Five horses who caught the eye in defeat at York's Dante Festival

By Harry Allwood@harry_allwood
Sun 16 May 2021

Harry Allwood kept a close eye on the racing action at York's Dante Festival and pinpoints five horses who caught the eye in defeat over the three days.

The Dante Festival certainly didn’t disappoint again this year and we witnessed some future stars in action over the three days on the Knavesmire.

The performance of the week? That’s a tough question, but I thought Starman did well to win what was a high-class renewal of the Duke Of York Stakes on Wednesday.

Watch a full replay of the Duke Of York Stakes

Ed Walker’s colt had hinted he was a Group One performer in the making when successful in a Listed contest at York last year when he was still maturing and although he failed to land a blow in the Champions Sprint on his final start, connections were quick to blame the soft ground afterwards.

I think his Duke Of York success proved he is going to be competitive in the top sprint contests this year, and it also looked as though he would come on for the run prior to the race.

With only five starts under his belt, he surely has more to offer as the season progresses, and I will be siding with him in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot which he is a best-priced 4-1 for.


Race: Fifth in the Churchill Tyres Handicap (Wednesday)

After bolting up in a handicap off a rating of 93 on his final start in 2019 and being purchased by King Power Racing after that run, it is disappointing Bielsa hasn’t been able to get his head in front since.

However, following a few below-par runs, including in some hot handicaps, and a couple of wind operations in 2020, the six-year-old returned with a promising effort when second behind the improving Commanche Falls on his seasonal return, and again produced an improved performance at York on Wednesday.

Kevin Ryan’s charge travelled powerfully throughout and looked the winner when in the lead entering the final furlong before he was collared late on by Mr Lupton plus was squeezed for room close home. He would probably still have finished fifth had he not suffered interference but would have been beaten less than two lengths.

His two runs this year have certainly suggested he has a handicap of this nature in him, and first-time cheekpieces at York also appeared to help. It is likely he will stay on a rating of 96 after being assessed by the handicapper and isn’t one to give up on yet.

I expect connections will aim him at a similar handicap again next time out, and he appears best suited with some cut in the ground.


Race: Second in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes (Wednesday)

The majority of the youngsters that contested this Novice Stakes on Wednesday made plenty of appeal on paper, and Korker looks the one to take out of the race given the abundance of promise he showed.

After missing the break, the son of Dandy Man was detached from the remainder for the first half of the race before making up an abundance of ground to challenge inside the final furlong.

Although it initially looked like he had come with a winning challenge (he touched 1.55 on the exchanges in running), it was a shade disappointing he didn’t go past the winner, but he did begin to close on Project Dante near the line, and couldn’t quite overcome his greenness to get his head in front.

Nevertheless, he still did well to finish as close as he did after a slow start and will have learnt plenty from this outing.

His pedigree suggests he will stay at least a furlong or two further in time, and it will be disappointing if this £50,000 purchase isn’t capable of getting off the mark sooner rather than later.


Race: Fourth in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap (Thursday)

A return to six furlongs will surely be on the agenda for Mid Winster who stayed on strongly to finish fourth in this 5f handicap on Thursday.

The mare could not quite go the pace to maintain her challenge when coming under pressure having raced with the leaders throughout and began to charge home in the final 100 yards to finish less than two lengths behind the winner.

This was also the case when she finished second at Musselburgh on her previous start where she lost a few lengths once the pace quickened before running on again towards the finish.

Having had a wind op prior to this season, Paul Midgeley’s sprinter has produced four consistent runs, and despite being 6lb above her last winning mark, she is surely capable of getting her head in front when stepped back up in trip.


Race: Fourth in the Langleys Solicitors British EBF Marygate Fillies' Stakes (Friday)

Mas Poder must have been showing positive signs at home to be pitched into a Listed contest on debut, and she ran a huge race to finish fourth, despite her inexperience.

Having raced keenly in the early stages of the race, she ran noticeably green under pressure, especially in the final furlong, and also became unbalanced at one stage. However, she stuck to her task well to be beaten two lengths against rivals who all had the benefit of racecourse experience and can only improve for this outing.

Her pedigree suggests she will be suited by sprint trips, and it will be interesting to see if connections aim her at the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot or try and find an easier race for her to get off the mark and gain more experience before she’s stepped up in grade.

She clearly has a bright future though, and is certainly one to follow this season.


Race: Third in the Matchbook "Best Value" Exchange Handicap

Having travelled powerfully into contention, it looked as though Irish Admiral was going to emulate stablemate Ilaraab and storm to victory on the Knavesmire.

Once he came to challenge the eventual winner, Surrey Pride, William Haggas’ four-year-old could not quite maintain his challenge and faded into third inside the final furlong.

He did have to overcome the widest draw though, and made up an abundance of ground having raced in last, so it wasn’t a huge surprise he couldn’t put the race to bed with those exertions taking its toll late on.

I don’t believe he stayed the trip, either, and there were certainly doubts beforehand over the distance based upon his pedigree.

He could be extremely well handicapped judged by the way he travelled into the race, and I would be surprised if connections do not step him back down in trip to a mile next time out.

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