Dante Festival Day 1 Tips: Check out our best bets for York

Dante Festival Day 1 Tips: We have some top tips for York's racing on Wednesday.
Dante Festival Day 1 Tips: We have some top tips for York's racing on Wednesday.

Steve Chambers previews day one of York's Dante Festival, and picks out his best bets for the top-class Flat action on the Knavesmire.

14:10 York

There's a fiercely competitive renewal of the 6f Churchill Tyres Handicap at 14:10, and a whole host of contenders will fancy their chances of getting their head in front. Kevin Ryan's Bielsa sits at the head of the betting, at the time of writing, and he was last seen finishing a fine second at Ayr last month, and he will run off the same mark here, so has to be respected.

Tim Easterby's Staxton was an eye-catching winner at Ripon last time out, and is entitled to run a huge race here, while the likes of Magical Spirit, Gulliver and Woven all look to have the potential to go close.

But, the standout selection is the David O'Meara-trained Soldier's Minute, who was a fine winner of this race back in 2019, and has the potential to make it back-to-back wins. The six-year-old has been a regular in top notch sprint handicaps over the last couple of years, and while he's 6lb higher in the ratings for this year's contest (won 2019 renewal off 92), he's incidentally lining up here off his last winning mark. A winner off 98 at Kempton in November, Soldier's Minute was last seen failing to land a blow off a mark of 102 in December, but having been given a significant break he's back to try and make the most of a drop in the handicap.

A runaway three-length winner of this race two years ago, Soldier's Minute will relish the fierce pace, which he can just sit off during the early stages, and then he can unleash a fine turn of foot to land this coveted prize.

York 14:10
Soldier's Minute silk

Soldier's Minute

lost

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14:40 York

One of the feature races on day one of the Dante Festival is the Duke Of York Stakes, which takes place at 14:40 and there are a plethora of exciting sprinters bidding for Group 2 glory. With a number of horses looking to use this race as a springboard to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, then it's a vital contest in the sprint calendar, and it's attracted a strong field.

Tim Easterby's Art Power was hugely progressive last season, as having won a Royal Ascot handicap he then went on to land a Group 3 win, before finishing fourth in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock Park. That's top quality form, so he has to set the standard here, but it could be that he's a slightly better over five furlongs, so this 6f contest could see him just struggle late on.

The same could be said about Roger Teal's Oxted who won the Group 1 July Cup over six furlongs last season, and he was far from impressive on his seasonal reappearance when he was beaten by Summerghand last time out, and that pair are set to lock horns again here. While Oxted can come on for that run and he can turn the form around with Summerghand, he's another that may just struggle to deliver the goods.

A contender dropping down in trip is the Roger Varian-trained Molatham, who had a glorious three-year-old campaign which saw him land victory in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last seen finishing down the field in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on British Champions Day over a mile, Varian has decided to kick off this campaign over six furlongs, and it could well be the making of him at the highest level. He's expected to progress as a four-year-old, and he looks to have the potential to be a first rate sprinter this season, and he can storm to a fine win.

York 14:40
Molatham silk

Molatham

lost

15:40 York

John Gosden's Rifleman shaped with real promise in the Esher Cup at Sandown Park last month, but as he challenged Naamoos in that one mile contest he jinked and launched Ryan Moore out of the saddle in a freak event. Now, the son of The Gurkha is looking to bounce back to form and looks to have a terrific chance of landing victory in the 15:40 at York.

He ended his juvenile campaign last season with a taking win at Kempton, and he shaped with promise at Sandown before that late mishap, and while he may not have landed victory he was going to run a decent race on his return. Gosden has reached for the blinkers for this event, which could help his concentration, but the mark of 94 looks feasible for a horse that could turn into a Pattern performer, and he looks a cracking bet.

Ones that could challenge him include Mark Johnston's Bowman, who was a winner last time out at Lingfield and could go close off a 4lb higher mark, while the likes of Huddleton Mac and Wobwobwob add more depth to the race, but Rifleman looks to be a cut above his rivals.

York 15:40
Rifleman silk

Rifleman

placed
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