NEXT week's Betfred Dante Stakes at York is shaping up to be a vintage renewal that should help to make the Investec Derby picture look much clearer than it currently appears.
While the ante-post favourite for the Derby, Australia, is due to go straight to Epsom after finishing third in Saturday's 2,000 Guineas, the next three horses in the betting are all due to line up on the Knavesmire next Thursday.
True Story, which is currently a 7-1 second favourite in the Derby betting, is a confirmed runner in the Dante, and is likely to go off favourite for the York showpiece that was won last year by Libertarian, who went on to finish second at Epsom.
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Having established his Derby credentials by winning the Feilden, True Story is likely to be partnered by a reborn Kieren Fallon when he lines up in the Dante.
“He goes in the Dante,” confirmed True Story's trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor. “At this stage, he's the most likely of ours to run in the Derby, but we have many horses entered and there is plenty of time before we decide.”
True Story's chief rival in eight days time could be John Gosden's Western Hymn, who was an impressive winner of last month's Bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown.
“We could do the Dante and go on, but we will just see,” said Gosden. “He came out of Sandown very well – he put weight on and took the race in his stride. I thought it might have flattened him a bit, but not at all.”
Kingston Hill is available at around 14-1 in the Derby market, and while the colt lost his unbeaten record as he finished eighth in the Guineas, Roger Varian still regards him as a potential star over a mile-and-a-half.
He was going best of all towards the finish at Newmarket, and while Varian also has Ayrad and Battersea entered in the Derby, there is a strong chance that Kingston Hill will line up in the Dante in order to test his stamina ahead of Epsom.
“The Dante is still an option for Kingston Hill,” said Varian. “We'll see how he is in the next week or so. He fluffed the start at Newmarket and was chasing the game, so on reflection I don't think he has run badly at all.”
Richard Hannon has confirmed that Bunker, a winner at Deauville, will contest the Dante, while Paul Cole has hinted that Berkshire, a disappointing ninth in the Greenham Stakes, could also be involved.
Next week's Dante Festival, which also features the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes on the Wednesday, will see total prize money top the £1m mark for the first time.
Over the three days, racegoers will be able to see the latest developments to the northern end of the course. There is a new enlarged pre-parade ring, with new saddling boxes on two sides. A new weighing room is also under construction, and should open in May 2015 along with a new Moet Pavilion.