Elm Park intrigue for Dante
The Dante Stakes at York is a race that has long been recognised as the most informative of Derby Trials and that looks certain to be the case again this year with five of the top eight in the betting for this year's Epsom Derby meeting in tomorrow's Group Two contest.
The John Gosden-trained Jack Hobbs currently heads the Derby betting and is the likely favourite for tomorrow's feature, despite taking a somewhat unusual route, for the most sought after of Classic races on the calendar (having won his maiden on the all-weather in late December and then winning a handicap at Sandown off a mark of 85 last month).
Aidan O'Brien will saddle two runners in the race with Ryan Moore aboard the one-time Derby favourite John F Kennedy who was eased remarkably in the betting when he finished a long way third in the Ballysax behind subsequent Derrinstown winner Success Days, while Joseph O'Brien will again renew his association with Ol' Man River who never got into the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and was eased down early by the rider.
Another intriguing aspect to this year's Dante is the inclusion of Andrew Balding's Elm Park, who bypassed the opening Classic at Newmarket when the ground came up a shade quick for connections liking. Balding is keeping the faith with the Qatar Racing owned colt.
Balding said yesterday: "It has been a bit tricky as he was at his peak ready to run in the Guineas but the main thing is the horse has to run in a trial and get his season going.
"Whatever he does at York, I think he will come on for the run. If he performs up to our expectations at York, I think he can have a big impact on the Investec Derby."
In the last week or so Aidan O'Brien has seen a number of his horses overturned in potential Derby Trials and with the clock ticking down to the first Saturday in June, he has opted to run two in the Dante as has John Gosden, who will team up with his former stable jockey William Buick again with Golden Horn.
That horse is as short as 16/1 in places for the Derby.
Gosden saw his Coolmore-owned Christophermarlowe defeated at odds-on by Ballydoyle's Kilimanjaro in last Saturday's Lingfield Derby Trial.
Trainer Barry Hills runs Group Two runner-up Nafaqa in a race that promises to be one of the most intiruging of the season so far and the field is completed by outsiders Medrano and Lord Ben Stack.
Dante Stakes - BoyleSports Bet: Jack Hobbs 9/4, Elm Park 3/1, John F Kennedy 7/2, Golden Horn 5/1, Ol' Man River 8/1, Nafaqa 14/1, Medrano 33/1, Lord Ben Stack 50/1