Rhododendron Growing For Lockinge
York’s Dante Meeting is usually one of the midweek highlights of the flat season and three days on the Knavesmire is a great way to spend it, whether you’re in one of the private boxes or chilling out with a picnic on the grass in the course enclosure.
The Dante is widely-regarded as the best of the Derby trials as it’s produced four Epsom Derby winners this century. There are also some great supporting races with the Musidora Oaks Trail, the Duke Of York Stakes, and the Yorkshire Cup. You can then catch your breath on Friday before the best of the older milers battle it out in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes on Saturday.
York (Wednesday 16 May)
Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes
The Duke of York Stakes is a Group 2 race run over 6-furlongs at York. It was first run in 1968 and has been won by classy types such as Owington, Lake Coniston, and Society Rock. Horses aged five, six or seven have won eight of the last 10 renewals but four-year-olds have won the last two, though neither of those was asked to carry a Group 1 penalty. Meanwhile, other stats show that only three of the last 10 winners had won last time out, whilst eight of the last 10 winners were returned at double-figure prices. Meanwhile, Jim Crowley has been on board two of the last three winners.
Despite there being a maximum of seven runners, this year’s affair looks a classier than average renewal in which the market is headed by last season’s star 6-furlong sprinter Harry Angel. He’s joined by Brando, who opened his account for the season at Newmarket last time, and last year’s winner Tasleet.
Harry Angel sets a high-standard for the others to aim at but has a few questions to answer having never previously raced at York or on his seasonal debut so far. He also must concede 5lb to his rivals. The plus points are he’s proven on good to firm ground, has loads of early pace, and is rated 10lb+ higher than his rivals. It’s also hard to take him on with Brando, who is no wins from six runs at York. Therefore, it may be Tasleet who can make it three wins from four at York as he has a 7lb pull for a four-lengths beating by Harry Angel at Haydock last season.
The Musidora Stakes is a Group 3 Race for 3-year-old fillies run over a trip of 10 furlongs and 56 yards. It is a recognised trial for the Oaks that is run at Epsom in June and six horses have gone onto complete the Musidora/Oaks double. John Gosden and Frankie Dettori have teamed-up to win the last three renewals, with John Gosden having trained five of the last seven winners.
Gosden and Dettori are set to team-up again with Highgarden who has had two runs, just like four of Gosden’s five previous winners, whilst all of his five winners were also having their second run of the season. She’s heading the market along with Ceilidh’s Dream who won over a mile on her seasonal debut but isn’t bred to stay this extra trip being by Oasis Dream.
This is not necessarily a two-horse race though with local trainer William Haggas represented by Give And Take, whilst Ejtyah and Dancing Brace Bear are both unbeaten. However, John Gosden must be respected with such a brilliant recent record in the race and so many high-quality fillies in his stable to choose from.
York (Thursday 17 May)
The Dante Stakes is a Group 2 Race for three-year-old colts that serves as a trial for the Derby which is run at Epsom in June. It is run over the same distance at the Musidora Stakes a day earlier of 10 furlongs and 56 yards. The race has produced several horses this century that have completed the Dante/Derby double including North Light, Motivator, and Authorized. The last horse to complete the double was Golden Horn in 2015, whilst his trainer John Gosden also won the race in 2016 with Wings Of Desire. He side-stepped last year’s race with Cracksman though, for whom victory would have brought up a hat-trick of Musidora/Dante doubles for Gosden. Gosden looks sure to have a strong representative this year though as he has the 2,000 Guineas fifth Roaring Lion entered, as well as Crossed Baton who won the same classic trial at Epsom that Cracksman had won the year before.
Last year’s winning trainer Mark Johnston also looks likely to be represented by Mildenburger who won at Newmarket at the Guineas Meeting, whilst Aidan O’Brien has several possible entries, though he hasn’t won this race since 2010. Therefore, Crossed Baton could be the one.
York (Friday 18 May)
The Yorkshire Cup started in 1927 and is now a Group 2 Race run over 13 furlongs and 188 yards. It is open to horses aged four and older and has been won by the likes of Red Cadeaux, Dartmouth, and Snow Sky in recent years. The last two of those horses were trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who has trained four of the last nine winners of the race, but hasn’t got an entry this year. Therefore, John Gosden, who last enjoyed success in the race in 2011 with Duncan, could be looking for a Musidora, Dante and Yorkshire Cup treble with Frankie Dettori booked to ride last year’s Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius.
However, Ryan Moore looks an interesting booking for Max Dynamite. Moore has been aboard the last four Stoute trained winners of this race and, in the absence of a Stoute or Aidan O’Brien runner, Moore has been snapped-up by Willie Mullins to do the steering on a horse who was third in last year’s Melbourne Cup and sixth in a Group 1 behind Highland Reel at Sha Tin in Hong Kong. Admittedly, he has flopped twice since over hurdles, but should be suited by a return to a sound surface at a course where he won a Group 2 on his only previous visit.
Newbury (Saturday 19 May)
The Lockinge Stakes
The Lockinge Stakes is the first big Group 1 action of the season for horses that are aged four or older and it takes place over a straight one mile at Newbury. It was first run in 1958 and is now part of the lucrative Qipco Champions Series. The race has been won by some of the best milers around in recent years, with a role of honour that includes Frankel, Hawk Wing, Paco Boy, Canford Cliffs, Frankel, Farhh, and Ribchester.
This year’s market is currently headed by Rhododendron for Aidan O’Brien and, though she proved second best over a variety of trips last season, she could play a leading role here back at a mile on fast ground in what doesn’t look a vintage renewal. The colts will have to give her 3lb and only her stablemate Deauville and the high-class sprinter Limato are entitled to do that on the ratings. However, respectively, they may be better at longer and shorter distances.
There are two horse that could continue on their upward curves this year though in Addeyb and Beat The Bank, though the former’s improved form this year has come on ground with plenty of cut in it. Beat The Bank could be interesting though as his sire Paco Boy won the 2010 renewal.