WITH the Investec Derby just two weeks away on Saturday, Thursday afternoon’s Dante Stakes (3.30pm) is the last of the recognised trials for the world’s most famous Flat race.
Recently the likes of Motivator, Authorised and Golden Horn have all put their Epsom credentials on the line here at York before going on to Derby glory.
They have followed a well-trodden path that includes some equine greats such as Shirley Heights, Shahrastani and Reference Point.
If there is another Investec Derby winner lurking in today’s field, the betting market suggests it is John Gosden’s unbeaten Cracksman.
The son of Frankel is an 11/4 favourite with Ladbrokes to win this afternoon and a best-priced 7/1 with Coral to go on to land the big one at Epsom next month.
Having won his maiden in good style at Newmarket at the backend of last season, he again impressed when snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in last month’s Investec Derby Trial at Epsom.
He somehow managed to reel in Permian in the shadows of the post and that colt has boosted the form since with a good win at Newmarket.
It’s hard to argue that Cracksman isn’t the one they all have to beat this afternoon as he is bound to have improved since Epsom too.
However, I was never completely comfortable with the way he travelled last time and he will have to step up again to take this.
He shouldn’t be too inconvenienced by the ground if it is soft, although that also raises concerns.
All the money in recent days has been for the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Crystal Ocean, who was 7/1 to land this prize a week ago and 33/1 to win the Investec Derby.
This morning he is as short as 11/4 with Coral to win this afternoon and a best-priced 12/1 to score at Epsom.
That major market move has obviously been sparked by some impressive homework but the value has long gone.
He may well be a future star, but at the current prices that’s not a risk I’m prepared to take.
Instead, I’m prepared to side with the Godolphin colt BENBATL who followed a breathtaking maiden win at Doncaster last month with a decent third in the Craven Stakes.
Saeed bin Suroor landed Lingfield’s Derby Trial on Saturday with Best Solution and his inmate has a far better chance here than the market suggests.
The 8/1 on offer looks too big about a colt crying out for this trip and some soft ground.
It could be a good day for the Godolphin team as I’m also keen on the chances of BRIAN THE SNAIL in the five furlong Listed Westow Stakes (4.35pm).
Richard Fahey’s unbeaten son of Zebedee looked really good over six furlongs at Pontefract on his reappearance, conceding weight to all of his rivals.
On his final start last term, he bolted up by seven lengths on soft ground at Catterick, so there are no fears about his ability to handle conditions.
Fahey hasn’t been able to hide his admiration for this colt and I expect him to get the job done this afternoon before having a crack at next month’s Group One Commonwealth Cup.
His main threats on ratings are Ardad and Afandem, but they both have to carry a penalty and Brian The Snail rates a strong fancy.
Today’s action gets underway with a fiercely competitive looking five furlong sprint handicap (2.20pm), which I’m hoping can go the way of DUKE OF FIRENZE at 7/1 with Ladbrokes for a second year running.
The eight-year-old has to carry top weight and lines up this afternoon off a 13lbs higher mark, but he goes well here at York.
His trainer David Griffiths has his team in rude health at present and made no secret at Chester last week that this afternoon’s race has long been the plan.
My selection really caught the eye when stuck behind a wall of traffic when fourth in that prep race and that will have put him spot on here.
You can make a case out for plenty of his rivals, including Tim Easterby’s East Street Revue, but Duke Of Firenze has that touch of class and will be hard to beat if on a going day.
Duke Of Firenze e/w 2.20pm York
Benbatl e/w 3.30pm York
Brian The Snail 4.35pm York