Rising temperatures this week mirror a Flat campaign starting to bubble. The three-day Dante Festival is set o feature several of the sport's top stars and promises plenty.
The Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes is a fitting centrepiece on Thursday with a fantastic line-up this year including two Group One winners, a brace of “could be anything” novice victors and what could prove Aidan O’Brien’s leading Investec Derby contender in japan.
More than £1million in prize money is up for grabs during the Dante Festival and, with an eye on the big races, here are five to note this week.
TOO DARN HOT
Dante Stakes (3.35 on Thursday). Odds: 7-4
John Gosden reflects on Too Darn Hot's Dewhurst victory
Despite last year’s brilliance, Too Darn Hot has queries to answer on his first start as a three-year-old after an injury setback this spring.
Apart from his lack of a recent run, he is up to an extended mile and a quarter. It is a trip he should appreciate on breeding but one that could prove his limit given his exhilarating racing style.
Even in this excellent line-up, we should not forget how spectacular Too Darn Hot was last term. There was style and substance to his performances, which marked him as the best juvenile since the great Frankel.
Too Darn Hot has at least 12lb in hand clear on official ratings. Can he prove himself a Derby player? The Knavesmire is about to give us some answers.
Musidora Stakes (3.35 on Wednesday). Odds: 5-2
John Gosden has won this Oaks trial five times in the past seven years and his exciting Kingman filly has a favourite’s chance of improving that enviable record.
The champion trainer is notably effusive about Sparkle Roll and she impressed on seasonal debut in a hot Sandown novice, winning in cosy style under hand and heels riding from Oisin Murphy under a 7lb penalty.
Gosden has a strong clutch of Investec Oaks contenders with Meedaayih and Anapurna impressive trial winners and Star Catcher also a likely type.
Sparkle Roll’s performance on Wednesday should help establish a clearer pecking order, the suspicion being that this filly, a half-sister to Derby winner Wings Of Eagles, can take another step forward, even if her trainer views her more of a Ribblesdale runner.
British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes (4.05 on Thursday). Odds: --
Archie Watson told Tom Stanley more about Soldier's Call
Soldier’s Call had a fine campaign last term. He provided the excellent Archie Watson with a first Royal Ascot winner and he a close third to Mabs Cross in the Prix de l’Abbaye before a creditable run at the Breeders’ Cup after blowing the start in fairly spectacular fashion.
All roads lead to the King’s Stand Stakes this time and the trainer has customarily identified an appealing target for his stable star in the Listed Westow Stakes against fellow three-year-olds. Watson says his Showcasing colt has strengthened up ahead of the new campaign.
His effort here is of particular interest with the months ahead in mind. He could be a big player at the highest level in receipt of his three-year-old allowance.
Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes (2.25 on Friday). Odds: 10-1
A beautifully-bred daughter of Kingman and half-sister to Breeders’ Cup hero Expert Eye, Clerisy got off the mark nicely at the Craven meeting but more notable still was the post-race reaction from Sir Michael Stoute. “She’s a very useful filly in the making,” he said.
He added that the filly had been a slow-learner and Clerisy did her best work at the finish at Newmarket, admittedly off an ordinary gallop.
She won despite market weakness and, previously entered in the 1,000 Guineas, she will step up to a mile for the first time here.
Will she have wised up enough after Newmarket? That’s open to question, given her profile, but there’s potential for a fair step forward to – especially given connections - and this Coronation Stakes entry is clearly held in high regard.
Matchbook Yorkshire Cup (3.00 Friday). Odds: 7-1
James Willoughby and Nick Lightfoot give their verdict on the Derby, in which Dee Ex bee was second
Stradivarius carried all before him in the staying division last term, when unbeaten in five starts.
He will be a short-priced favourite but Dee Ex Bee looks a fascinating contender after a fine victory on his return in the Sagaro Stakes.
Second in a Derby, he looked superficially disappointing in the second half of last season but his form stood up well against the likes of Cross Counter and Kew Gardens and his first try at two miles was spectacularly vindicated at Ascot.
Despite dropping back down in distancep, Dee Ex Bee is still unexposed at staying trips and this race-fit four-year-old gets 3lb from Stradivarius.
Ultimately, he looks a great addition to the staying ranks. He has the Group One and Classic form in the book that is increasingly required to make the grade in this sphere.