Racing at the Knavesmire dates back to 1731, though horses raced in and around York some 2,000 years ago thanks to those ingenious Romans.
Today one of the greatest tracks in the UK host their three day Dante Meeting, renowned for its quality, and knack of producing future Classic winners. Just a year ago the Musidora Stakes went to Star of Seville before she travelled over the Channel to take the French Oaks. Golden Horn was also at York, winning the Dante Stakes before landing the Derby in stunning fashion.
Over the years the Dante has played a major part in many glorious campaigns. Shirley Heights took the race in 1978 before two dramatic victories in the Irish and English Derby’s. Reference Point was another cracking racehorse that won the Dante, his victory coming in 1987. It was the start of a stunning summer campaign that saw him take the Derby, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Great Voltigeur and the St Leger.
Other famous Dante winners include; Sakhee, North Light, Motivator and Authorized. All went on to become exceptional middle-distance racehorses. It’s fair to say that this three-day meeting is often a springboard to greater achievements for both colts and fillies.
One such horse with the potential to take high order is the beautifully bred Derby contender, Midterm. Owned by Khalid Abdullah and carrying the famous silks of the mighty Juddmonte operation, the colt is by Galileo out of the exceptional mare Midday. He’s only had two career outings thus far, with his last run coming at Sandown over 10 furlongs. He was made to work for the victory that day, but the way he knuckled down to the task was eye-catching, having travelled stylishly through the race.
There are 12 runners in Thursday’s Dante, and it looks a tasty renewal. Foundation runs for John Gosden, and is another with huge potential. He’s a stunning colt to look at, and if the ground remains quick he could put in a huge performance.
Midterm may or may not prove to be something special for the Juddmonte team, but he is certainly not the only horse to have caught the eye this spring for the powerful connections.
Sir Michael Stoute is renowned for his ability in finding improvement in racehorses that stay in training. Exosphere looks to be another that’s made a huge leap from three to four. His reappearance in a Group 2 at Newmarket was quite spectacular, when thrashing dual Group 1 and St Leger heroine Simple Verse. He looks more than capable of landing further valuable contests at a mile and a half during the summer, and could well be one for the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Swiss Range is another that could make an impact at a high level. The three-year-old filly romped home in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket last time. She possesses a stunning change of gear, and though far stiffer tasks lie ahead she could prove to be a special filly. The French Oaks at Chantilly was mentioned as a likely target, though Royal Ascot will also come under consideration. There’s every chance that the Juddmonte International in August will prove tempting, with trip and track likely to suit. Khalid Abdullah, who sponsors the race, took the event in 2011 and 2012 thanks to Twice Over and the mighty Frankel.
However, Swiss Range isn’t the only Juddmonte filly to have caught the eye this spring. Though still a maiden after three starts, Moorside was last seen at Chester chasing home one of Aidan O’Brien’s Oaks prospects, Somehow. Trained by Charlie Hills, Moorside is a gorgeous filly with plenty of size and scope. She’s instantly spotted in the pack with a striking white face and a huge raking stride. Chester’s tight bends would not have been ideal, and she still looked a little green when being run down late on by O’Brien’s filly. The Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot looks a sensible option, and I think she could be a cracker.
With Time Test and New Bay yet to return to action, Team Juddmonte look set to play a major role in middle distance events throughout the summer. In recent years the likes of Flintshire, Noble Mission and, to a lesser extent, Snow Sky have all landed valuable prizes. Along with Kingman and Frankel, Khalid Abdullah has had a thrilling spell at the head of affairs, and the potential is certainly there for that to continue for some time to come.