Oliver Brett suggests five things to keep an eye on as the Dante Festival rolls into town at York on Wednesday
All change on the weather front:
Up until now, the turf Flat season has been dominated by quick ground but the dry spell has ended abruptly in various parts of Britain and the Dante meeting might favour horses who like a bit of cut in the ground.
The BBC forecast for Wednesday suggests umbrellas will be vital but rain can be pretty localised, particularly to the east of the Pennines, and the Knavesmire drains well so it will pay to listen to the clerk of the course on Wednesday morning and perhaps especially to the jockeys after the first race.
In terms of draw bias, it is much less of an issue at York than it was last week at Chester.
If anything, high numbers are slightly favoured on the six-furlong course but there's no real advantage either way over longer trips.
Shutter Speed aims to boost Classic claims:
If the ante-post market for the Investec Derby is about as muddy as the banks of the River Thames in Hammersmith at low tide, then the Oaks picture is not a whole lot clearer.
Shutter Speed was an impressive winner on her return at Newbury last month and is trading at short odds to beat her four rivals in convincing fashion in the Group 3 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (4.05).
However, even if she wins handsomely, beware rushing to back her to stay on a roll at Epsom.
Her connections warned at Chester last week that she was far more to stick to ten furlongs and instead run in the French Oaks, with Cheshire Oaks winner Enable their preferred candidate for Epsom. On Monday, John Gosden again said a mile and a quarter is as far as she wants at the moment.
Things can change, of course, and if Shutter Speed gallops home strongly on rain-softened ground then Khalid Abdullah and his team may have some more thinking to do.
Shutter Speed is a best-price of 4-9 to win the Musidora with Stan James, while the same firm are among those offering an industry-best 7-1 about her for the Oaks.
Folly to understimate Palmer runner:
There have been some big-priced winners of the Oaks in recent years.
Vintage Folly, Hugo Palmer's daughter of Makfi, is 50-1 (bet365) for the Classic and one of four who will take on Shutter Speed on Wednesday.
She won her only previous race, a Newcastle maiden in late November, by a head. But that race might have been much better quality than anyone imagined at the time.
Gymnaste, the John Gosden filly who Vintage Folly beat in the winter, went on to win at Chester convincingly last week. Vintage Folly is 14-1 with Boylesports to win on Wednesday.
Magical Memory for repeat win?
In its current format as a six-furlong conditions race, including the past 14 years as a Group 2, the Clipper Logistics Duke Of York Stakes (3.30) has only saluted one repeat winner, the Barry Hills-trained Handsome Sailor in the 1980s.
Magical Memory, a general 5-1, seems to have a very good chance of becoming the second member of this club.
Last year's winner is now five - an ideal age for this race - and is also drawn high, which is beneficial on the straight course at York.
The favourite is Brando, who has produced some fine performances of late. But look at his course record: no wins from five attempts on the Knavesmire compared to a 50 per cent strike rate at other courses.
O'Meara a man on a mission:
David O'Meara has earned a deserved reputation as one of the finest of the younger generation of trainers based in England in recent years, even though his overall domestic strike rate has declined slightly from 15 per cent in 2013.
To some extent he has been a victim of his own success - improving handicappers so much that they become tough to win with - and in the past fortnight he has been very busy while his horses have been running well.
O'Meara has three in the Infinity Tyres Handicap (2.55) over six furlongs and while we know all about Out Do and Watchable, it is Al Qahwa who is the most interesting of his trio.
The four-year-old is ex-Godolphin, newly gelded and has moved over from Ireland - exactly the sort of horse O'Meara does well with. In theory he may need this race but he looks one to keep an eye on.
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