The York Dante meeting is one of the highlights of the calendar at the historic Knavesmire track, with three brilliant days of top-class group, listed and competitive handicap racing. This year’s ground ‘going’ started good – good-to-soft in places, with some heavy rain easing things on the first day although the ground began to dry out by the start of Friday’s action. 

Here are my highlights from the week in York exclusively for beth.bet

William Haggas makes the perfect start

The popular Yorkshire born trainer got off to the perfect start when his heavily backed ‘Ilaraab’ landed the opening handicap on Wednesday. He looked a very progressive four-year-old on this seasonal debut, confidently ridden from rear by Tom Marquand and running on really strongly to land a hefty gamble down to 7/2 favouritism on the day. This was his sixth win from seven career starts so far, and he looks one to follow when his stamina is drawn out further this summer. Like so many in the past from this stable he has the qualities of a group horse in the making, and he could well step up in class at Royal Ascot in June.

Richard Fahey notches win number 3001

This local trainer landed the big spring handicap on the opening day with ‘Mr. Lupton’, who benefitted from a hold-up ride in a race where the leaders undoubtedly went off far too hard and got tired late on. This was a landmark win for the trainer, who had registered his three thousandth career success earlier in the week, and this popular handicapper was really game in coming from miles off the pace under the veteran rider Paul Hanagan.

York social media sets the standard for the industry

No track is better run than York in the whole country, with superb facilities for racegoers and their pricing policy providing terrific value (unlike so many top tracks). Their constant informing of the public was a real plus as usual over the three days of the Dante meeting. Twitter handles @yorkclerk and @yorkracecourse provided up to date information such as weather, going, stalls positioning etc., giving a vital edge for all punters on the morning of racing. The course has suffered badly through lack of crowds during the global pandemic, and the imminent return of crowds cannot come soon enough to turn round their financial fortunes this summer.

‘Starman’ could be the real deal

Ed Walker’s colt lived up to his name when winning the Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics 6f sprint on Wednesday. His trainer reported afterwards that he is thought to need really fast ground, so the fact that he could put in this brilliant display on slightly eased decent ground marks him down as a very exciting prospect to follow over the next few months. At only four-years-old he is heading to Royal Ascot in June, where the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is on the agenda. He seems sure to take a lot of beating judging by the way he and Haggas trained ‘Nahaarr’ pulled over three lengths clear of the well backed Oxted, and this form appears extremely strong for the grade.

The Musidora Stakes provides a shock result

This race was a real result for bookmakers with two horses heavily backed to the exclusion of all others. ‘Noon Star’ was sent off the 11/10 favourite and Roger Varian’s ‘Teona’ a very strong 2/1 second favourite. It was the layers who were cheering for once as Ryan Moore made all the running on the unconsidered Aidan O’Brien trained outsider ‘Snowfall’ (who had looked exposed last season in a busy campaign). She was slashed for the Epsom Oaks to 4/1 from 25/1 after this impressive display, but as a note of caution to beth.bet subscribers, I felt she was gifted a clear early lead setting a steady un-pestered pace, and whether this form translates to Epsom is another matter altogether.

‘Queen Power’ routs the field under SDS

The Al Basti Middleton Fillies Stakes is a valuable Group 2 on the second day of the Dante meeting, and Sir Michael Stoute’s flying 5-y-o finally dropped the bit in the early stages under Silvestre de Sousa, coming home miles clear under a positive ride. She now reportedly heads to the Irish Pretty Polly Stakes where she will be extremely hard to beat if proving as tractable in the early stages (has often refused to settle and pulled her chances away early). 

The Dante unleashes a Hurricane

The big race of the three days on the Knavesmire saw a very uneasy favourite in “High Definition” of Aidan O’Brien’s. He was thought to be one of the leading Derby contenders over the last few months, but touched 2/1 on the exchanges before the off, and was never really happy under Ryan Moore in the early stages of a true run race. Disappointingly he was niggled along and looked very laboured a long way out, shaping like a sluggard who may be more of a St Leger candidate in the Autumn where his stamina might be an asset. The spoils were landed by Charlie Appleby’s progressive ‘Hurricane Lane’, who maintained his unbeaten record and looks a very smart performer with more improvement to come after just three career starts. He is now quoted at a best priced 15/2 for the Epsom Derby on June 5th.

Lantern lets down punters

Friday’s action saw the one mile listed fillies contest and a very warm favourite in the progressive ‘Snow Lantern’. However, Richard Hannon’s free-going filly let down those supporters who had hammered her down to Even money. Pulling very hard in the early stages and weakening out of things, she will need to settle a lot better to fulfil her potential, and perhaps a more positive ride will be on the cards next time (or a drop back in trip). The winner ‘Primo Bacio’ sprinted clear in the style of a top-class filly and is clearly one to follow up into group company later in the season. Her trainer Ed Walker enjoyed a terrific week and has some really exciting young horse’s worth keeping on side on.

‘Winter Power’ routs her rivals

Tim Easterby’s speedy filly proved a popular winner for Yorkshire when routing the field for the Westow Stakes. She was given her head to make all the running by Silvestre de Sousa and is very much a speedy filly who will be seen to best effect on flat tracks on fast ground this summer. The conditions had dried out rapidly and there was no surprise to see she clocked an excellent time in the process.

The Yorkshire Cup goes to Spanish Mission

One of the highlights of the week is always Friday’s Yorkshire Cup over 1m6f, but this year only attracted a disappointingly five runner field on the rapidly drying ground conditions. Punters latched on to the tough and battle-hardened ‘Sir Ron Priestley’, who was backed down to 11/10 favourite, but faded unusually tamely at the furlong pole (perhaps feeling the effects of a hard race at Newmarket 13 days earlier). This left the way clear for Andrew Balding’s ‘Spanish Mission’ to come through, springing a surprise under William Buick. Balding is in brilliant form (and this was his fourth winner of the afternoon) and is well worth keeping his runners on side over the next few weeks as he unleashes some of his stable stars.

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