York Racecourse gets its season underway with the three day Dante Festival taking place this week starting on Wednesday through to Friday.
Prize money over the three days of the Dante Festival has risen for the sixth year in succession, increasing by £45,000 again this year to £1.2m. With a feature race taking place on each day of the Festival, the York season begins with a feast of top quality racing on the Knavesmire.
Wednesday’s £100,000 Tattersalls Musidora is just one of the races this week that offers a six figure sum to connections. A feature race for three year old fillies, the Musidora has proved to be a greater pointer to the Investec Oaks, with six fillies going on to achieve Classic glory. Typically, fillies from the Musidora return as older horses to contest the Group Two Middleton Stakes on Thursday. So Mi Dar, the 2016 winner, will be following that exact same route.
Wednesday also sees the sprinters going to post in the Group Two Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, run over six furlongs. This year’s renewal will see last year’s winner, Magical Memory, take on a whole host of proven speedsters.
The Dante, the race so named to honour the last Yorkshire trained winner of the Derby back in 1945, is held on Thursday. This Group Two contest, now offers a prize fund of £165,000. The Dante winner has gone on to win the Investec Derby ten times, with Golden Horn the last to achieve that impressive feat two seasons ago.
The British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes for three-year-old sprinters is one of three Listed contests during the Festival to see its prize money rise to £50,000. This race also takes place on Thursday.
Friday’s feature race is The Yorkshire Cup, with £165,000 on offer to the leading stayers over one mile and three-quarters, making it a valuable Group Two “Cup” race. Friday’s renewal is part of the Qipco British Champions Series, the first of five York races that make up a special series of top races in Britain.
Let’s look at each day of the Dante Festival in some depth:
John Gosden is double-handed in Wednesday's Musidora Stakes for fillies, courtesy of Shutter Speed and Icespire.
“Shutter Speed is a good filly and has always looked our best middle-distance three-year-old filly. She ran well last year when it was soft and we are heading towards the Musidora at York with her.” said Gosden after her Newbury win.
“Her pedigree is quick. The mother is by Oasis Dream and a mile and a quarter may be her perfect trip, but we will see.”
Shutter Speed is the 4/5 favourite with the bookmakers in a race were just eight runners are declared.
Magical Memory is set to begin his bid for sprinting honours this Flat season by attempting back-to-back victories in the Duke of York Stakes on Wednesday. The five-year-old enjoyed his finest hour in 2016 when lifting the six-furlong Group Two feature on the Knavesmire, but was unable to reach those heights again during last season.
A setback in the autumn resulted in an early end to his 2016 season, but connections of the Charlie Hills-trained grey are sure he can prove himself one of the best speedsters around.
“He had a little setback in the autumn. He was going to go for a Group Three at Ascot, but he injured his check ligament,” said Sam Hoskins, racing manager to owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds.
“He’s fine now, but that meant he had to miss the Champions Sprint or the Breeders’ Cup. We weren’t sure what to go for. Anyway he’s back now and going really nicely.”
Magical Memory is currently a 11/2 shot to defend his crown.
Godolphin are set to run all five of their entries in the Dante Stakes on Thursday.
Kevin Ryan’s Syphax, David Elsworth’s Swiss Storm, Charlie Appleby’s Wolf Country and Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl will be given the chance to put their Derby credentials on the line on the Yorkshire track.
Permian, trained by Mark Johnston was one of two horses to be supplemented for the race at a cost of £12,000 along with Simon Crisford’s Century Dream. The Godolphin quintet were among 21 accepters at the confirmation stage on Saturday.
John Gosden runs Investec Derby second favourite Cracksman in the race
Gosden's previous Derby winners - Benny the Dip and Golden Horn - also won the Dante before heading to Epsom.
Jockey Frankie Dettori rode Cracksman, sired by Frankel, to victory in a Derby trial two weeks ago and will do so again on Thursday.
Joseph O’Brien , the former Irish champion jockey, is expecting his recent Group Three Ballysax Stakes winner Rekindling to go well on the Knavesmire.
“We just felt York would be a good stepping stone to Epsom. It’s always a very competitive race and we’ll know exactly where we stand afterwards.” said O’Brien after the win.
Fifteen contenders are still in the reckoning for Friday's Yorkshire Cup including last year’s victor, Clever Cookie.
Roger Charlton’s Quest For More will have to concede upwards of 5lb all round due to his Group One victory in the Prix du Cadran last year at Chantilly.
Michael Bell’s popular stayer, Big Orange, will also contest the Cup.
The six-year-old, who won the Goodwood Cup for a second time last season, has come back from his spell in Dubai in good form.
He attempted to make all the running in the Dubai Gold Cup and battled on gamely to finish fourth, beaten just two lengths by Vazirabad.
The Hugo Palmer-trained four-year-old, Crimean Tatar, made good late headway to finish fourth in the John Porter Stakes, beaten two lengths behind winner and St Leger fourth Muntahaa. He looks like he is crying out for this Yorkshire Cup trip of one mile and six furlongs.
We hope you have an enjoyable and profitable Dante Festival!