I am delighted to say that I’ll be at the Knavesmire this week, for York’s Dante meeting. I am looking forward to a week that has potential clues for both the Derby and Oaks, courtesy of the Dante and Musidora Stakes, two of the key Epsom trials.
All selections are from Wednesday, our first selection coming in the highly competitive Group 2 Duke of York Blue Square Stakes. The field has 14 confirmed runners, including last year’s winner Prime Defender and Group One winners Regal Parade and Markab. Other contenders include the in-form Richard Fahey trained Rose Blossom, and Dalghar, who has multiple placed efforts in Group company to his name and is now trained by Andrew Balding.
It‘s difficult to see beyond two horses in this field. The first is ‘Sprint King’ Dandy Nicholls’ trained REGAL PARADE. He ran a solid enough race on his return from a break behind Lolly for Dolly over 7 furlongs in the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh. He looked sharp enough before fading in the closing stages, 6 furlongs is his optimum trip and the ground may be perfect at good to soft, as it was for his Prix Maurice de Gheest victory last term.
The major threat to Regal Parade looks to me to be the Goldolphin trained DELEGATOR, who has run well when fresh in the past. He is returning after a six length defeat to the wonder mare Goldikova in the Breeders Cup Mile last November. A good traveller, with plenty speed, this type of race could be ideal. Frankie Dettori has a fantastic record at York, and his pace could be very dangerous.
A twenty runner handicap over a mile and a half on the Knavesmire may sound like a daunting prospect, but it could be easier to unpick than perhaps it seems at first glance. In the 3:35 at York, a class four handicap, there are many exposed horses, many of whom have had 10+ runs since their debuts. The exception to this is HUFF AND PUFF from the Amanda Perrett yard. The four-year-old was tipped here on his recent run three weeks ago at Bath, and the money came for him, being backed into 11/10 favourite from 11/4. It was a solid run, and a great ride from Neil Callan, doing the minimum on the horse. Callan retains the ride and is 2/2 on board, and we are hoping he’ll make it three from three.
Our final selection is the best bet of the day and is the Barry Hills trained SHROPSHIRE; who was expected to achieve great things as a two year old. He went off joint second favourite in the Gimcrack (Group 2) after an impressive maiden win, and was a 16-length 10th of 11 runners. But analysing the form of that race further, he was behind a field of very good runners. The winner, Approved, went on to place in good company later in the season. Dubawi Gold, last that day, went onto win two listed races en route to finishing second behind the champion two year old Frankel in the 2000 Guineas. Shropshire’s run in the Greenham was respectable and should have put him spot-on for this.
2.00 York – Shropshire 3pt Win NAP
3.00 York – Regal Parade 2pt Win Delegator 1pt Win
3.35 York – Huff and Puff 1pt EW