Oh the Knavesmire in May, what a glorious sight.
Yes, its Dante Festival time once more as the build-up to the next month’s Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot continues.
Three big Class 1 races headline three days of elite flat racing in York, with the Duke of York Clippers, the Middleton Fillies and the main event Dante Stakes the marquee attractions.
We’ve taken a look at the form book, the prices, the jockeys, the trainers and the big names themselves and come up with one pick from each contest.
Highfield Princess (1895 Duke of York Clipper Stakes, 6f)
One of the big stars of the British flat season last term, we’re considering Highfield Princess a NAP in Wednesday’s Clippers Stakes.
Having just turned 6yo, this majestic French mare has won five of the last six races on UK turf.
Her only other loss last term came in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint, but aside from that, the daughter of Night of Thunder has been imperious.
This will be her first venture out this season in prep for the bigger races and no doubt Royal Ascot, where Highfield Princess’ only recent loss on familiar soil came in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes last year.
Pencilled in for the Kings’ Stand this year – with a possible heavyweight clash with Roger Varian and The Platinum Queen – Jason Hart will be eyeing a win on his trusty steed.
Charlie Appleby will be keen to thwart, but at 7/2 with William Hill and with the ground set to be fast, this Princess is worthy of a decent flutter.
Toskana Belle (Dubai Middleton Fillies’ Stakes, 1m2½f)
Then, in Thursday’s stacked double feature, first, the Middleton Fillies Stakes looks a really competitive race, and attempting to find a winner, Toskana Belle is an interesting option.
A fellow French fancy, this will be a first run out under new trainer Roger Varian, after winning half her contests in France and Germany under both Marian Falk Weissmeier and Andreas Wohler.
It will be interesting to see how Toskana Belle travels on UK debut, following a runner-up finish with Frankie Dettori last time out at Aqueduct over 1m3f.
A little bit of a gamble at best price of 8/1 with PariMatch, the mount of David Egan could be the Belle of the Yorkshire Ball.
Epictetus (Dubai Dante Stakes, 1m2½f)
Turning to the main event Derby Trial, we are backing Frankie Dettori to have a final victory leap on the Knavesmire with Epictetus.
With Flying Honours set to do battle with John and Thady Gosden, this is a precursor to the big one on The Downs in just over a fortnight’s time.
As the 3yos clash, Epictetus has won two and finished second in the other two, but importantly comes into this with a win from Epsom late last month.
Having made an eye-catching debut in the Weatherbys Maiden Stakes during last summer’s July Festival at Newmarket, this horse now has to live up to the hype.
A race won last year by Desert Crown, Dettori is seeking a third Dante win after Authorized in 2007 and most recently on Wings of Desire seven years ago.
Having travelled in four contests to date all with differing conditions, there is a small element of doubt over Epictetus, but nevertheless, at 4/1 with BetUK could still look good value in the favourite’s spot.