The Dante Festival is underway at the glorious York racetrack. Day One went to the punters with a swathe of favourites winning but we all know that can soon turn sour. Thursday's card opens with a tricky little sprint, and it's a welcome return to Stephen Boardman, @ste_b85, casting an eye over this highly competitive field.
BETFRED "SUPPORTS JACK BERRY HOUSE" STAKES
Class 2 Handicap, Five furlongs, 0-105 rating
1410 local 2310 AEST
Placed in both the Stewards'' Cup and Ayr Gold Cup last season when with Varian and no reason why he can''t continue same level of form for yard known for their sprinters. First try at 5f today (worth a crack); respected despite top weight; chances.
Enjoyed a solid campaign last year winning the Epsom Dash for his new yard. Has shot up the weights now; though did run well here off 3lbs higher in August. Balance of factors suggest other days beckon for him.
Just touched off in this race last year and won Scottish Sprint Cup during fruitful campaign; now races off 7lbs higher than for that win. Sure to be race fit and no shock to see him run with credit on track he''s excelled on in the past.
Very lightly raced and hard to assess after having only one run in the last two years and switching stables over the Winter. Likeable 2yo however and sure to show his ability once he finds his feet again; positive jockey booking; one to note.
Son Of Africa
Very much dropped off the boil since runaway success in June last year at Newmarket off 10lbs lower. Last of 11 on reappearance and hard to enthuse about his chances despite booking of Doyle.
Got the job done very nicely at Newmarket last month on return to 5f. Now up 9lbs as a result but looks like continuing on upward curve. Ideally needs juice in the ground; has to enter calculations if any rain is significant enough; most appealing.
Pops up during most seasons with some classy performances and has already struck in 2016 when winning at Beverley on debut. Quite high in the weights now though and majority of wins have come on soft or worse; passed over today.
Didn''t sparkle last year as a 4yo but has returned in fine heart this time around with a couple of placed efforts on the AW to his name. Might need to drop a pound or two to be seen at his best but has solid form in the book and can go well.
Conqueror of Fast Track on their recent meeting in March and has proven himself very effective on the AW during the Winter. Last turf win was off 21lbs lower though and doesn't appear the type to land a prize of this nature.
Looked a sprinter to follow last year with a string of fine efforts on the AW, the last of those when winning on first try over 5f. If can continue the upward curve back on turf he is a major player for yard in good form; jockey booking a bonus too.
Overall record rather patchy and while he has a CD win to his name his last turf win was over two years ago off 14lbs lower than today. Easy to make a case against him winning today.
Interesting runner in that she was highly progressive last season and won both her starts over CD during the Summer. Bombed out on reappearance (soft ground excuse) so needs to bounce back; right up there if she does though; chances.
Duke Of Firenze
Dropped down the weights after a season to forget last year meaning he is now below the mark of his last three victories. Showed he''s coming to the boil recently and should get the strong pace he loves; jockey in form; definite EW chances.
Has won first time out twice in three seasons but starts this campaign in a competitive affair. All ground comes alike to him but likely to have to settle for minor honours at best today against some classy opponents.
Has shown signs of a revival since the heady heights of his powers in 2014 when he was rated 18lbs higher than today. His impressive young rider takes a further 5lbs off to assist even more but he''s one to steer clear of in his present mood.
Remains on a workable mark and has the services of the champion jockey here today. A recent win at Epsom gives hope but he''s never landed a contest in this grade; the scales tip in favour of others today.
The nearly horse last year having placed in no fewer than six different contests. Certainly has claims off this mark judged on those efforts but last win was three grades below this and he''s not getting any younger.
A fast run race is expected with pace all across the track in the shape of Red Baron, Thesme and Doctor Sardonicus. Toofi could have a good season ahead for Robert Cowell and is respected on his first try at 5f. However, BRANDO looked a sprinter to follow at Newmarket and should be rated 100+ before long. He ideally needs the rain but can stalk the pace and pounce late for Spencer. If it proves too lively for him then Duke Of Firenze is the EW choice given that he loves to come off a fast pace, is hitting form and remains on a very winnable mark.