Derby dreams either side of the Channel remain alive for the first three horses home in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York as The Grey Gatsby beat off Arod and True Story in a pulsating finish.
The Grey Gatsby, trained by Kevin Ryan, was tackling the mile-and-a-quarter distance for the first time, having previously finished down the field in the 2,000 Guineas, and Ryan Moore settled the 9-1 chance in midfield as Odeon attempted to dominate from the front. The pack closed up rounding the home turn, however, and each contender had some sort of chance as the race unfolded early in the straight.
Odeon did not fold tamely, while Bunker was also in there pitching two furlongs down but the grandstands roared as Kieren Fallon guided stunning Feilden Stakes winner and 8-13 favourite True Story towards the front end passing the one-furlong marker. However, The Grey Gatsby quickened up best and, although his waywardness close home led to a stewards’ inquiry and a nervy wait for his connections, he was three-quarters of a length to the good passing the post.
The placings, unsurprisingly, remained unaltered, but Moore was given a two-day suspension for careless riding.
Peter Chapple-Hyam’s highly-touted Windsor maiden winner Arod belied his inexperience to run a fantastic race in second, coming from a long way back. True Story was the same distance away in third. The Grey Gatsby does not hold an entry at Epsom and Ryan has no intention of supplementing him, with the French Derby at Chantilly his Classic target.
Chapple-Hyam has saddled two previous winners of the Epsom Derby – Dr Devious (1992) and Authorized (2007) – and Arod is now destined for the Downs. “Faster ground will suit him, as will the step up to a mile and a half. Whether he’s good enough to win the Derby, we’ll find out on the day,” said the trainer.
After the Dante dust settled, Aidan O’Brien’s colt Australia hardened into odds-on favourite for the Derby. David Williams of Ladbrokes explained: “Australia finds himself odds-on despite having not raced since the Guineas. The True Story flop was the latest in a long line of disappointing trials and the Ballydoyle star now has a vice-like grip on the Epsom market.”
Also at York, Alan Jarvis saddled what could be one of his last winners when course specialist Navajo Chief (15-2) landed the Betfred Hambleton Stakes for a second time. Jarvis is set to lose his licence after the British Horseracing Authority deemed him no longer a fit and proper person due to a debt owed to Doncaster Bloodstock Sales.
At Hamilton tonight, William Haggas is one of several big-name trainers with a runner in the Ginger Grouse Braveheart Listed Handicap Stakes.
The 12-furlong event has seen its Listed grade under threat recently but a quality renewal with ten declarations – including Haggas-trained Dare To Achieve – have delighted management at the Lanarkshire track. Clerk of the course Hazel Peplinski said: “This year’s race has a really open look to it and it should go on to produce a progressive winner that will do much to protect its Listed status. We have strong course form along with plenty of southern raiders and I’m really pleased with the turnout.” Haggas is looking forward to unleashing Dare To Achieve for his seasonal debut and he said: “The Braveheart Stakes is a very important race in Hamilton Park’s calendar and it deserves as much support as possible. Dare To Achieve has been cut since his last run in September and he is quite headstrong. He’s by Galileo out of a Linamix mare so he should improve as a four-year-old.”
Also represented are fellow Newmarket trainer Amy Weaver with , while Saeed Bin Suroor has booked Fallon for ex-French UK debutant Bolingbroke.
Adding spice to proceedings are last year’s Lanark Silver Bell hero Special Meaning, one of a trio of Mark Johnston runners, and recent Buttonhook Handicap winner Sirvino – trained by David Barron.
Andrew Balding’s Rawaki appears again after his close third last year, while top-weight Clayton, trained by Kevin Ryan, was elevated to a BHA mark of 104 after his ﬁne second at Epsom last month.