The Dante Stakes has always been perceived as an outstanding trial for the Epsom Derby with Golden Horn (2015) the most recent thoroughbred to complete the double.
It would seem an unlikely follow-up such is the difference in terrain between the two tracks, but the timing of this extended 10 furlong event fits in snuggly with the Blue Riband event on the first Saturday in June.
With Saxon Warrior sitting on top of the Derby betting it would take an almighty performance from any of the nine declared runners at 15.30 to make waves in the betting.
Crossed Baton was more workmanlike than impressive when landing the Epsom Derby Trial last month but is at least heading in the right direction, while Mildenberger (Feilden Stakes) and Roaring Lion (5th in the 2,000 Guineas) will both have their supporters.
However, this race is prone to producing the odd surprise and I think we will get another one here in the form of White Mocha (E/W).
Hugo Palmer’s charge was never going to be a match for Masar in the Craven Stakes and was predictably outpaced over the Rowley Mile to the tune of eight lengths.
However, he looked badly in need of the experience that day and with the winner franking the form in the 2,000 Guineas, I think that this son of Lope De Vega is over priced at 10/1 and looks the natural each-way fit.
But by far the best bet of the afternoon comes in the form of AFAAK in the Hambleton Handicap at 16.05.
This lightly raced four-year-old simply got stuck in the gluey conditions at Newbury when contesting the Spring Cup and this better going will be much more to his taste.
Sent off at only 8/1 in last year’s Brittania Stakes at Royal Ascot, a mark of 97 should prove well within his capabilities this year and he will be well served by a likely fast run race here with so many pressers in the line-up.
Roussel showed a very high cruising speed and a fine turn of foot to land the Bawtry Novice Stakes at Doncaster last time out and I think will be even better served by the drop to the minimum trip in the Westow Stakes at 16.35.
The closing two-mile handicap due off at 17.35 is worth a double stab at with Graceland sure to be a double figure price. He will probably need a career best to land this, but finished an honourable second in this race last year on ground softer than ideal.
Back him up with Kajaki from the in-form Kevin Ryan yard. Regarded as a potential Ebor horse, this solid stayer looked badly in need of his first run at Thirsk this season and can show the benefit of that outing by going close here; combine the two in a reverse forecast to boot.
Coronet is head and shoulders above her rivals in terms of class in the Middelton Stakes at 14.55, but I am hugely worried by the trip and the prevailing fast ground and the value is definitely lies with former South African filly Smart Call. She will relish the return to this distance on fast ground and could make up into a grade one charge this season.
Finally, have a second look at veteran speedster Line of Reason in the opening class two handicap sprint at 14.20.
Paul Midgley’s charge has been given a massive chance by the handicapper to make a mark here off a rating of 92 (placed off 102 last year) and if emerging on terms he could shake-up his younger less exposed rivals in this Knavesmire tear-up.