In the know on the Knavesmire

Thursday 18th May, 3:35pm

Epictetus @ 7/2
Flying Honours @ 9/2
Passenger @ 5/1
Continuous @ 6/1
Canberra Legend @ 6/1
The Foxes @ 7/1
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*prices correct at time of writing. 

It’s mid-May, there’s a bit more sunshine around. The Flat is well and truly up and running and the Epsom Classics aren’t too far away, so here we are at York for the Dante Festival which is many people’s favourite week of the year.

What makes the Dante meeting such an enjoyable few days?

Not only is it a tremendously enjoyable event, but because year in year out the quality of racing is excellent.

If we look back to last year Desert Crown took the Dante and went on to win the Derby, Emily Upjohn was successful in the Musidora and she had Group 1 success. Highfield Princess made a splash, and we had Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup.

It’s a great event with very good prize money. But the racing is centre stage and it’s absolutely top notch.

What do you make of this year’s Dante line-up?

The Dante is the headline event and Epictetus, who won the other day at Epsom, will go some way to answering the question of whether he’ll be heading back to Epsom for the Derby or to Chantilly for the Prix Du Jockey Club.

Frankie Dettori rides him for the Gosdens, Team Gosden and Team Dettori have done exceptionally well in Dantes over the years and Epictetus is clearly a quality performer as he showed in good style at Epsom.

It’s decent opposition too, Flying Honours will relish the distance, he might just relish every yard and want a bit further, but Godolphin are in smashing form with this type of horse at the moment.

Canberra Legend has got some pounds to make up on ratings, but he’s a Feilden winner and a very good horse. I think the extra distance will suit him well.

Passenger is probably the most intriguing runner in the race. Trained, like Desert Crown, by Sir Michael Stoute. He came clear in very good style to win the Wood Ditton stakes at Newmarket.

He’s one of those horses who, because he’s been trained by Sir Michael who has proven to be such a genius with these types and having won in such good style last time, if he went and absolutely bolted up, people would be getting very excited for him about the Derby.

What about the Musidora?

Emily Upjohn, Snowfall, Sariska, The Fugue, some top-class fillies have won this over the years. Sir Michael Stoute has a strong hand again with Infinite Cosmos. She won at Newmarket earlier this month in what was a very decent display and again, there’s excitement about this horse because of Sir Michael’s record with these types over the years.

It’s another strong field. Sea of Roses looks a good price given she’s had a run this year and run well. Sticking with the roses theme, we’ve got Gather Ye Rosebuds who won a race at Newbury by nine and a half lengths. It was quite a wet day that day, but connections seem confident she can handle the dryer conditions.

There’s also Novokai, who was only narrowly beaten by Comissioning, she’s also a player. Empress Wu also looks like she could be a bit special.

Over to today’s Duke of York Stakes – how good is it to see Highfield Princess back?

It will be a pleasure to see Highfield Princess back. She’s been a credit to all involved. She won three Group 1s last year, and at the time of the Duke of York last year she was rated 104 – she’s now 119 having touched 120. One thing to consider is it was her fifth race this time last year – this time it’s not. But she sets a high standard.

There’s Creative Force in there which is a quick turnaround after something of a cakewalk at Haydock on Saturday.

Ryan Moore rides The Astrologist – an Australian raider from puts him right in the mix for these good sprint races. It’s hard to imagine at this stage that he could be a Black Caviar – who was successful at Royal Ascot – but that’s the plan for The Astrologist.

A couple of horses on the up are in there too. Azure Blue, who won well recently and the three-year-old Marshman who gets weight. Marshman is up in quality, but definitely a player here and his trainer Karl Burke tends to do pretty well at this fixture.

With no Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup this year, how do you see this one panning out?

Quickthorn Lad had quite a lot of success last year and his form against Coltrane looks strong.

Eldar Eldarov won the St Leger in 2022 but has a pedigree that suggests he might do even better this year. The juggernaut that is the Roger Varian operation is really getting into top gear, so that’s in his favour too.

Any particular horses and trainers to look out for at this meeting?

There are some trainers that tend to really flourish at this meeting. Karl Burke is one, and Michael Dods is another.

Amongst Dods’ big contenders this week will be Brunch – second at this meeting last year – he’ll be looking to go one better in the same race. Dakota Gold goes again looking to win once more at his favourite track.

Tim Easterby tends to target this meeting – he trains Copper Knight  – one of that exclusive list to have won six times on the Knavesmire. He also has a horse called Cruyff Turn who won at this meeting in 2022 and doesn’t look badly handicapped.

Although the card looks as tricky as ever, the ground looks perfect, so there’s much to look forward to!

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