THIS was always going to be a big week for Michael Dods’ sprinters – but even in his wildest dreams, the County Durham trainer cannot have imagined things starting like this.

Two days before Mabs Cross attempts to avenge last year’s photo-finish heartbreak by landing the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes, Dakota Gold cemented his status as Dods’ latest sprinting star by claiming the Class Two Sky Bet and Symphony Group Handicap, the opening race of York’s Ebor Festival.

Dakota Gold had looked like a Group horse in the making when he trounced a top-class field to land the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon last weekend, but triumphing in two big-field handicaps in the space of five days is a huge ask for even the most progressive of five-year-olds.

The Connor Beasley-ridden speedster was backed as if defeat was out of question though, starting as the 4-1 favourite, and led his 21 rivals on a merry dance as he burst out of the stalls before forging a purposeful path down the centre of the course.

Nothing got to within three-quarters of a length of him, and having saddled Mecca’s Angel and Mabs Cross to Group One success, Dods finds himself with another sprinter capable of competing at the highest level.

“It’s unbelievable really,” said Dods, who is based at Denton Hall, close to Darlington. “What a start to the week! He’s come out after all his injuries and won this and the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon in the space of a week. That’s some effort.

“He was going up eight pounds after winning the Great St Wilfrid, but was able to come here with a five-pound penalty, so that made our mind up really. You’re obviously a little bit worried running two really competitive races in such a short space of time, but he was so well in himself after Ripon that we were sure it was the right thing to do.

“He’s run another cracker. He was away really strongly and just never looked back. It takes some doing to lead them home like that at York, but he’s done it. We’ll see what happens now, but I’d imagine we’ll miss the Portland (at Doncaster) and go for the Ayr Gold Cup.”

Victory at Ayr would complete a remarkable hat-trick, and given that Dakota Gold is a five-year-old that has been plagued with injury problems in the past, there is reason to believe there could be further room for improvement next season.

“You’d have to say he’s a Group horse now, but then you probably have to be one of those to win an Ayr Gold Cup,” said Dods. “Who knows how far he’ll go, but it’s great to have another really good sprinter on our hands.

“I would imagine the Ayr Gold Cup will be the way to go because that will give us the chance to give him a month or so off and freshen him up.”

Attention now turns to Mabs Cross’ attempts to claim the Nunthorpe on Friday, with the Prix de l’Abbaye winner hoping to make up for last year’s disappointment, when she was edged out by the shortest of short heads by the Bryan Smart-trained Alpha Delphini.

Last year’s winner will be absent on Friday because of injury, but in the Aidan O’Brien-trained Ten Sovereigns, who put in a sparkling performance last month as he landed the July Cup at Newmarket, and the mercurial Battaash, who finished ahead of Mabs Cross in both the Temple Stakes and King’s Stand Stakes this season, Dods’ stable star faces a formidable pair of rivals.

“It’s great to get a winner on the board at a meeting like this, and hopefully it’s the start of a good week,” said Dods, who announced earlier this week that Gerald Mosse would be riding Mabs Cross on Friday instead of Paul Mulrennan. “Everything is going well with Mabs. It’s obviously going to be a tough race with Ten Sovereigns of Aiden’s and Battaash – they’ll make it a really top-class race, maybe they won’t turn up!

“The one thing we know with Mabs is that she’ll run her race and give it her all. We’ll just have to see whether that’s good enough.”

Today’s emotions were markedly different to the ones Dods was experiencing after last year’s Nunthorpe, when it took an eternity for the result of the photo finish to be announced. It looked for all the world as if the race would be declared a dead-heat when a picture of the finish was broadcast on the big screens in the centre of the Knavesmire, but the verdict went against Mabs Cross even though it looked all-but-impossible to separate her from Alpha Delphini as the Northern-trained pair flashed across the line.

“It was one of those things,” said Dods. “Thankfully, she more than made up for it by winning at Longchamp. It doesn’t feel like unfinished business, but it would obviously be great if she won.”