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TOO DARN HOT MAKES SEASONAL BOW AT YORK

TOO DARN Hot is ready for his eagerly anticipated seasonal return this Thursday when he’ll contest the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

Last year’s champion juvenile will face seven rivals in the £165,000 Group 2 race, regarded by many to be the leading Investec Derby trial.

The unbeaten son of Dubawi, owned by Lord Lloyd Webber, has raced up to a mile before, but his fifth career engagement will see him tackling an extended mile and a quarter.

Trainer John Gosden said: “In the case of Too Darn Hot we had to change the programme.

“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.

“I’ve no doubt in my mind he will improve for it. Certainly, another ten days to prepare him would have been suitable, but we have no more time to play with now.

“Obviously we see the Dante as the best 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.”

Gosden has won three of the last four renewals of the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante and he will also saddle Turgenev alongside stable-mate, Too Darn Hot. Turgenev was third at Epsom in the Blue Riband Trial last month.

Gosden added: “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.”

Amongst a host of notable runners in the line-up is the Aidan O-Brien trained, Japan, who won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes on his last start – in September. Ballydoyle has swept all before them in this year’s recognised Derby trials but O’Brien has not won the Dante since Cape Blanco triumphed in 2010.

Surfman (Roger Varian) and Line Of Duty (Charlie Appleby) are two further interesting big-race contenders from powerhouse stables.

The Group 2 contest on Thursday’s card for fillies and mares is the Al Basti Equiworld Middleton Stakes. Again, the spotlight in this £125,000 contest, will fall on a Gosden contender as Lah Ti Dar makes her seasonal bow.

A year older than her full brother Too Darn Hot, she has previous course experience having won the Sir Henry Cecil EBF Galtres Stakes last August, before finishing second in the St Leger.

Gosden said: “We’ve been pleased with Lah Ti Dar. This has been planned for some time.

“So, you might say this has been Plan A – with her brother it has not been Plan A!

“She’s happy in herself. It is a good starting point for any filly and we’re looking forward to running her.

“The Middleton is a lovely race, placed well in the calendar.”

The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday, May 15 – Friday 17 May inclusive.

ENTITLE STEPS UP IN CLASS FOR TATTERSALLS MUSIDORA TEST

ENTITLE will seek to enhance her Investec Oaks credentials when she lines up in the £100,000 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York tomorrow.

Prince Khalid Abdullah’s filly is sure to be the focus of understandable attention in the race preliminaries as she is a half-sister to the outstanding Enable, winner of the last two renewals of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Like her elder sibling, Entitle is trained by John Gosden. So far she has raced just twice, the second of those bringing a one-length victory in a novice stakes at Lingfield.

The Tattersalls Musidora Stakes will be a much stiffer challenge as she progresses into Group 3 class. She will face nine rivals over an extended mile and a quarter on the Knavesmire.

Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager to Prince Khalid, said: “It’s only Entitle’s third race and so she is still very much a work in progress. But she has always been a very likeable filly.

“Obviously this will be a big step up for her, but she has been in good form – John has been pleased with her. I think this will be an interesting assignment for her.”

Prince Khalid will also be represented in the same race by Sand Share. Unlike Entitle she doesn’t hold an entry for Epsom but does have more experience in Pattern class. She was third, two lengths behind the winner, in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster last September before finishing fourth – albeit beaten by just a length and a quarter – in a Group 3 in Deauville late last autumn.

Lord Grimthorpe assessed: “I thought Sand Share ran a decent race in the May Hill. Then in France she wasn’t beaten very far but we slightly expected a little bit better.

“She has taken a while to come to hand – a month ago she was quite wintery. But she has been moving forward and (the Musidora) will tell us where we ought to be. Sand Share isn’t in the Oaks. I would think she’s probably more a mile-and-a-quarter filly at this stage.”

On the same card Prince Khalid will also have two runners in the Sky Bet Race to the Ebor Jorvik Handicap. First Eleven, from the stable of champion trainer John Gosden, and the Hugo Palmer-trained, Collide, will contest the mile-and-a-half race, offering both a £50,000 purse and a berth in the handicap feature of York’s season, the £1m, Sky Bet Ebor itself. First Eleven will be having his first start since tackling a Group 3 at Ascot last October, while Collide comes into the race off the back of an all-weather triumph at Kempton last month.

Lord Grimthorpe assessed: “Collide has been a very progressive horse. He did well to get up and win at Kempton after a little bit of a battle in the straight. He showed that he was back on course. He wouldn’t want it too firm.

“First Eleven is starting out for this year. He’s a nice horse. He was third in the Cumberland Lodge – it was probably just a bit too soft for him, but he ran pretty decently and won a good handicap the time before. He’s in pretty good shape – I’d hope he’ll do himself justice.”

The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday, May 15 – Friday, May 17 inclusively.

YAFTA FLYING AHEAD OF YORK ENGAGEMENT

PROGRESSIVE four-year-old, Yafta, is reported to be in fine form ahead of his outing in the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes at York on Wednesday.

Trained by Richard Hannon, Yafta was one of ten declarations received for the £125,000 Group 2 – the opening-day sprint feature, as racing gets underway on the Knavesmire for 2019.

A dual winner last year, including the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury, Yafta was a narrowly beaten runner-up on his seasonal return in Newmarket’s Abernant Stakes last month.

The son of Dark Angel suffered a less than straightforward passage on the Rowley Mile before eventually going down by a head.

But he is in sparkling shape ahead of his York engagement, according to Richard Hills, assistant racing manager and former retained rider to owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Hills said: “He’s absolutely flying and Richard’s team are really, really chuffed with him.

“He was making a challenge between horses at Newmarket but was stopped in his run and lost momentum. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, but I thought he was an unlucky loser.”

A four-time winner who has finished second on a further six occasions in 12 career outings, Yafta holds an entry in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

While Hills said he could not be sure if Yafta could reach such heights, he highlighted the horse’s toughness and versatility as key attributes.

Hills added: “He was hardly out of the first two last year. He’s a proper warrior, hence why we kept him as a four-year-old.

“He’s got the speed for six furlongs and the stamina for seven, so he’s a versatile horse and I couldn’t say what his best trip is. Obviously we’re stepping up in grade at York and it’s a cracking race, but he’s a decent horse.

“Whether he can get to Group 1 level we don’t know, but this is the next step up and he tries so hard.”

Included among Yafta’s nine opponents for the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes is the Henry Candy-trained Limato, who secured the Listed Garrowby Stakes over this course and distance last season.

Yorkshire-based trainer Kevin Ryan is a familiar face in the Knavesmire Winner’s Enclosure and he is set to launch a three-pronged challenge on a contest he has won twice before. Brando – who finished runner-up to champion sprinter Harry Angel twelve months ago, is set to be joined by stable companions, Hey Jonesy and Major Jumbo.

Malton handler John Quinn has declared fellow course regular El Astronaute, while James Tate will try to take the prize back to Newmarket courtesy of the progressive Invincible Army, who won the Listed Cammidge Trophy on his seasonal return at Doncaster.

The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 15 May 15 – Friday 17 May inclusive.