IT’S NO secret that the Ballydoyle team covet the Investec Derby above all other races and Aidan O’Brien heads to York today to saddle Indian Chief in the Betfred Dante Stakes at 2.45pm, hopeful of adding another string to his bow ahead of next month’s showpiece.
O’Brien has been in scintillating form of late and has won every Derby trial run in Britain or Ireland this year. Sadly this race has been robbed by the absence of winter Derby favourite Telescope, who misses the race through injury, and also Ballydoyle’s Mars.
The latter was meant to be the O’Brien first string here while the former’s absence means Indian Chief has been priced up as if he was the first choice all along which means any value has long gone.
Greatwood ran a cracker on his reappearance but was pulled out of Lingfield’s Derby trial at the weekend due to the soft ground and if conditions on the Knavesmire continue to deteriorate then he’s unlikely to run.
Luca Cumani’s colt was beaten by Windhoek on his first run of the season anyway and that one has since landed Listed honours, maintaining his unbeaten record. Yet I have my doubts about Mark Johnston’s charge at this level.
Things have panned out perfectly for him in two starts this term and he’s unlikely to get it all his own way here. Therefore, the one I like is GHURAIR, beaten by both Greatwood and Windhoek last month, but over-priced at 6/1 with Paddy Power.
The John Gosden yard had him down as a Guineas horse last season before fearing he didn’t quite have the toe for a mile. He probably needed the run on his first run back and the ground should be exactly to his liking.
Gosden is in better form now than he was in April and the champion trainer has the French Derby in mind for this fellow.
The 2.15pm Middleton Stakes looks to have a false favourite in Dalkala. The French raider may be clear on official ratings but she has to carry a penalty as a previous Group Two winner and I’m not convinced the Aga Khan-owned horse wants to be running at 10 furlongs.
She just got away with that trip as a juvenile but wanted and ran well over further last year. She may be found out by CUBANITA for speed here.
Ralph Beckett’s horses are flying and she beat subsequent Dubai Duty Free winner Sajjhaa on her last start. She looks more straightforward than Gosden’s Starscope.
Finally, the Hambleton Stakes (3.15pm) looks a good opportunity for FORT BASTION to complete the hat-trick. A classy three-year-old for Richard Hannon, he had some smart Group form before winning his maiden easily and then beating the useful Starboard.
Now with Ed Dunlop, he looks the most progressive in a moderate looking field and, even off top-weight, should give a good account for Sir Robert Ogden who loves a winner at York.
CUBANITA 2.15pm York
GHURAIR e/w 2.45pm York
FORT BASTION 3.15pm York