Great things expected in Dante
Simon Holt previews Thursday's Betfred Dante card at York and is backing Greatwood to win the feature.
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Thursday's Betfred Dante Stakes is the final serious trial - and often the most significant trial - for the Derby but the race was dealt a blow when the much vaunted Telescope was taken out of the race at the 48 hour declaration stage.
Sir Michael Stoute now faces a race against time to get the winter favourite for the Classic fit enough to take part but Highclere, who own the colt, have a second string to their bow here in the shape of GREATWOOD who was forced to miss last Saturday's Derby Trial at Lingfield due to softening ground.
Rain is also forecasted for York but, should he take his chance, I fancy that this likeable type could build on his reappearance second behind Windhoek (Ghurair third) in a sales race at Newmarket.
Although Windhoek justified odds-on favouritism in listed company next time, the form of that race looks patchy but Greatwood was almost certainly the most promising horse on the day and, so well was he staying on, that he would have won in two more strides.
Trainer Luca Cumani, who has sent out two Derby winners (Kahyasi and High Rise) has made no secret of his regard for Greatwood who has plenty of stamina in his pedigree and a particularly willing attitude.
He can turn the tables on Windhoek here and hopefully cope with some other rivals from major yards.
Given Aidan O'Brien's successes in the recent trials, it could be significant that he runs Indian Chief in the Dante suggesting this son of Montjeu is high up the pecking order at Ballydoyle. Having only his second start, he won a maiden at Leopardstown recently with the minimum of fuss and, like so many of his stablemates, is bred to be smart.
Meanwhile, Godolphin run Secret Number who ran well when third to O'Brien's Lines Of Battle in the UAE Derby while Jim Bolger's Trading Leather looked a classy prospect last season before appearing to have his limitations exposed in the Racing Post Trophy.
The winner of this race is bound to improve his position in the Derby market but it will take a special performance to threaten Dawn Approach at the top of the betting.
Earlier, CUBANITA is fancied to take the Betfair Middleton Stakes having improved with every start last season.
Ralph Beckett's filly ended the campaign by beating the smart Sajjhaa at Newmarket and the runner-up has done nothing but frank the form since. Beckett's horses could hardly be in better form.
French raider Dalkala has some decent efforts to her name across the Channel but has a small penalty here and Starscope, runner-up in last year's 1000 Guineas, could be the chief threat to the selection if showing her best form.
However, John Gosden's charge has looked a difficult ride on occasions and may not be totally reliable.