LAST SEASON’S champion two-year-old, Too Darn Hot, is the stand-out name in an intriguing 89-strong entry for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes – the May 17 feature race of York’s curtain-raising three-day festival.
The colt’s trainer John Gosden has a fine recent record in the famous mile and a quarter Group 2 race, landing three of the last four renewals, including the 2015 running with subsequent Investec Derby hero, Golden Horn. The unbeaten Too Darn Hot is one of 14 entries made by the 2018 leading trainer for this year’s £165,000 contest on the Knavesmire.
Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien, has won the Epsom Blue Riband four times in the last seven years and has made 24 entries in the York showpiece – a race that many people identify as the key trial for the Classic showdown. They include Group 1 winner, Magna Grecia, as well as the hugely promising Japan, who won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes on his third and final outing when aged two.
Charlie Hills has made an entry for Phoenix Of Spain, who won the Group 3 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes on the Knavesmire before succumbing by a head to Magna Grecia at Doncaster.
Tom Dascombe could be represented by Royal Ascot winner, Arthur Kitt, who finished runner-up to Too Darn Hot in the Solario Stakes at Sandown prior to running fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Middleham-based trainer Mark Johnston won this race in 2017 with Permian. A year later he saddled runner-up Dee Ex Bee and has made seven entries for this spring’s renewal.
Plans remains fluid for the septet at this stage, but they include the 110-rated Arctic Sound, who has won four of his six starts – including a Newmarket Group 3 – and Living Legend, who struck in a Kempton novice in the manner of a progressive performer last Saturday.
Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, assessed: “Living Legend probably deserves to be in the race least (of the Johnston entries) at the moment, given he was allocated a mark of 86 by the handicapper on Tuesday morning and he will have to improve a huge amount to be up to that level.
“That said, he’s an unexposed, exciting horse and one we’ve really been looking forward to. He wintered well and we thought he was capable of a good performance at Kempton, which he delivered.
“We’re nowhere near the bottom of him yet and he could still be anything, so he deserves those lofty entries. There is an argument that he should be running in a handicap off that mark in the near future, but he produced an impressive performance.”
Regarding Arctic Sound, he continued: “We’re not entirely sure what his optimum trip will be and he’s entered in pretty much every Guineas in Europe – the English, Irish, French and German.
“We’ll probably go down that route to begin with, but if you’d have asked me towards the middle of last summer, I would have expected him to improve when he was upped in trip.
“We thought he would go and win the Stonehenge (in which he finished last of six runners) at Salisbury and that was his most disappointing run, but he was very impressive back to seven furlongs at Doncaster and Newmarket. He’ll start back over a mile and then he has the option of going up in trip if he needs to.”
The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 15 May – Friday 17 May inclusively