Bonfire is a late withdrawal from the Stobart Barristers Dee Stakes this afternoon. Trainer Andrew Balding says that the going, which is soft, heavy in places for the third day of the Chester meeting, is unsuitable.
The race, for which Bonfire was a likely odds on favourite, would have been his first of the season. Bonfire is currently second favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom on 2 June. A win would undoubtedly seen his odds for that race shorten, though in truth, because of the conditions, it could not offer any real indication of his chances in the next Classic of the season.
Balding said, “It’s no fault of Chester, who have been trying to deal with an impossible job due to the rain they’ve had, but we didn’t feel it was fair to run the horse on that ground. It would have done more harm than good, so we’ll now have a rethink.”
With just three weeks to go before the Derby, opportunities to fit in a prep race and then give horses a final tune up at home are limited. Bonfire may go to York next week, but is as likely to go Epsom without another run.
Balding said, “He’ll be confirmed (for the Dante), and it is a possibility, but we’ll discuss it at the weekend. It (running in the Derby without a prior race) has been done before. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it’s also an option.”
The Dante has the potential to be more informative than usual this year, not necessarily in identifying the Derby winner, but in ruling out some of the current market leaders. Five of the six horses immediately behind Camelot in the betting: Bonfire, Mandaean, Parish Hall, Imperial Monarch and Ernest Hemingway are all entered, though they may not all turn up.
The one exception is Akeed Mofeed from the John Oxx stable, who is down to run in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown on Sunday, where he could come up against Ernest Hemingway.