The pick of the high-quality sport starts at Sandown on Tuesday evening when the King’s Derby entry Slipofthepen will defend his unbeaten record in the Heron Stakes. The Listed contest will serve as a mouth-watering aperitif to what is to come at York later in the week.
The three-day Dante Festival, starting on Wednesday, contains a brilliant blend of Classic trials, intriguing Group races and competitive handicaps. The fillies get their chance to push their Betfred Oaks claims on the opening day in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes. The Group 3 contest has been used as a stepping stone to Epsom Classic glory by plenty of fillies.
Two years ago Snowfall stormed home before landing the Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. That victory remains her trainer Aidan O’Brien’s only Musidora success. This time he relies on recent Gowran Park winner Lambada.
Some of the country’s top sprinters, including Group 1 winners Highfield Princess, Creative Force and Emaraaty Ana, will go head-to-head in the 1895 Duke Of York Clipper Stakes on the same day. Thursday’s card is dominated by the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes. The Group 2 prize has become Britain’s most important Betfred Derby trial. Last year, Desert Crown displayed his Classic class by winning the Dante before going on to Derby glory. Other colts to have won the world’s most famous Flat race on the back of victory in the York trial include Golden Horn, Authorized and Motivator.
This year’s race is shaping up to be as informative as ever. The Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes, also on Thursday, could see the return of last year’s Lancashire Oaks heroine Free Wind. The meeting closes on Friday when the Group 2 Boodles Yorkshire Cup, won for the third time by Stradivarius last year, is the feature race.
Newbury’s two-day meeting also kicks off on Friday. The fixture’s big race takes place on its superb Saturday card. The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is the first Group 1 race of the season for older horses. It has been won by some of the great milers, including Frankel and Brigadier Gerard. Last season, Baaeed sauntered to victory before landing the Queen Anne Stakes, Sussex Stakes and Juddmonte International.
This time, star filly Laurel and Breeders’ Cup winner Modern Games could be among the runners. The Lockinge is supported by the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes and the BetVictor London Gold Cup, a handicap with a habit of throwing up future Group 1 winners.
They also race at Newmarket, Thirsk and Doncaster on Saturday, with jumps cards at Bangor and Uttoxeter. With so much superb action this week there’s hardly time to blink. No racing fan will want to miss any of it.