York: Epictetus Heads Cast For Wide Open Dante

   With the Derby picture unclear, it is probably welcome that Thursday’s G2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante S. has no stand-out among its dozen participants. George Strawbridge’s TDN Rising Star Epictetus (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) bids to continue the momentum of the Gosdens and Frankie following the Musidora and step forward from his seasonal debut much as his stablemate Soul Sister (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) did on Wednesday. On the face of it, a workmanlike defeat of inferior rivals in Epsom’s 10-furlong Listed Blue Riband Trial would not be enough to ensure favouritism in a race like this but last year’s G1 Futurity Trophy runner-up has a lot of upside.

Dual Honours?

Godolphin already have a tailor-made Derby prospect, but Charlie Appleby would relish another and TDN Rising Star Flying Honours (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) has the right material based on his emphatic Listed Stonehenge S. success in August. Perhaps compromised by easier ground and tactics afterwards, the relative of Lammtarra still managed to add Newmarket’s G3 Zetland S. to his tally and his trainer is bullish. “We know that he gets this trip, having won the Zetland on his final 2-year-old start, and feel that he has the scope to improve again as we step him up over further,” he said. “It looks a competitive renewal of the Dante and whoever wins will be a leading player for the Derby.”

 All Aboard

Sir Michael Stoute carried this off 12 months ago and looks to the Niarchos homebred Passenger (Ulysses {Ire}) to jump into the Derby reckoning following his smooth debut win in Newmarket’s Wood Ditton last month. Supplemented following his withdrawal from Chester’s Listed Dee S. last week, the homebred brings a potential x factor into play. “Passenger was a non-runner at Chester because of soft ground, but should have the perfect ground for him in the Dante,” racing manager Alan Cooper said. “It’s a stepping stone and we’ll see how he takes it, and Sir Michael will then make a plan afterwards. The hope is he is confirms the potential of the Wood Ditton and we can take it from there.”


Like Passenger, Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez’s White Birch (GB) is a son of Ulysses going places and despite his form being there in the book is almost double the price with most bookmakers. His success in Leopardstown’s G3 Ballysax S. was no fluke and the colt he beat there, Up And Under (Fr) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), upheld the form next time when second to what should in all likelihood be the Derby favourite in Sprewell (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) in the G3 Derby Trial. “We couldn’t be happier with him and we’re looking forward to it,” commented George Murphy, assistant to father John. “This is a bigger test again and it will be good to see what White Birch can now do. It looks a very hot race on paper and everyone is going there thinking they have the winner.”

Free Pass

York also stages the G2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Fillies’ S., with another  Strawbridge-Gosdens-Frankie collaboration with the 2021 G2 Park Hill S. and G2 Lancashire Oaks winner Free Wind (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). This extended 10-furlong trip is probably shy of her best and the ground may be too lively, so she has very little to lose as her stable look for clues as to her program. “She has shown good form over a mile and a half to a mile and six, but York is a nice, galloping track and we feel it is a good place to start her off,” Thady Gosden said. “She has enough speed to win over 10 furlongs. She has always had plenty of ability and this will tell us more where she goes afterwards.”

Group 1 Winners Return

Runner-up in this last year, Aristia (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) went on to win Deauville’s G1 Prix Jean Romanet when last seen in August and is penalised as a result. Her course form, which includes a defeat of Alpine Star (Ire) (Sea The Moon {Ger}) in the 2021 Listed Lyric Fillies’ S. over this course and distance, entitles her to respect despite the extra three pounds which also applies to last year’s G1 Preis der Diane heroine Toskana Belle (Fr) (Shamalgan {Fr}). Now racing in the Teruya Yoshida silks with Roger Varian, the GIII Jockey Club Oaks Invitational runner-up is an unknown quantity in this sphere. “She’s a nice filly and has been working well,” her trainer said. “She has some strong 3-year-old form from Germany and America last year, and we’re looking forward to getting her started. I think 10 furlongs on a track like York is a nice starting point for her and will give us a good direction moving forwards.”

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