Fahey ace to Star at York
Man On The Spot previews all seven races on the first day of York's Dante meeting.
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Proceedings get under way with the first of four fiendishly tricky-looking handicaps. Lahaag found only one too good in last year's renewal and won over 1m4f here later in the year. But he's 5lb higher today while Rye House was upped 10lb for winning a similar contest on this card last season - his only start of 2013. Tahira has decent form in Germany and could go well on her debut for John Quinn, but Tres Coronas seems to save his best for Chester nowadays and is penalised for last week's victory at that track. Hi There beat Grandorio and Maven at Ayr in September and ran well at Epsom last time, while the useful hurdler Clever Cookie won a maiden at Doncaster on his debut on the Flat but could have been better drawn for this. STORM KING finished ahead of Global Village and Ansaab when attempting to make all at Doncaster last month. There should be more to come on only his second start over today's distance so a chance is taken on David Griffiths' charge.
Secret Witness won this in 2012 but hasn't scored again since. He beat Fast Shot on that occasion and the latter arrives in fine form with wins at Pontefract and Ripon last month. El Viento finished behind Fast Shot last time but Paul Hanagan's presence suggests the former is preferred to stablemates Baccarat and Summerinthecity. Yeeoow was well ahead of Out Do when runner-up at Newmarket last time and Lancelot Du Lac held his form well in hot sprints on the all-weather earlier in the year. Blaine has slipped down the weights and gets Richard Hughes on board while Royal Rascal won the Rockingham over track and trip in 2012. Jamaica Bolt is better over the minimum trip but dual 5f winner AETNA has yet to race over today's distance. He did score over 7f on his racecourse debut, however, so Mick Easterby's progressive sprinter could go close on his preferred soft ground.
Cambridge is already prominent in the Oaks betting. She beat the re-opposing Regardez at Nottingham in October but will need to be well forward on her return if she's to get through this soft ground. Shama is around 25/1 for the Oaks after winning at Kempton on her reappearance but Lady Heidi has the stronger form with a Listed win in testing ground at Pontefract in October. The latter is also preferred to the more-exposed pair Latenightrequest and Lily Rules. Madame Chiang and Nancy From Nairobi are maiden winners but Queen Of Ice makes more appeal after picking up a conditions race at Kempton last month. EASTERN BELLE will appreciate the longer trip after three outings over 7f including a short-head defeat in soft going at Newmarket. John Gosden has trained two of the last three winners, with the The Fugue successful in 2012, and his filly may just have the edge over Cambridge on this surface.
Prix de l'Abbaye hero Maarek should be spot on now with a couple of starts under his belt and the same comment applies to the Ascot Group Three winner Tropics. Jack Dexter was only denied by Slade Power in the Quipco Champion Sprint at Ascot in October and will go close with a similar effort, while Moviesta continues to improve and won a Group Two at Goodwood last term. Three-year-olds have a tough task at this time of the season against their elders but ASTAIRE has exceptional form. He won the Gimcrack in soft ground here last season before landing the Group One Middle Park at Newmarket and Kevin Ryan's colt could well prove a cut above in this. Heeraat looks best of the rest ahead of the tough older sprinters Mass Rally, Eton Rifles and Hawkeyethenoo.
This looks impossible at first glance, though four favourites of have won in six previous renewals so the betting has proved a valuable guide. That Is The Spirit and Provident Spirit will no doubt come in for support as the former beat the latter in soft ground at Doncaster before John Gosden's charge went on to win at Newmarket. Both are preferred to the more exposed recent winners New Bidder, Rogue Wave and Inyordreams. Slemy is not easily dismissed having got off the mark at Lingfield and Tea Leaf won nicely in testing going at Salisbury recently. But the speculative vote goes to the returning IDEA, who beat a subsequent winner over 6f at Windsor in October and has an entry in the Group One St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot.
None of these are easily dismissed but ABSCENT FRIENDS ticks all the boxes and it could pay to stick with Bill Turner's colt. He finished a couple of lengths ahead of Magical Roundabout when third in soft ground over today's trip at Ascot a fortnight ago and can defy a penalty. Mambo Paradise is also penalised for her win at Musselburgh but third-placed Winstanley may reverse running on better terms today with Ryan Moore taking over the reins. Captain Colby made a winning start at Thirsk and that form looks stronger than Mignolino's debut effort at Newcastle.
GABRIAL'S STAR is a winner without a penalty having taken an apprentices' race at Chester in good style only last week. Ryan Moore picks up the ride and the Richard Fahey gelding can go in again. Pilgrims Rest also ran well at Chester and drops down a grade for this while O Ma Lad showed some improvement for his slide down the weights when runner-up at Hamilton last time. Ebony Express failed to cope in Class 2 company on his latest start but today's trip and ground suit ,while Astra Hall is another with claims racing off the same mark as when second at Doncaster earlier this month. Mica Mika seems to prefer the Polytrack nowadays but Frankie's presence on Da Do Run Run suggests a big run from the latter is expected.