Secret set for York success
Channel 4 Racing commentator Simon Holt previews Dante day at York and likes Secret Gesture in the Betfred Middleton Stakes.
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Although likely to start a short-priced favourite, TRUE STORY is expected to advertise his Derby claims in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York on Thursday if given the green light to run.
With ground conditions on the easy side at the Knavesmire earlier this week, trainer Saeed bin Suroor is keeping an eye on the weather as he feels that the son of Manduro is probably better on good or faster ground.
However, providing the going quickens up, True Story should be very hard to beat following his comprehensive seven-length defeat of Obliterator in the Feilden Stakes (9f good) at Newmarket last month, form that has been franked by fourth-placed Barley Mow (a subsequent listed wnner) and the fifth Somewhat (third in the Dee Stakes at Chester).
Although rather keen in the early stages that day (and troublesome entering the stalls), the Derby second-favourite stormed clear where it mattered and has reportedly been working very well since. Kieren Fallon, who has struck up a successful relationship with Godolphin this year, takes the mount replacing Silvestre de Sousa (who also scored on True Story on the Newmarket July course last season).
The obvious danger is Frankie Dettori's mount Bunker whose defeat of Karakontie at Deauville last August looks an exceptionally good effort bearing in mind the runner-up's subsequent victories at Longchamp on Arc day and in last Sunday's French 2000 Guineas.
By Hurricane Run, the Richard Hannon-trained colt should handle some ease in the ground and is a half brother to a winner over a mile and a half. Previously, Bunker split Berkshire and Ihtimal (Somewhat fourth) in the Chesham Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot.
Of the others, The Grey Gatsby boasts some decent form; not disgraced when beaten six lengths into tenth behind Night Of Thunder in the 2000 Guineas last time, Ryan Moore's mount had earlier finished second to Toormore in the Craven and, last season, chased home Breeders Cup winner Outstrip in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
However, this is a step up in trip for Kevin Ryan's colt and his pedigree does not look so strong on stamina as True Story or Bunker.
Arod, an impressive Windsor maiden winner, the unbeaten Odeon (successful twice at Redcar) and the maiden Saab Almanal make up the field but all take a considerable rise in class.
Earlier, the Betfred Middleton Stakes has attracted a useful field in which Thistle Bird is the highest rated after her fast-finishing third behind Dalkala (last year's winner of this race) in the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp in October when Gifted Girl finished fifth and Secret Gesture last of nine.
Well suited by some cut in the ground, Roger Charlton's mare also finished a fine second to Winsili in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood but is not always dependable and ran slightly below-par on two other occasions last season.
I am tempted to give SECRET GESTURE another chance here.
Ralph Beckett's charge looked a top prospect when hacking up in the Lingfield Oaks Trial first time out last season before running second to her stable-companion Talent in the fillies classic at Epsom (The Lark, now penalised, third). Apart from the flop behind Dalkala at Longchamp (perhaps she had trained off), Secret Gesture was also second in the German Oaks and third behind The Fugue in the Yorkshire Oaks (good to firm) on this course.
The prevailing conditions will suit her well, and she has always shaped like a classy performer.
Already well proven is the slightly idiosyncratic Ambivalent who ran the race of her life when third in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan at the end of March.
Beaten a length by Dalkala in this race 12 months ago, she is very smart when in the mood and rates a big danger to all.