Bolshoi Ballet put down a strong marker for the Cazoo Derby last Sunday but the pivotal trial for the Epsom Classic is often the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes and Thursday’s renewal at York is loaded with intrigue.
Long-time Derby ante-post favourite High Definition, now usurped at the top of his market by his stablemate Bolshoi Ballet, makes his eagerly awaited return and will be joined by another unbeaten colt in the shape of Hurricane Lane, a son of Frankel.
That pair are both entered in the Derby, along with Gear Up, Roman Empire, Royal Champion and Uncle Bryn. Gear Up is already a Group One winner but has no penalty to carry for that success.
Then there is such as Flying Visit, runner-up to Bolshoi Ballet in the Ballysax Stakes when conceding 3lb, to consider. He has been gelded so the Derby dream is over for him.
Alenquer is a late non-runner. Here’s a guide to the remaining ten runners. Watch what happens live on Racing TV.
Timeform rating: 124p. Odds: 8-1. Derby price: 20-1
Tom Marquand reflects of Alenquer's sandown success
Positives: Newbury maiden winner at two who looked an improved performer when a willing winner of what looked a solid renewal of the Classic Trial at Sandown on his return. Trip clearly no problem and versatile regards ground.
Negatives: Got the run of the race, to an extent, at Sandown, plus he hung left in the closing stages. The form has already taken a couple of knocks with the placed horses suffering subsequent defeats. Not entered in the Derby.
Verdict: Should give it another good go.
Timeform rating: 111+. Odds: 40-1. Derby price: --
Positives: The form of his debut win at Salisbury could hardly have worked out better – he beat Aleas and Mohaafeth – and his subsequent Listed win in France was also franked. Trip should be no problem and will be sharper for his comeback run.
Negatives: Well held behind Alenquer in the Classic Trial last month, when beaten more than eight lengths. Has his work cut out turning the tables on that rival, let alone anything else, and may need soft ground to show his best. Not entered in the Derby.
Verdict: Looks up against it on this occasion
Timeform rating: 122. Odds: 12-1. Derby price: --
Positives: Stood up well to a busy schedule last season (11 runs in three months), winning a Group Three prize at Leopardstown along the way. Better than ever when chasing home Bolshoi Ballet in the Ballysax Stakes over the Dante trip at Leopardstown last month (watch above), when conceding 3lb.
Negatives: Gelded since last year and others are open to more improvement. Never a serious threat to Bolshoi Ballet last time, when a length covered the next four home, and his overall form suggests he will fall short. Yet to show his form away from soft ground.
Verdict: He’s tough but vulnerable to improvers
Timeform rating: 124p. Odds: 5-1. Derby price: 25-1
Charlie Johnston told Anthony Dunkley more about Gear Up
Positives: Signed off last year with a game all-the-way win in the Group One Criterium De Saint-Cloud over 1m2f, when Makaloun, Bolshoi Ballet, Sweet Lady and Best Of Lips (all Listed or Group winners this term) were among the also-rans. Had earlier won twice at York, plus versatile regards the ground. Trainer has landed two of the past four renewals.
Negatives: Possibly coped best with the heavy ground when winning in France and that run, plus his fourth in the Royal Lodge when he got outpaced, suggested he will be in his element as a stayer. Unlike most of these, he also lacks a recent run.
Verdict: His form stacks up and he ticks plenty of boxes
Timeform rating: 126P. Odds: 9-4. Derby price: 5-1
Watch High Definition's striking Beresford success
Positives: Not hard to be impressed by the way he swooped from well off the pace to win on his debut over a mile at the Curragh before repeating the dose, and then some, in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the same track a month later. The Galileo colt should stay this trip standing on his head and is open to plenty more improvement.
Negatives: Had to miss an intended run at Lingfield last Saturday because of a dirty scope and this is Plan B. More style than substance to his form and a tilt at the 2000 Guineas was rejected. Not much margin for error in his price and a little disconcerting that none of Aidan O’Brien's dozen three-year-old colts to have run in Britain this campaign (14 runs) have won, with plenty disappointing.
