, played to Roaring Lion’s strengths, running the final three furlongs in 33.95 seconds, a finishing speed of 110.2% and a 17 lb upgrade on a timefigure of 94. It’s by no means the first time that Roaring Lion has shown such gears and speed, remembering the Racing Post Trophy, when he quickened sharply from last to first, all the way past Saxon Warrior at one point, before leaning left and succumbing to the Derby favourite in the final 100 yards.

That turn of foot is a valuable asset to have in any high-quality race, and, while he briefly edged left in the Dante, this performance washed away most of the doubts surrounding his application following the Craven and Guineas. The question now is which Derby, as he’ll have a mile and a half and Saxon Warrior to contend with at Epsom, whereas the French equivalent over a shorter distance, with probably lighter opposition, looks like being more up his street, considering his mechanics, along with the fact that Chantilly is less of an invitation for him to sway and swerve than the contours and camber of Epsom.

The Middleton Stakes was won by Coronet, having contested Group 1 races in six of her seven starts in 2017, and she essentially outclassed her rivals, dipping down to a Group 2 company. It was a steadily-run race (105.2% finishing speed) which hardly played to her deep stamina (contested St Leger last year), and resulted in a timefigure of 106, with a sectional upgrade of 7 lb for Coronet.

The opening five-furlong handicap was won by El Astronaute, who ran right up to his best, with the timefigure (109) backing the form up. As often happens on York’s sprint track, a funnel of speed, the leaders were hard to peg back, and the front wave of three through the race - El Astronaute, Dark Shot and Carlton Frankie – were still all there at the end, running fast and efficiently, with a three-furlong finishing speed of 101.0%.

Afaak put his disappointing reappearance behind him to win the slowly-run mile handicap (106.1% finishing speed), which compromised the timefigure (97). He quickened smartly, covering the final three furlongs in 34.60 seconds, warranting an 11 lb sectional upgrade. He’s open to further improvement, whatever his path from now on, his new rating of 113p entitling him to aim higher than handicaps.

Day Three

Stradivarius made it clear he’s the best stayer of his generation with an emphatic win in the Yorkshire Cup at the end of a well-run race which generated a very good timefigure (120), the second-highest (bettered only by Harry Angel) over the three days. Returning from seven months off, he was confidently ridden and put the race to bed when called upon, meaningfully still looking full of running at the line.

The race tested stamina to the full and, coupled with his laid-back style, it only increases his chances of staying the Gold Cup trip at Royal Ascot, where he will likely meet Order of St George. Stradivarius has had a ‘p’ attached to his rating, in the belief of a bigger performance in him, with youth on his side. The 2017 Leger form, where he finished third, is working out particularly well, with other Doncaster participants doing very well themselves this year, notably Crystal Ocean, Defoe and the aforementioned Coronet.

The closing handicap was a slowly-run affair but nevertheless a solid timefigure (92), with a pair of Mark Johnston improvers pulling six length clear of the remainder. The winner, Baghdad, was ridden more prominently than the second, Making Miracles, who was around three lengths down at the three-furlong pole.

Under the circumstances, Making Miracles did very well to get so close, while clearing away from the rest, given the run of the race, and there’s a case for saying he was the best horse in the race, factoring in his 9 lb sectional upgrade, though that underplays the feeling that the winner, who’s by Frankel, might have had a bit in hand. Nevertheless, Making Miracles has been added as a sectional horse to follow for his next start.

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