GODOLPHIN’S Secret Number will be aiming to stake his Investec Derby claims as he lines up in today’s Betfred Dante Stakes at York.
With the Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach a strong favourite for Epsom on the back of his 2,000 Guineas win in Godolphin’s blue silks, Secret Number could emerge as a strong second string if he can rise to the challenge on the Knavesmire.
The Raven’s Pass colt won a Kempton maiden on his only start at two before landing a Listed race at the Dubai Carnival in impressive fashion and finishing third in the UAE Derby.
Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor issued an upbeat bulletin on his Classic hopeful. “Secret Number worked on Sunday and went really nicely,” said Bin Suroor. “He ran very well out in Dubai and finished third in the UAE Derby, and he was a bit unlucky in that. He doesn’t show too much in a morning but I think he is a mile-and-a-half horse. The Dante is only ten furlongs but it should suit him well enough for now. We’ll keep his Derby options open as I’m sure a mile and a half will suit him best.”
Aidan O’Brien won three Derby trials at Chester and Lingfield last week before adding to his tally with Battle Of Marengo in the Derrinstown and he fields Indian Chief this time. Second to a subsequent Group 1 winner in Loch Garman on his debut in heavy ground at Naas in October, he made a winning reappearance this year at Leopardstown.
Jockey Jospeh O’Brien said: “He handled an ease in the ground on his debut so we won’t be worried about rain, I can’t see the ground being an issue whatever it is. His two-year-old form looked very strong and he was entitled to go and win first time out this year.
“That form has also been boosted by the second who won nicely next time out. This is the last of the trials and I imagine after this everyone will sit down and sort out who goes where.”
Meanwhile, Sir Michael Stoute will be pondering Liber Nauticus’ Investec Oaks prospects after she came through her warm-up in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York yesterday.
The trainer is recovering at home in Newmarket after an operation and his representatives on the Knavesmire hesitated to confirm the unbeaten filly for Epsom after her length-and-a-half defeat of Romantic Settings.
The winter favourite for the Oaks after her debut at Goodwood, Liber Nauticus lost her position in the market after the recent performances of Moth and Secret Gesture, but victory in the most important trial leaves her one of the main contenders. A daughter of Azamour from one of Ballymacoll Stud’s great staying families, Liber Nauticus (4-6 favourite) did little wrong on a wintry afternoon, evading challenges from Woodland Aria and then Romantic Settings without Ryan Moore needing to resort to his whip.
“I was very happy with her because she doesn’t actually do a lot,” said Moore. “She’s a big girl, but that doesn’t matter around Epsom if they travel.”
Society Rock (10-1) has shown an aversion to the stalls but is a top sprinter once out of them and earned a narrow verdict over Lethal Force in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes.