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York horse racing preview and tips: Four best bets on Dante Stakes day


On the second day of York's first meeting of the year of the year, racing expert Jake Russell shares his best four bets of the day, including his tip for the Dante Stakes

By @ Jake Russell

2.15pm - Lindum York Handicap

There could be an element of risk attached to selecting Equilateral for this contest on Thursday, as he does come up against some horses who are much lower than him in the weights, who could find some form at York. 

However, the Charlie Hills horse is currently on 3 wins in 3 runs at handicap level, which does include a neck win to Alligator Alley at this venue in a 20-runner field last August. That win was in very similar conditions to Thursday, and the one aspect that really catches the eye is the fact that he is just one pound higher in the weights now compared to his winning effort at York last year. 

His previous two handicap wins were both in Meydan, which was the same renewal back in January 2020 and January 2021, but ever since then he has been mixing it up in patterned company and has also landed a Group 1 at Royal Ascot during that time. 

Obviously, as a 9yo he is clearly not getting any younger, and that run in Meydan 111 days ago was a slight disappointment, but being a sprinter he can easily bounce back at this sort of level, and looking at the previous winners of this race, it does pay to be drawn in the lower numbers (since 2014 there has been 7 winners drawn 10 or lower - other two were out of stall 11). 

Charlie Hills is currently operating at a 29% win strike rate for the last 14 days, and Jamie Spencer gets on so well with this horse. I think the pair can land another big-field handicap at York, like they did back in August of last year.

3.15pm - Group 2 Middleton Fillies Stakes    

This is a tricky Group 2 to decipher for the older fillies and mares, in which fresh form could be the best option to side with here. Free Wind ran in some very good races last season, and although her form did start to fade away in the later stages of last season, she won this on her first start of the season and did also come second in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. 

Her main rival here, Bluestocking, did beat her and come runner-up in the fillies’/mares’ race at Ascot last October, but the Gosden runner Free Wind was hampered a furlong from home and was only beaten by a little under three lengths, otherwise she might have finished a little closer to the Ralph Beckett horse. 

Like a few horses who are probably too good for Group 2 level, but not quite good enough to win a Group 1, it is best to catch them early on in the season, and I think that statement does apply to Free Wind here. She was a 9-length winner of her 3yo seasonal re-appearance a few years back, as well as landing this contest in very game fashion last season under the Frankie Dettori drive, so is clearly the sort to put her best foot forward early on in the season. 

As mentioned, she was the 1¼- length winner of this contest last season, and although this field might be a little stronger, she has it all in her favour once again this year. She is also the sort to get better with age, so this could be the season she finally lands her first Group 1 race.

3.45pm - Group 2 Dante Stakes

I really like this contest usually, as we tend to see some very nice types who come out of it, with 11 previous winners of this contest going on to land some sort of Derby, whether it be at Epsom, Ireland or even over in France.

Desert Crown was the most recent to do the Dante and Derby double, as well as Hurricane Lane who won this and then went onto Irish Derby glory in 2021. 

There appears to be only one real winner of this, and that is the current Derby third-favourite in Ancient Wisdom, who came on leaps and bounds with each run last season. He won his first two races in maiden and novice stakes, as well as coming third in the Ascot Listed race won by Rosallion (the form of that contest is red-hot), before going on to then hack up in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, which set him up nicely for the Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Doncaster, which he won in pretty impressive fashion by a cool 1¾ lengths. 

The form of that race at Doncaster has been franked nicely with a few horses in behind winning or running well on their next start or two. William Buick will have a very tough decision on his hands if Ancient Wisdom was to hack up in the Dante, as Godolphin and Charlie Appleby have Derby ambitions for Arabian Crown, who is currently the 2nd favourite in the market and who won the Sandown Classic Trial in very good fashion a month ago. 

For what it is worth, Buick is ultimately likely to opt for Ancient Wisdom when it comes to the Derby in June, unless he completely blows out at York on Thursday, although I can not see that happening, and at this stage Ancient Wisdom is definitely up there as one of my main Derby picks for next month. 

He is the highest rated in the Dante field on Thursday and is perfectly bred to appreciate the step up in trip to 1m2f and beyond. I am very excited to see how this son of Dubawi gets on come Thursday. 

4.45pm - Novice Stakes

I really do like these sort of contests involving first-time-out 2yo's who are all very nicely bred, and it will take a very forward type to land a race of this nature on debut at York. Although there is an Aidan O'Brien runner coming over who will no doubt be the market leader, I think it could pay to side with Kevin Ryan's runner here. 

Tarlac is out of Pinatubo, who has only the one runner to do for the boys in blue, who has placed 3rd on two occasions, so it is obviously too early to see how he will get on as a stallion, but it is fair to say he was an excellent racehorse. 

Obviously not much to go on in terms of form or previous runs, as all the field are making their debuts here on Thursday, but I like Kevin Ryan as a trainer, especially with his younger types, as he really does know how to get them ready. 

Tarlac is closely related to a few decent performers who did operate over a slightly further trip, and given the fact he is making his debut over six furlongs, that doesn't really bother me with this horse, as if it was to be a real tare up down the Knavesmire, then providing he is fit and ready to go, he should be staying on nicely in the closing stages. 


 All prices are from Planet Sport Bet and are subject to change

 All previews and tips provided by @ Jake Russell

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