Dante Stakes Tips: Desert to be Crowned York winner and enhance Derby claims
One of the final trials for next month's Derby at Epsom will take place at York on Thursday, as some classy three-year-olds line up for the Dante Stakes at 15:35, and our in-house tipster Steve Chambers has picked out his best bet for the Group 2 feature on day two of the Dante Festival...
Sir Michael Stoute has won the Dante six times during his illustrious career with the legendary North Light winning the York feature en route to Derby glory in 2004, and the Freemason Lodge handler will be hoping that his exciting colt Desert Crown can emulate that feat and he's currently the market leader for Thursday's event.
A real plunge horse in the Derby betting over the last week, Desert Crown has only been seen once on the track, which saw him cruise to victory at Nottingham in a maiden, so he will need to build on that effort to land this coveted prize against much classier opposition. However, he shaped like he could be a real classy performer for the Stoute team this season, and if he can continue on an upward curve then looks tough to beat here.
The son of Nathaniel was a winner over a mile that day at Nottingham, but shaped like the step up in trip should pose no issues whatsoever, and now as 6/1 second favourite for The Derby behind Stone Age, Desert Crown will need to win this event if he is to be regarded a real Derby player, and with bags of potential he looks the one to beat.
John Gosden saddled Golden Horn to victory in this event back in 2015 before going on to win the Derby and he will saddle Magisterial, who was last seen winning well at Leicester, which earned him quotes of 25/1 for the Epsom Classic. A second favourite for the Dante, the son of Frankel will be another that needs to kick on from that win at Leicester, and with the third placed runner that day failing to fire next time out then the form took a bit of a hit, and he could be worth taking on.
A hugely progressive juvenile last season, El Bodegon was last seen winning a Group 1 in France back in October, and the 25/1 shot for the Derby will attempt to book his place at Epsom with a victory here. The James Ferguson-trained son of Kodiac incidentally beat the recent Leopardstown Derby Trial Stakes winner and current Derby favourite Stone Age in the Saint-Cloud Group 1 victory, so he has to be a major player, if he can kick on in his three-year-old campaign. Impressive in soft conditions last season, he could be one that wants some notable cut in the ground, so it will be worth keeping an eye on the ground in the lead-up to the race.
Aidan O'Brien had a sensational week last week not only winning the Derby Trial at Leopardstown, but he amassed a stunning five-timer at Chester's May meeting, and the master of Ballydoyle will saddle Bluegrass here, who was well beaten by Piz Badile at Leopardstown last month, and he will need to improve significantly on that effort to play a role here.
Eighth in the 2000 Guineas earlier in the campaign, Mark Johnston's Royal Patronage will step up from the mile to line up here, and last season's Royal Lodge winner could improve for the extra couple of furlongs here, and could be a solid each-way poke for those looking to take on the favourites.
Of the others, Andrew Balding's Masekela was second in the Listed Feilden Stakes at Newmarket's Craven meeting, so will need to improve on that run behind Eydon, who finished a fine fourth in the Guineas, while Kingmax was well beaten by Native Trail in the Craven at Flat HQ, and is unlikely to have the class to figure here. White Wolf and Dark Moon Rising complete the nine-strong field, and both appear to not have the potential of some of those towards the head of the betting and it's Desert Crown that can show his Derby credentials with a big win here.