WE are on The Knavesmire this week as York hosts the Dante meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, with trials for The Oaks and The Derby in the form of the Musidora Stakes (Oaks) on Wednesday and The Dante Stakes (Derby) on Thursday.
They also run The Duke of York Stakes, for some of the top sprinters in the country, as well as a host of the usual competitive handicaps, maidens and novice races.
The first race of the opening day has been used as a stepping stone for group horses in recent years, last year's winner Pekan Star setting countless tongues wagging before his form eventually tailed off towards the back end of the season. Another potential group class horse is Flag Officer for Saeed Bin Surour and Frankie Dettori, connections who have a tremendous record at this meeting. Flag Officer is an unexposed four year old gelding, with only five races to his name, but has potentially the strongest form on offer. He finished second here over course and distance to the progressive Sea Moon, winner of The Great Voltigeur and second in the Breeders Cup Turf, only beaten just under two lengths. Flag Officer hasn't finished outside the first three in five runs and looks to a very progressive horse.
The Musidora Stakes looks a two horse affair with last year's winning connections John Gosden and William Buick responsible for The Fugue, who comes here after a good fourth in the 1000 Guineas, and Twirl for Aidan O'Brien and son Joseph. The Fugue looks an exciting horse, but the nod goes to Twirl, whom I have already backed for The Oaks. She was breath-taking when winning a maiden by around eight lengths last year, and showed enough promise when second in a Group Three at The Curragh over a mile. She is a full sister to Misty For Me, who is a Group One winner over 10 furlongs, so the trip shouldn't be a worry, and I expect her to come on massively for the run, where she had runaway Guineas winner Homecoming Queen behind her.
The Duke of York Stakes has generally been a lucky race for me in previous years, with this article napping the winner last year in Delegator. Mayson has been massively progressive for Richard Fahey and Paul Hanagan, winning two pattern races in strong fashion, but a horse who should have ended up a Group One winner last year is Hoof It, for Mick Easterby. The booking of Ryan Moore looks significant and he was incredibly unlucky when third in the Betfred Sprint Cup, losing by a neck and a nose to Bated Breath and Dream Ahead. He runs well fresh, winning over course and distance at this meeting last year after a 200 day absence. He looks rock solid and can win this before going on to bigger and better things.
1.30 – York – Flag Officer
2.30 – York – Twirl (nap)
3.00 – York – Hoof It