The Dante meeting is of course the last chance saloon for the Oaks and Derby trials and yet the course bears absolutely zero resemblance to the twists and turns of the Surrey track.
It is the fillies that are on parade in the Musidora Stakes (16:05) and I am uncertain as to why Highgarden is shorter in the betting than Give and Take after both were put to the sword by Crystal Hope at Sandown last month.
There is little doubt that John Gosden’s charge possibly needed the run and pulled pretty hard to boot in the opening exchanges, but she will need to step forward big time here if she is to live up to her home reputation.
But Ceilidhs Dream looked a filly to follow after winning her maiden at Newmarket and in fact did well to win over the bare mile as she was doing enough early on wearing a hood for the first time.
Her breeding suggests that a trip short of eight furlongs would be her preserve, but it’s how they shape up on the track that matters and the daughter of Oasis Dream looks as though she is crying out for a stiffer test of stamina.
As an aside, the aforementioned Crystal Hope is entered at Newbury on Saturday and a big run there would make her my Royal Ascot banker for the Ribblesdale, if she isn’t supplemented for Epsom.
To my eyes course form is an invaluable tool to use at the Knavesmire which is particularly applicable for the hugely competitive handicaps here.
And the sprint handicap at 14:55 falls squarely into that category. I think that Orion’s Bow is ready to strike now that he is down to his new mark of 90, but his record at York is nothing short of abysmal, 15/16 and 18/20. The saving grace is that those runs came off marks of 103 and 99, but with his course record slightly disturbing I shall be backing him up with a saver on the enigmatic George Bowen.
Richard Fahey’s charge has always had bundles of natural ability, but doesn’t care to put his best foot forward every time he steps onto a racecourse.
Last time out at Doncaster he showed that he retains all of that taleen when second to Watchable and with his mark below 90 again I fancy he will play a major part here if managing to stay in touch through the first half of a race. Anything around the 10/1 mark would look solid each-way value.
The opening handicap over just short of a mile and a half at 14:20 looks at the mercy of the very lightly raced Godolphin charge Hamada under the care of Charlie Appleby.
This striking and athletic son of Cape Cross has only visited the race track on four occasions, but each time he’s been stepped up in trip the gelding has taken a huge step forward. Running over a mile and a half for the first time at Wolverhampton at the back end of April, his giant stride simply devoured the ground and the further he went the better he looked.
It is quite easy to envisage William Buick taking the bull by the horns from the start and making this a good test of stamina and galloping the likes of Crowned Eagle and Banksea into the ground.
Harry Angel’s early sizzle is a joy to watch, the way he relishes the job in hand and he looks odds-on to be the champion sprinter this year, but first time out at York could well be the time to oppose him. Last year’s hero, Tasleet, is an obvious player, but is possibly more effective with a bit of give in the ground and the value call could well be Sir Dancealot, taken to reverse Abernant form with Brando with the latter not having the greatest York record.
The three-year-old handicap at 16:35 looks a real nightmare, but I do know that Karl Burke thinks quite a lot of Valdolobo and he possibly did too much early on over a mile at Thirsk last time out. He would be an interesting player if he has learnt plenty from that third career run. In a big field, Cavatina and Poet’s Dawn are just two of many possible players.
In contrast, the class four, mile and a half handicap at the foot of the card (17:35) looks very interesting and I have my eye firmly on Doctor Cross. Yet another son of Cape Cross, this will be his first start over this distance and I think he will take a big step forward for the extra yardage.