Cracksman takes aim at Dante
Cracksman’s owner Anthony Oppenheimer is happy to let the colt take his chance in Thursday’s Betfred Dante Stakes at York as long as the ground does not turn heavy.
Persistent rain has turned the Knavesmire going soft, but Oppenheimer is cheered by Cracksman’s pedigree, which has soft ground performers in it.
“I think as long as the ground doesn’t go heavy, we’ll be happy to run,” said Oppenheimer.
“Cracksman’s dam, Rhadegunda, actually loved soft ground. (In) her last ever race, she won a Listed race in France on heavy going.
“If it’s heavy we’ve a decision to make, but as long as it’s soft, good to soft, I don’t see a problem.”
Cracksman’s trainer John Gosden is slightly concerned about the proximity between the Dante and the Derby, too.
“Cracksman has only had two runs in his life,” said Gosden.
“The Dante is closer to the Derby than usual due to a late Easter. We’ve lost a week, which is not helpful.
“On the other hand, he needs the experience to race if we are even to consider Epsom.”
Sir Michael Stoute admits he doubts his runner Crystal Ocean will be ready to mix it with the leading players in the Investec Derby.
The Sea The Stars colt, winner of a Nottingham maiden last month, halved in price for the Classic earlier this week, seeing his odds for the notable Derby trial tumble as a result.
However, Stoute is sceptical about how many people actually backed his horse and in his own style, he is thinking long-term.
“I don’t know how many tenners constitute a gamble!” said Stoute.
“We have been bringing him along steadily and I doubt he is a Derby horse.”
Joseph O’Brien never won the Dante as a jockey but he has a sound chance as a trainer with Ballysax scorer Rekindling, who was with David Wachman last season.
“We were delighted with his reappearance on his first run for us. He’s a quite laid-back horse so it’s very hard to know how good he is,” said O’Brien.
“He won one of the Derby trials in Ireland. At the minute, he has all the credentials to be an Epsom Derby candidate.
“I suppose he has to go to York and show us that he is.”
Richard Fahey’s Forest Ranger won the #100,000 Burradon Conditions Stakes at Newcastle, denting some lofty reputations.
“It has been the plan all year for Forest Ranger to go to the Dante,” said Fahey.
“We’ve got a small outside chance. I’m a fraction worried about the trip because he’s a horse with plenty of pace,”
Second at Newcastle was Kevin Ryan’s Acomb winner Syphax, who also lines up at York.
Ryan told At The Races: “We intended to start in the Dante, but when the Newcastle race came up we decided to go and I’m glad we did because he ran like it was the first run of his life.
“He came out of that brilliantly and his work has improved since.
“It’s a really good Dante, but we’re really looking forward to it.”
Syphax is one of four runners in the Godolphin blue, with Benbatl, Swiss Storm and Wolf Country also set to take their chances. The Mark Johnston-trained Permian represents Sheikh Mohammed’s son.
Godolphin racing manager John Ferguson said: “They are with five different trainers and, at the end of the day, it gives us the opportunity to work out whether or not we are going to go to Epsom.
“All the trainers are happy with their horses or else they wouldn’t be going to the Dante, which is the premier Epsom trial.
“You’ve also got the Hampton Court over a mile and a quarter, the King Edward over a mile and a half and the Queen’s Vase over a mile and six (all at Royal Ascot), so you can use the Dante to sort out where you go with these horses.”
Godolphin bought Swiss Storm after the Frankel colt won a Newbury maiden in fine style for David Elsworth, but he was forced to miss the Guineas.
Ferguson said: “David is very happy with him and feels it’s the right thing to do to run the horse.
“He’s an interesting horse. He’s plenty of speed on the dam’s side, but these Frankels seem to be staying well.”