Dubai: The three-day Dante Festival, one of the most attractive spring events for Dubai flat-racing connections, kicks off at York Racecourse on Wednesday with the first of several exciting Group races including the Clipper Logistics Stakes (G2).
While the prize money, which totals in excess of £1.2 million, is a major factor, the chance to identify potential Classic hopefuls is the overriding denominator with Thursday’s Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes being one of the most proven Epsom Derby (G1) trials.
Ten winners of the 2,100-metre contest have gone on to win the English blue riband, the first being St Paddy in 1960 and Golden Horn the most recent in 2016. In addition, The Grey Gatsby, who won the Dante in 2014, would go on to win the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) while 2015 runner-up, Jack Hobbs went on to land the Irish Derby.
This year’s renewal of the race, the first running under the Al Basti Equiworld banner, is likely to be contested by a high-quality field of eight runners, including three, who feature prominently on the Derby markets.
Too Darn Hot, champion two-year-old of last year and the 13/8 ante-post favourite while Japan, a dual Group race winner is at 4/1 and Line Of Duty, who races out of 2018 Epsom Derby-winning handler Charlie Appleby’s Godolphin-owned yard, is a 15/2 chance.
Impressive winner of the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs last November Line of Duty is joined by the Mohammad Obaida-owner Nayef Road and former Derby-winning owner Saeed Suhail’s Almania in a bid to establish his big-race credentials.
Meanwhile, the Dante Festival kicks off on Wednesday with a seven-race card highlighted by the £100,000 Tattersalls Musidora, a feature race for three-year-old fillies.
The Musidora has established itself as a leading form indicator for the Epsom Oaks (G1), with six winners of the race having gone on to achieve Classic glory.
Godolphin’s Dubai Blue and Swift Rose, both trained by Saeed Bin Surour, are hoping to follow on the route with the trainer saying: “Both fillies are in good form. Swift Rose ran a good race to finish a close second in the UAE Oaks, but we were a little disappointed with her performance in the UAE Derby.
“She tries hard in her races and I think that racing on turf might suit her better than dirt. We wanted to give her chance in a race like this to see how she gets on.
“Dubai Blue has been pleasing me with her work and she is a filly that shows some class in the mornings. I think this distance will suit and she is ready to go.”
Champion sprinters are regularly seen contesting the fastest contest of the week, the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes (G2).
Dubai interests centre around Yafta, representing Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, and Invincible Army, who is owned by Dubai businessman Saeed Manana.