It is the opening day of the 2018 Dante Festival in York on Wednesday and as ever at this meeting on the Knavesmire there is some top class racing on show. We’ll preview the big race on Day 1 which we don’t have a bet in and then go through the races on the card where we do.
4.05 York: Musidora Stakes
The Musidora is a key Oaks trial & 5 of the 7 in this field have an entry for the big one at Epsom next month. Highgarden leads the market at 5/2 and is 25/1 for the Oaks, with the other 4 entries all trading at 50/1 or bigger for next month’s Classic.
Highgarden looked a real prospect last year when winning her only start at Newbury but failed to build on that when only 3rd on her reappearance at Sandown where one of today’s rivals, Give And Take, finished in front in 2nd that day. I fancy the favourite to get back on track but she’s no certainty so I can’t be taking her at the current price.
Ceilidhs Dream is 1 of the 2 without an entry for the Oaks & she is likely to prove the biggest danger to the favourite. She won her maiden on her reappearance showing a good attitude to get up close home & is trained by Ralph Beckett who excels with his fillies. 3/1 is a true enough reflection of her chance and, whilst I see this as a Highgarden / Ceilidhs Dream match, I’m struggling to pick one of the above so will take a watching brief only.
The rest of the card, however, brings about 4 bets from 3 handicaps:
Despite there being only 8 runners, this is a cracking handicap to start us off. Half the field come here having won last time out on the all-weather but all 4 have something to prove on grass off their revised marks. That includes the 5/2 market leader, Hamada.
Crowned Eagle is another of the 4 to come here having won on the all-weather, where he landed a good prize by making all in the Rosebery at Kempton. Our bet, however, comes in the form of Tuff Rock who was 1 length back in 4th that day. The race wasn’t totally run to suit as those right up with the pace dominated so it’s easy to see him turning the tables, especially over a furlong further & with the longer straight in his favour.
He was beaten last time out in a Thirsk handicap over this distance but he was only done on the head bob & can be expected to improve again. Admittedly it took some time for him to hit top gear but this track will play to his strengths. He’s only a 4 year old, with only 8 runs to his name, and will continue to improve. I fancy him to win a decent handicap before long & this looks an ideal opportunity with the yard in good nick. The only slight downside is the fact this is his first time on fast ground but, at the price, it’s worth chancing the fact he’ll act on firm as well as he does on soft.
Back Tuff Rock (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 9.00 Bet365 BOG (¼ odds 1-3)
A 6 furlong handicap with 19 runners is never the easiest puzzle to solve. Tim Easterby saddles the favourite amongst his 3 runners, with Orions Bow currently on offer at 5/1.
I fancy one of his other runners, Golden Apollo, who makes his seasonal reappearance here. Now a 4 year old, he’s a winner of 4 of his 15 career starts, with all 4 being over this trip. In fact, his record over this trip in handicaps is an impressive 4 wins from 8, and he’s finished placed in 2 of other 4 runs.
Good to firm ground suits, with him winning both handicaps on fast ground; 1st of 17 at Doncaster off 75 and 1st of 18 over this course & distance off 86. He continues to go up the weights but that’s in light of some top class sprint form. He races off 98 here but still has improvement in him.
In the latter half of his 3 year old year, he won at Ascot off 95 before running 3rd off 99 on ground that was probably too soft. On his last run, over this course & distance, he started slowly & was always up against it after that. However, despite finishing 9th of 20, he was under 4 lengths behind the winner (reopposes today) but less than 2 lengths behind the 2nd as they finished in somewhat of a heap. He’s 6lb better off with the winner, having been dropped 1lb to 98, & should turn the tables if he breaks on terms.
He’s drawn around the pace with the 3 likely to make the running drawn with 2 stalls of him either side so that’s another positive. The only slight negative for me is that this is his first run for 214 days but odds of 16/1 more than compensate. If fit & ready to run, he’s certain to outrun his odds.
Back Golden Apollo (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 17.00 Boylesports BOG (¼ odds 1-4)
Back it here:
20 runners over a mile and a half to finish the day, with Zeelander an incredibly short priced favourite at less than 3/1. He has potential but that’s all he has; on what he’s achieved on the track, he isn’t ahead of the handicapper & his absence from the track is a worry.
I like 2, the first being Doctor Cross. Even over this trip, the draw is important so coming out of stall 6 is a positive. He’s a maiden after 8 starts but is surely to land a handicap off his current mark of 75 off the back of his 3 most recent starts. 2nd at Beverley before running a creditable 5th at Newmarket, less than 3 lengths behind Celestial Spheres who is now rated 97. He reappeared at Haydock & ran 3rd behind Stonific (who has since followed up) where the first 4 came miles clear of the rest. He was tenderly handled that day & looked open to loads of improvement. A step up in trip is sure to suit & the faster ground should hold no fears. 16/1 looks a massive price.
Another at a big price is Je Suis Charlie who has moved yards over the winter. He had a decent season last year running well in a number of handicaps, most recently when winning off 77 & finishing 2nd off 83. His last flat run was here over an extra 2 furlongs off this mark where he finished 5th of 13 behind Brimham Rocks; that was a Class 2 & he’s now back down 2 grades into a Class 4. He then moved to his current yard where he’s had 3 races over hurdles, finishing in the first 3 on all 3 runs. There’ll be no issues over fitness & he has form on the ground so 20/1 is more than fair for this relentless gallopper.
Back Doctor Cross (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 Bet365 BOG (¼ odds 1-4)
Back Je Suis Charlie (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 21.00 William Hill BOG (¼ odds 1-4)