Bunker has mentality for Dante
George Primarolo's horse-by-horse guide to the Betfred Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.
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Made a satisfactory debut at Kempton in November of last year but improved on that no end when taking a 10 furlong Windsor maiden by five lengths in April. The form of that particular race isn't that strong though and he will have to step up again if he is to trouble the market leaders. Is out of a half-sister to John Smith's Cup winner Far Lane so has the family honour to uphold over a mile and a quarter on the Knavesmire.
His only defeat in three runs to date came at the hands of Berkshire in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot but his short-head victory over Karakonite in a Listed race at Deauville looks even stronger now following his rival's French 2000 Guineas win. On paper, 10 furlongs should be well within his grasp but it's not certain he'd want much further. It's possible that everything could be in his favour here and he looks a straightforward type.
Made an inauspicious start to his career when beaten just over nine lengths in a soft ground Redcar maiden at the back end of last season. Returned to the Teesside Riveria in April of this year and recorded a nine length maiden victory on quickish ground. He's clearly improved over the winter and it is difficult to believe that that's the limit of his ability. A full-brother to St Leger runner-up Kite Wood, he may just struggle at the top level over this trip but will surely come into his own over middle distances later in the year. His brother couldn't quite go the pace behind Black Bear Island in the 2009 Dante and it is likely a similar fate awaits here. Big price though.
Still a maiden, he's found one too good on both his starts to date in Nottingham maidens. The second of these was a much better performance and hinted a more to come. Was beaten by a filly (Zaeemah) in that particular race but she may still go on to make her mark this season. Dam was a half-sister to Racer Forever (best over seven furlongs) but she herself stayed 12 furlongs so shouldn't have a problem with the trip. Probably not good enough though.
The Grey Gatsby
Officially the second-best horse in the race on ratings, he has been found out recently at the top level over a mile but has always looked like a step up in trip would suit and is an interesting contender. Made a winning debut at York before returning for the Acomb Stakes, where he was just touched off by Treaty Of Paris. Occupied the same spot behind Outstrip in the Champagne Stakes at York before finishing well beaten behind Kingston Hill in the Racing Post Trophy. Was put in his place behind Toormore in the Craven and finished well down the field on his latest start in the 2000 Guineas. Sire was best over 10 furlongs but comes from a family of milers on the dam's side. Should run his race but I don't think he'll be good enough against some improving horses.
Burst into the Investec Derby picture when blowing the opposition away in the Feilden Stakes last time out and by far the most likely winner of the race on what we've seen so far. Was just outpointed by Outstrip on his debut at Newmarket as a juvenile before breaking his maiden in good style at the same course a month later. His second dam, Rosefinch, won the Group One Prix Alary over 12 furlongs while her dam, Oh So Sharp, won the fillies triple crown so there's every reason for thinking that his future lies over further. However, the one chink in his armour is that he may not settle as he has shown signs of doing so before. However, Kieren Fallon is reported to have done a lot of work with him recently and it could just be that he's taken time to mature. The preliminaries will be very interesting because if he gets revved up at York, then he's not going to be able to handle the pre-race shenanigans at Epsom. He's no price but he's incredibly exciting and his Feilden victory gave you the distinct feeling that the further he goes, the better he'll be. It's not inconceivable that he gets beaten at York but goes on to win the Derby.
Everything points to True Story winning this race well but there are enough doubts over his temperament to put you off backing him at his current price. Conversely, Odeon could prove to be the value bet as I'm not sure he should be twice the price of Arod or The Grey Gatsby. By process of elimination, BUNKER looks the one to be on in the Dante as he's already shown a good enough level of form to mix it with his rivals here and, more importantly, this sort of trip could turn out to be his ideal distance whereas the others are essentially milers or mile and a half horses.