Fran Berry column ahead of Dante Festival at York

Too Darn Hot returns in the Dante
Too Darn Hot returns in the Dante

Too Darn Hot returns to action at York this week and Fran Berry looks ahead to the Dante Festival, while reflecting on the key recent Epsom trials.

Broome best of the lot?

The one from the Ballydoyle brigade I like most at the moment when it comes to the recent Investec Derby trials would probably be Sunday's Derrinstown winner Broome.

He won his maiden at a mile and a bit over a stiff finish at Galway and the one bad run he had last year was at York's Dante Festival when I think a lot of Aidan's weren't right.

Since then he was second to Madhmoon and then Group One-placed behind Royal Marine when I thought he just got beaten for a turn of foot at Longchamp.

Since being stepped up to a mile and a quarter he's been very impressive. He doesn't necessarily travel the best through his races but when he's asked to go and pick up he finds a lot and is only doing his best work in the last half-furlong.

A mile and a half will bring any amount of improvement in my opinion. He just reminds me a little bit of High Chaparral who won the Derby on the back of wins in the Ballysax and Derrinstown in 2002.

Sir Dragonet hype a little overblown?

Sir Dragonet is bred to be top class, that's the first thing you'd have to say being a son of Camelot out of an Oasis Dream mare. He's obviously been the sleeper in the pack somewhat but his pedigree is superb.

It can happen that these horses go under the radar at home and when they get to the track they just come alive and that's what he's done.

For my money he did look very effective on the soft ground at Chester and Epsom - if the ground is good - with its undulations will definitely pose a new challenge. He might struggle if it was on the quicker side.

I think he's an ideal horse for the Irish Derby more than Epsom just because of the track but if we got some dig on the day then there's no getting away from it - he's got all the potential in the world. At this stage, though, it's still just potential.

Broome on his way to victory at Leopardstown
Broome on his way to victory at Leopardstown

Mehdaayih made for the job

John Gosden's filly was very, very impressive after travelling well throughout. She quickened up and really showed a bright turn of foot which she'd displayed when winning at Chelmsford and will stand her in good stead against top-class opposition in the future.

She'll be fine in a bigger field and against strong opposition if connections decide to supplement for the Oaks and she's a filly who looks to have just matured nicely over the winter.

The second, Manuela De Vega, ran well and just wants every yard of the Oaks trip at least. With her in second and already a winner on soft ground then there's clearly some substance to Mehdaayih's form and the winner is an exciting ride for Rab Havlin or anyone who might be on her at Epsom.

Mehdaayih spreadeagles her field at Chester
Mehdaayih spreadeagles her field at Chester

More questions than answers

The Oaks picture is still fairly open and hopefully the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes could shed some light on things at York on Wednesday.

It's a typical collection of horses with potential and those that have done it. Sparkle Roll was well touted before Sandown and duly won under a hands and heels ride. She was quite impressive and you've got to respect John Gosden's fine record in this race.

The form got something of a boost when the Sandown runner-up was second in the Lingfield Oaks Trial over the weekend and with Anapurna winning that then Gosden should know where he stands with this filly. She's among the first of the Kingman fillies we've seen stretch out over this kind of trip and it'll be interesting to see how they fare over these middle-distances in truly-run top level races.

Sand Share possibly has the best form in the race as of yet being Group Two-placed at Doncaster last year. She's an interesting Oasis Dream filly, while Frankellina's form isn't brilliant just yet but she comes here with a big reputation.

The vibes are good for William Haggas's filly but the one worry I'd have is not necessarily her lack of experience but the fact that some of the yard's three-year-olds have been taking a run to hit top gear this spring. She'll be fit for her first run of the year but I suspect whatever she does at York she'll build on as the year progresses.

You'd have to respect Entitle too after maiden maiden win on the all-weather at the back end of last year but for me it's a race to watch as there are too many questions to have a strong view.

John Gosden looks well placed to win another Cambridgeshire
John Gosden has won the Musidora six times

Brando solid in Duke of York

The Duke of York Stakes is a very competitive edition but there's not much difference between a Listed, Group Three or a Group Two when it comes to sprints - the margins are so fine and until you get to that very top level there isn't a mass amount between them.

Limato is in the mix but he's got to give weight away and Brando is probably the one to beat after he found the Newmarket ground just a shade too lively on his comeback. Back to six furlongs on this track should suit him very well and being a year older he might strip fitter for that comeback run.

He sets the standard and the likes of Invincible Army and Yafta do have to take another step forward to beat these proven, rock-solid types like Limato and Brando. I put up Major Jumbo on his last start and he performed well in this behind Mabs Cross and Equilateral over five furlongs.

He'd have an each-way chance here back at six furlongs but clearly has ground to make up on Invincible Army strictly on their Doncaster form right at the start of the season.

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Download Sporting Life's Fast Results app, which includes free video replays from every UK & Irish race

Morrison charge to bite back

The Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap (1.50) is a cracking start to the Dante Festival and the majority at the top of the market are four-year-olds.

The likes of First Eleven or Crystal King could be among those to be future Group horses in a handicap, while Fujaira Prince won well when backed off the boards at Doncaster.

It's a wide-open race but Corgi might be overlooked and I'd fancy him to have a good year. He's had a wind operation since we saw him last but if that brings about some improvement then hes a big player.

I quite liked him going into Royal Ascot last summer and he was just beaten by Baghdad and ran a couple more good races including when a close sixth in the Melrose at York.

Back at a mile and a half and back for the season with the Hughie Morrison yard going well, he might just be interesting at a price.

Check out Oli's tips for York's Dante Festival
Oli Bell is also sweet on Corgi's claims

Too good if all is well?

The Dante Stakes is the big one on day two at York and clearly a big one when it comes to clarifying the Derby picture.

Too Darn Hot is still among the market leaders for Epsom and it's brilliant to see him back in action. He defied his pedigree in many ways with how he performed as a two-year-old but I suspect he's probably just that good.

His form has worked out well and strictly on his breeding there shouldn't be any fears at all about him staying a mile and a quarter at York.

His illustrious family members were all better as three and four-year-olds and we'll probably know quite quickly where he's the same or whether he was just a brilliant two-year-old who was very forward.

I'm sure John Gosden won't be running him unless he was very happy with him following a slight setback which saw him miss the Guineas and this shouldn't be a falsely-run race with the likes of Nayef Road, Telecaster and Surfman all happy enough getting on with things.

He could outclass them but it'll be a good test for Too Darn Hot on his comeback and Japan is the obvious one people will turn to. He won the Beresford Stakes and it's usually a race that Aidan O'Brien targets with a very good back-end two-year-old.

He's been their winter talking horse in some respects and given how well his stable companions have performed in the trials so far, he's one you'd have to look forward to seeing back in action.

Line Of Duty is an interesting son of Galileo for Godolphin and he's a massive player too as he just kept improving at two.

He won at the Breeders' Cup and showed a lot of heart that day. The form of that race has worked out really well and he should only be better as a three-year-old. If you're prepared to take a chance against the favourite then Charlie Appleby's runner might be the value in the race.

Line Of Duty wins under Buick
Line Of Duty wins under Buick


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