Hurricane Lane burst into the picture for the Cazoo Derby when knuckling down gamely to win the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.
Ridden by William Buick and trained by Charlie Appleby, the son of Frankel took control well inside the furlong to claim the Group Two honours.
It was a welcome boost for Godolphin and Appleby after several previous runners in the recognised Classic trials fell short of expectations.
Hurricane Lane (5-1) had to work hard to extend his 100 per cent record on his third career start.
High Definition was sent off the 13-8 favourite to strike for Aidan O’Brien. But it was the stable’s second string Roman Empire, ridden by Hollie Doyle, who looked like springing a surprise after opening up a long lead into the straight.
However, Roman Empire came back to the field, and the finish was fought out by Hurricane Lane and Megallan, trained by John and Thady Gosden.
Hurricane Lane ground out success by three-quarters of a length. High Definition was a further length and a quarter away in third, with Roman Empire fourth.
A son of Frankel, Hurricane Lane was cut to 6-1 from 12-1 for the Derby with Betfair and Paddy Power.
In the past 10 days Appleby had seen three of his potential Derby candidates beaten, with Wirko and Yibir fluffing their lines in the Chester Vase and Dee Stakes respectively and Adayar having to make do with the runner-up spot in the Lingfield Derby Trial.
The Moulton Paddocks handler was delighted to see Hurricane Lane step forward as a legitimate contender for the premier Classic.
Appleby said: “We were pleased with Adayar, who was probably beaten by a sharper horse at Lingfield, and then we had the boys at Chester.
“When you went through the bare form of the horses ahead of the trials, we felt this horse had the best form of the four of them.
“He obviously beat Maximal at Newbury and Maximal went and ran well at Chester (second in the Dee Stakes), so we were confident that Hurricane Lane was the right one to go to the Dante.
“He’s got a great temperament for a big horse and is a good mover. It was lovely ground and he’s jumped and travelled well and stayed well, so he ticks a lot of the boxes (for the Derby).
“I was a bit worried Hollie’s horse had got away from them, but once I saw he was stopping, I was confident our horse would keep galloping and that’s what he’s done.
“He’s proven he’s got stamina in abundance and the step up in trip at Epsom should suit him. I’ve been on the phone to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and he was pleased, so as long as the horse comes out of it fit and well, that (Epsom) is the obvious place to go.”
The trainer confirmed Hurricane Lane is likely to be joined at Epsom by stablemate One Ruler following his sixth-placed finish in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
He added: “He’ll go straight for the Derby. He’s come out of the Guineas well and we toyed with whether to run him in the Dante, but it has always been Hurricane Lane’s plan, so we felt we’d go straight to Epsom with him.”
Buick said: “We all know the Dante is always a good trial and this year’s looked to have plenty of quality in it.
“I think what this horse has in his locker is that he will improve for a mile and a half, he will stay. Everything he does, he does it right, he went through the gears nicely and when he got company he battled back – he did that at Newbury, too.
“He’s gone from strength to strength, he’s improved with every run and has taken every run well, he’s got a real good mind. I can’t see much more you could ask of him.
“Obviously he’ll have to step up again, we all know that, but at least he’s got the experience now and he’ll get a mile and a half.
“It was a solid-run trial, a true-run race, unlike some of the trials it was an end-to-end gallop.
“He travels well and is well balanced, obviously he hasn’t been to Epsom but I’m not too worried about Epsom.”
Buick and Appleby combined for Derby glory in 2018 with Masar, and the rider added: “Masar was a top juvenile, won the Craven and was placed in the Guineas, we knew he’d get 10 furlongs – we weren’t sure about 12, but he got it very well.
“You never know about that race until the day.”
Of Megallan, Gosden senior said: “He came here on trial for the Prix du Jockey Club and if he’s in good order that’s where he’ll go as that is his trip. Megallan has a better turn of foot on quicker ground, so we’ll have to see what it’s like.
“I’ve always liked the winner, William was telling us on a flight back from Chester he thought he’d run well.
“I think the two best trials are the Derrinstown and the Dante, I think the winners are the two smart ones and Aidan also has two smart fillies.
“Uncle Bryn needs to grow up a bit, like all of us.”
Doyle was having her first ride for Ballydoyle and said: “He was doing everything so easy and they left me to it. I thought I’d ask him a question half a mile out and he responded.
“At the furlong pole I was thinking ‘where is everyone’. He’s run a huge race.”