Long-time Derby favourite High Definition puts his unbeaten record and tall reputation on the line in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.
Aidan O’Brien’s colt spent the winter months at the top of ante-post lists for next month’s premier Classic, having followed up his debut success at the Curragh with a scintillating display in the Beresford Stakes at September.
However, unsatisfactory blood test results ruled him out of an intended return to action in the Lingfield Derby Trial and he now finds himself usurped at the head of the Epsom market by stablemate Bolshoi Ballet following his runaway success at Leopardstown on Sunday.
O’Brien hopes High Definition can stake his claim on Thursday with a positive comeback performance on the Knavesmire.
He said: “We are keen to get a run into him. Obviously everybody knows the plan was originally to go to Lingfield on Saturday with him. We couldn’t do that, so now he is going to York.
“We’re just glad to get him out and then we can see where we go from there.”
O’Brien also runs Roman Empire, the mount of Hollie Doyle.
“He won at Gowran nicely last year, but disappointed us first time out this season,” the Ballydoyle handler added.
“The ground was very bad that day, he was keen enough and he just got tired. We’ve always thought this trip would suit him.”
The Mark Johnston-trained Gear Up won three of his four starts as a juvenile, including a York victory in the Acomb Stakes and a subsequent Group One success in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, a race in which Bolshoi Ballet could finish only fifth.
Johnston said: “It’s very exciting, obviously. It looks a competitive race, but he’s been here twice before and won both times.
“The ground shouldn’t trouble him. I’m looking forward to it. I think a mile and a quarter is most probably his minimum trip now, but it’s a stepping stone to run in the Derby next.”
Roger Varian has already saddled two trial winners in the past week, with El Drama seemingly bound for the French Derby after landing Chester’s Dee Stakes, and Third Realm throwing his hat into the ring for Epsom with victory at Lingfield.
The Newmarket handler has high hopes for Royal Champion in the Dante, with the Shamardal colt expected to improve significantly from his third-placed finish in last month’s Feilden Stakes.
“It looks a very good race on paper, but we think an awful lot of our horse,” said Varian.
“He’s look good all spring and possibly just needed his run in the Feilden. He’s trained real good going into the Dante. I don’t know if he’ll win it, but I should think he’ll run very well."
Hurricane Lane bids to make it three wins from three starts for trainer Charlie Appleby.
The son of Frankel made a successful reappearance in a conditions race at Newbury a month ago, with the runner-up Maximal since finishing second to El Drama in the Dee Stakes.
Speaking on www.godolphin.com, Appleby said: “We are pleased with how Hurricane Lane is coming into this race, off the back of a nice win on his seasonal return. He has come forward for that run and we feel that the track and ground at York will suit.
“It’s the next test for him to see where he is going to end up over the forthcoming months.”
John Gosden, who now trains in partnership with son Thady, saddled the last horse to complete the Dante-Derby double in Golden Horn.
Six years on, the Clarehaven team is represented by Uncle Bryn, who lost his unbeaten record when third in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom on his seasonal debut, as well as Megallan.
Yorkshire-born trainer William Haggas runs Sandown Classic Trial winner Alenquer, while Belloccio (David Menuisier), Pythagoras (Richard Fahey) and Flying Visit (Jim Bolger) complete the 11-strong field.
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