Dante Meeting Day One: Varian At The Double
Trials season moves into top gear this week, with what for many is the most influential Derby prep race of them all; York’s Dante Stakes. That trial for flat racing’s Blue Riband is just one of 21 contests held over the three days on the Knavesmire though, and here we pick out our standout bets on the opening Wednesday
2:20 Sky Bet First Race Special Jorvik Handicap
Take Charlie Appleby to land the opener with his Cape Cross gelding, Hamada. This one boasted pretty smart from as a two year old behind the likes of Glencadam Glory and Atty Persse, who are now rated 110 and 101 respectively. Having missed his entire three year old campaign, he has clearly had his issues, but returned to the track on the back of a 572 day break last time out at Wolverhampton and scored in good style off a mark of 87. A rise to 92 doesn’t look particularly harsh given how long he had been away from the racecourse and we suspect their may be more to come.
The form of those to finish in behind has been a bit mixed in all honesty, but Star Of The East finished over 13l adrift of Hamada that day before going on to land a competitive contest at Chester last week off a mark of 85.
Tip: Hamada to win @ 9/4 with Coral
4:35 Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap
This looks competitive as one would expect of a 16-runner handicap at this meeting. Richard Fahey’s Clubbable probably does possess the ability to have a say off a mark of 81, but doesn’t look the easiest horse to win with, having had to drop back into Novice company to score at the eighth time of asking last season. Three Saints Bay does look dangerous for David O’Meara, having already won at the trip and confirmed his wellbeing with a win at Pontefract on his seasonal return. However, he may just struggle to give 7lbs and a beating to another in the line-up.
The one we like here is the Roger Varian runner, Flavius Titus. This one got outpaced a little mid race at Lingfield last time out, with the short straight never likely to play to the strengths of one who seems to like to build up a head of steam. He nevertheless closed all the way to the line to go down by just 1 ¾l in the end.
The longer run in at Kempton seemed to suit much better at the backend of last season where he came out on top despite his rider dropping his whip. That spoke well both for his ability to see out this distance and his attitude. A mile may prove ideal in time, but a stiff 7f in a strongly run handicap ought to suit and that’s just what he gets here.
Tip: Titus Livius to win
5:35 Oaks Farm Stables Handicap
A competitive handicap over the Derby trip of 1m4f rounds off the opening days action, and it is another runner going in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum made famous by the likes of Postponed and Defoe who catches our eye here.
It has been a case of slowly, slowly with Zeelander in his career to date. The four year old will be having just his fifth career start here, but on the evidence of his last run at Windsor, the patience of connections may well be rewarded this term.
On what was his first run over this sort of trip on good ground, he took a while to find full stride, but once he did, he asserted his authority in conclusive style in the closing stages to score by a length. He had the look of one who was still learning the game that day, and with the winter on his back, we fully expect a further step forward this season.
Admittedly that was only a Class 5 handicap and this will demand more, but with his only two full siblings having reached ratings of 96 and 109, there must be a fair chance he has enough in hand to land this off a mark of 76.
Tip: Zeelander to win