Duke of York Stakes Tips: Minzaal to slay Dragon in Group 2 feature
We are set for a superb three-day Dante Festival at York on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and the opening day showpiece is the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes, which will see the sprinters take centre stage at 15:00, and we preview the event here and pick out our best bet for the 6f contest...
Dragon Symbol was a real model of consistency throughout last season in top level sprints, but he often found one or two too good for him, but the classy four-year-old is well fancied to kick off his campaign on an winning note here. Having switched from Archie Watson's yard to Roger Varian's stable, Dragon Symbol, who finished second in the Commonwealth Cup (first past the post), July Cup and King George Stakes, will look to finally get his head in front, and if he can repeat last season's form then he has to be a huge contender. Currently heading the betting, the four-year-old was last seen disappointing in the Champions Sprint Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot, but he can be forgiven that run, which came at the end of a busy season, so if he can arrive on top form then he is the one to beat.
A fine winner of the Gimcrack at York during his juvenile campaign, the Owen Burrows-trained MINZAAL will hope a return to York can bring the best out in him again and he could possibly be the biggest thorn in the side of Dragon Power and at 4/1 looks the bet against the favourite. Having had a year off the track, Minzaal returned at the end of last season and ran a huge race when third in the aforementioned Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot, when relatively unfancied. With only six run on his CV, the son of Mehmas could have a breakthrough season into the top table of sprinting this season, and if he can build on that fine run on Champions Day then he could be a real tough nut to crack here.
With a lot of these runners looking to use this race as a springboard to the Platinum Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot next month, it's a race that will need a classy winner to be considered for the Royal meeting, and this year's running of the Duke Of York appears to lack significant strength in depth. Richard Hannon's Happy Romance won the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury last season, and was last seen running a career best second in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, so a repeat of that effort would see her go close here. A winner of a valuable sales race at York earlier in her career, she will hope a return to the Knavesmire will see her blossom, but she may just lack the class of Minzaal and is worth taking on here.
Kevin Ryan's Emaraaty Ana had a sensational season last year as having finished a gallant runner-up in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes he then went on to win the Sprint Cup at Haydock Park. That Group 1-winning performance would be enough to see the six-year-old play a notable role here, but he failed to kick on from that effort and disappointed in Dubai twice. He will also have the burden of carrying a penalty in this event, so while a return to York should see him star it's hard to see him giving weight to some improving rivals.
A vastly improved filly last season was the Charlie Fellowes-trained Vadream, whose highlight came in the Group 3 Bengough Stakes before she finished a fine fifth in the Champions Sprint Stakes. She will need to continue to improve this season if she is to claim glory in Group 2 level, but she is certainly one of the ones open to improvement, so could be a solid each-way option here.
Of the others, Rohaan was a hugely progressive sprinter last season as having won the Wokingham at Royal Ascot he then went on to compete at the highest level, but often struggled and this could be too much to ask here, while the likes of Garrus. Spycatcher and Hurricane Ivor are another trio that should find it a bridge too far to compete in what is a race that can see the fancied runners dominate with Minzaal prevailing.