Dante Stakes preview: Too Darn Hot to test Derby credentials at York

Views from connections and a selection from resident tipster Man On The Spot ahead of Thursday's Dante Stakes at York.

3.00 York - Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes (Group 2)

Racecard and live Sky Bet odds

What the trainers say

John Gosden expects to have a clear idea of whether Too Darn Hot is a realistic Derby contender after he runs in York's Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes.

The son of Dubawi enjoyed a faultless juvenile season, in which he completed his unbeaten run of four races with a facile top-level success in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.

However, his three-year-old campaign thus far has proved frustrating - because a setback that initially ruled him out of an intended prep run in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury meant he was not ready in time for the Qipco 2000 Guineas, for which he had been red-hot favourite all winter.

Gosden admits even Thursday's Knavesmire feature is coming sooner than he would like, but feels he cannot wait any longer to take the wraps off one of the most exciting Flat horses in training.

"In the case of Too Darn Hot, we had to change the programme," said the Clarehaven handler.

"A few days before the Greenham, he came up with a splint issue and he had two weeks of walking. So, the Dante became the obvious place to go - and although we are happy with the horse, it has been a very tight schedule to get him to this race.

"He worked very nicely on Friday with Frankie (Dettori), and did two nice canters on Saturday morning. I've no doubt in my mind he will improve for it. Certainly, another 10 days to prepare him would have been suitable, but we have no more time to play with now."

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The biggest question Too Darn Hot faces is whether he possesses the required stamina for next month's Investec Derby at Epsom over a mile and a half.

The fact he is out of a mare who won two Group Ones over the Derby distance in Dar Re Mi and is a full-brother to last season's St Leger runner-up Lah Ti Dar is cause for optimism, but Gosden expects to know much more after this 10-furlong assignment.

He added: "Obviously we see the Dante as the best (Derby) trial, and it looks a very good field - and from the race, we will know whether to point towards the Derby or the St James's Palace.

"My instinct says a mile to a mile and a quarter from what I've seen of the horse, but then his full-sister was second in the Leger. We will let the horse and Frankie tell us."

Gosden also runs outsider Turgenev, and insists he is not running purely to benefit his esteemed stablemate.

He said: "He has improved in himself and he's there on his own merit, but he is a horse who likes to go at an even pace. He's a lengthener, not a quickener. I don't think it's going to be a crawl, looking at the field."

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Japan bids to strengthen Aidan O'Brien's grip on this year's Investec Derby with victory at York.

O'Brien has already won four trials for the premier Classic in the last week - with new Epsom favourite Sir Dragonet's dominant display in the Chester Vase followed by Circus Maximus in the Dee Stakes, Anthony Van Dyck in the Lingfield Derby Trial and Broome in the Derrinstown.

On the Knavesmire, the Ballydoyle handler relies on Japan - a horse who was also under consideration for the Derrinstown, but sidestepped that Leopardstown contest after a minor blip led to him having an easy week.

Japan has not been seen in competitive action since edging out stable companion Mount Everest in the Beresford Stakes at Naas last September.

O'Brien said: "He had a little setback, the same week as Anthony Van Dyck, so we were trying to give him as much time as we could."

Godolphin hopes rest on the Charlie Appleby-trained Line Of Duty, who rounded off his juvenile campaign with three successive wins - completing his hat-trick in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs.

Appleby considered an early tilt at Classic glory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but eventually sided with a Derby trial.

He said: "I am pleased with his preparation and I am looking forward to stepping him up in trip. If he can finish in the first three I would be delighted.

"He is giving us all the indications that a step up in trip will hopefully see more improvement, which is going to be needed. Physically he has done well from two to three. He is a neat horse in size, but he has filled out in all the right places.

"It was always going to be the Dante to step him up in because - although you have the trials at Chester - the ones that stand out as trials to find a Derby horse are the Guineas and the Dante.

"I know there is only a small field, but it was important to run him back on a turning track. I think if he is good enough in the Dante it will justify looking at the Derby - and if he is good enough to turn up in the Derby, I think it will be a track he enjoys.

"He likes the hustle and bustle - and as we saw in America, he doesn't go down without a fight."

Roger Varian is looking forward to saddling Surfman, who was a 14-length winner on his latest outing at Newcastle.

"We've always held him in the highest regard, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that he's as good as we think he might be," said Varian.

"He beat a poor field (at Newcastle), let's be honest. He didn't beat a lot, but he beat them 14 lengths on the bridle - and it did the horse good to get out there, get an away day from Newmarket.

"We didn't learn much about him - we knew he was a nice horse, and he proved he was a nice horse. But we didn't learn how nice he is. After his next start, we will do. He has worked well and he has come on for his run. He's a highly promising colt - we've got high hopes for him going forward."

Hughie Morrison is represented by the impressive Windsor scorer Telecaster.

Morrison told Sky Sports Racing: "We might be being a bit brave, but you've got to have a go some time, and this race fell at the right time. He's the sort of horse that always goes well at home and finds it very easy."

Sir Michael Stoute's Almania and Nayef Road from Mark Johnston's yard complete the eight-strong field.


Man On The Spot preview

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Last RunWatch last race

The unbeaten Dewhurst winner Too Darn Hot has obviously had his problems and this is a big test. John Gosden’s colt won easily at Newmarket and third-placed Anthony Van Dyke did the form no harm in the Lingfield Derby Trial. He’ll need to win this comfortably to justify his short odds for Epsom. The latter’s yard have swept all before them in the trials and JAPAN looks another for them. His pedigree is all about middle-distances so he did well to land a Group 2 at Naas over a mile on his final start. Line Of Duty improved out of all recognition from landing a Goodwood maiden to winning a Group 3 at Chantilly then the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and his pedigree suggests he’ll be better over this sort of trip. Victories at Nottingham and Newcastle would hardly qualify Surfman for this but Roger Varian’s superbly-bred colt has been supported for Epsom and is highly regarded. Almania is by Australia so what he achieved as a two-year-old was a bonus and he could be the dark horse of the race.

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Fifth Position is Keith Hamer's best Friday bet and he has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland.

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David Ord heads to Haydock for his bet of the day on Friday and picks out a likely improver for William Haggas.

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