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Eyes on the Derby as Knavesmire stages Dante Stakes
Derby clues may be forthcoming in the Betfred Dante Stakes, but for North Yorkshire trainer David Barron the only race that matters on Knavesmire tomorrow comes just over an hour later.
The British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Sprint Conditions Stakes is the target for the most exciting prospect Barron has had in ages – Pearl Secret is a fast-rising star.
Triumphant on this course last October on his one and only juvenile start, Pearl Secret was spoken about by Barron in hugely glowing terms, which was startlingly significant given that the trainer is normally fairly reserved with his opinions.
Pearl Secret re-appeared at Doncaster last month. Not only did he win by a wide margin, he scored in eye-catching style, coming from last to first without Jamie Spencer asking him for anything like a major effort.
Those two outings have earned Pearl Secret a handicap rating of 101, which speaks volumes.
Tomorrow, when he is out of handicap company and taking on some very talented sprinters, will tell us much more about Pearl Secret. He will need to be very good to win. I believe he is, and he earns the nap vote.
Classic pretenders will be strutting their stuff in the Dante, which has such a excellent record of proving a valuable stepping stone to the Derby.
Bonfire is a horse held in very high regard by Andrew Balding, while Godolphin’s Mandaean is unbeaten in two starts.
John Gosden’s Fencing finished fourth in the 2,000 Guineas and Ernest Hemingway (only runs if the ground dries out further) won his only race at Dundalk for Aidan O’Brien with impressive ease.
It is not easy to get an accurate handle on this race, but Ektihaam makes appeal. His only defeat last season came in the Dewhurst Stakes and he scored on his re-appearance in desperate ground at Newbury.
He might well be good enough for this Group 2 test, the only pity is Paul Hanagan is unable to take the mount, through suspension. His place on the Roger Varian-trained colt is taken by Tadhg O’Shea, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s second jockey.
Northern hopes rest on Ptolemaic, trained by Bryan Smart and a creditable seventh in the 2,000 Guineas. He needs to step up again as he tackles this longer distance.
Richard Fahey, six-times leading trainer at York, has chances of adding to his tally of Knavesmire winners. Irish Heartbeat, one of his two runners in the opening Betfred Mobile Sports Handicap, ran well enough at Newmarket on his re-appearance to suggest he can be involved in the finish.
Fahey also saddles two in the Betfred Hambleton Stakes in Justonefortheroad and Common Touch. Both can be expected to go well, but this may be won by Fury, third in the Lincoln, second in the Newbury Spring Mile and third in a Newmarket handicap.
Izzi Top did enough when winning the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket to suggest she will be hard to beat in the Betfred Middleton Stakes, while Brian Ellison’s in-form Lifetime has good prospects of completing a hat-trick of wins in the Investec Specialist Bank Handicap.
1.30 Gatewood, 2.00 York Glory, 2.30 Twirl, 3.00 Mayson, 3.35 Mica Mika, 4.10 Tatlisu (NAP), 4.45 Baccarat.
Today’s other meetings: Bath, Fontwell, Lingfield and Perth.
1.30 Irish Heartbeat, 2.00 Izzi Top, 2.30 Ektihaam, 3.00 Fury, 3.35 Pearl Secret (NAP), 4.10 Artigiano, 4.45 Lifetime.
5.20 Rhamnus, 5.55 Afnoon, 6.25 Haajes, 7.00 Continuum, 7.35 Moshaagib, 8.05 Fort Bastion, 8.35 Chain Of Events.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Folkestone, Ludlow, Perth and Salisbury.