Verdict: Exciting colt who commands plenty of respect
Timeform rating: 124p. Odds: 6-1. Derby price: 20-1
William Buick told Rishi Persad about Hurricane Lane's Newbury victory
Positives: Won on his Newmarket debut in October and landed a muddling minor event over 1m2f at Newbury on his return from Maximal, who has since filled the same position behind El Drama in the Dee Stakes. Truer test at this trip (will stay further) seems sure to suit and more to come.
Negatives: Connections have avoided deeper waters up to now and not easy to get a proper grip on the form of his wins in small fields in modest times. Was allowed to dictate steady fractions when successful last time. We are unlikely to see the best of him until he tackles a mile and a half, or possibly even further.
Verdict: Intriguing contender who has more to offer
Timeform rating: 125p. Odds: 10-1. Derby price: --
Positives: Two wins from seven starts don’t do him justice, as there have been mitigating circumstances for several of his close defeats. Got back to winning ways in a Listed contest over a mile at Newcastle last time and there could be more to come over this longer trip. Trainer has scooped three of the past six runnings.
Negatives: The best horses generally overcome adversity but he’s been found wanting on several occasions and there’s not much depth to the four-runner race he won last time, with the runner-up since well beaten in the 2000 Guineas. Stamina to prove and entered in the St James's Palace Stakes.
Verdict: Easy enough to look elsewhere
Timeform rating: 114. Odds: 40-1. Derby price: --
Positives: Progressed well as a two-year-old with his three wins including a defeat of Mystery Angel (winner of this month’s Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket) in Listed company at Pontefract. Encouraging fourth at Epsom on his return when looking in need of the run.
Negatives: His form looks several notches below others in this line-up and yet to conclusively prove that he stays a mile and a quarter. Best effort was on heavy ground.
Verdict: Unlikely he has the winning formula
Timeform rating: 103p. Odds: 50-1. Derby price: --
Positives: A son of Galileo who clicked at the second time of asking last year. Was possibly in need of his comeback run at Gowran last month and now gets the chance to race on better ground for the first time, plus has the assistance of Hollie Doyle
Negatives: Has a mountain to climb on form and mixed messages in his pedigree as to what will prove his best trip. He’s made the running on his past two starts and no surprise if he’s in the line-up to help ensure a decent gallop for stablemate High Definition
Verdict: No surprise if he is deployed as a pacemarker
Timeform rating: 120p. Odds: 13-2. Derby price: 50-1
Positives: Well-bred and looked one to follow when winning on his debut over a mile at Newmarket in September. Went a long way to confirming that promise until fading late on when third in the Feilden Stakes back at Headquarters on his return. Should be sharper here and trainer has been among the Derby trial winners.
Negatives: Ended up being beaten seven lengths on his return and, while he’s bred for middle distances, left the impression that the final furlong stretched him on the Rowley Mile. Even if it was lack of peak fitness, requires plenty more here.
Verdict: Others make more appeal
Timeform rating: 114p. Odds: 14-1. Derby price: 33-1
Positives: The son of Sea The Stars looked a colt of great potential when winning at Kempton and Wolverhampton last year, and stepped up on those efforts when a close third to Wirko on his return at Epsom despite still looking a little rough around the edges. No surprise if he takes another jump forward.
Negatives: It was a little disappointing that he could not get the job done on his return at Epsom after heavy support. And that pair who beat him that day, Wirko and Technique, have since suffered heavy defeats and so the form looks wobbly.
Verdict: Needs a lot more in a strong renewal
An intriguing Dante in which Gear Up looks the most solid option. His Group One win last year represents the best piece of form on offer plus he’s proven over the trip and is 2-2 at the track.
He’s shown his form on a range of ground plus Mark Johnston has won two of the past four renewals, plus provided the runner-up on another occasion. Lack of a recent run is of no great concern given his trainer’s ability to get one ready after a break, and this will have been top of his agenda for some while.
Predicted finishing order: 1 Gear Up. 2 High Definition. 3 Hurricane Lane. 4 Flying Visit. 5 Uncle Bryn. 6 Royal Champion.7 Megallan. 8 Bellocco. 9 Pythagoros. 10 Roman Empire.
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