It’s all about Me at York
Permian gave the Investec Derby hopes of Cracksman a direct boost after running out the winner of the Betfred Dante Stakes at York.
After finding the John Gosden’s charge – who was declared a non-runner on this occasion due to the ground – too strong at Epsom last month, the son of Teofilo took a giant step forward to back up his last-time-out Listed win at Newmarket with a ready success.
Kept handy in behind the early pace set by Wolf Country, the 10-1 shot – who is not entered in the Epsom Classic but will be supplemented – moved through to join the early leader along with favourite Benbatl approaching the final quarter of a mile.
As the pair pulled clear to fight out the finish of the Group Two contest, it was Permian who found more for pressure when pulling out plenty for Franny Norton to score by three-quarters of a length, giving trainer Mark Johnston his first winner in the race.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Derby gamble Crystal Ocean was a further half a length back in third.
Johnston said of the Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum-owned winner: “I’m delighted to have a live chance in the Derby.
“John Ferguson made the decision to supplement him for this, but when the rain came, we thought our chance had gone. We spoke to John and he said we’ve paid 12 grand to put him in, so we’ll run him, even if it’s a bog.
“He’s clearly progressing, but I can’t say we weren’t fearing Cracksman coming here. He looks to have come on a lot with each run, but I’m sure Cracksman will have come on for his run, too.
“I wasn’t thinking of the Derby a few weeks ago, but you could see from two out today he was going to win.
“Epsom obviously holds no fears for us and I can’t remember my last Derby runner.
“As John said to me before the race, in the Dante you find out if you’re a Derby horse and we’ve got one.”
Godolphin chief executive Ferguson was impressed with the performance and confirmed Permian will be supplemented for Epsom.
He told ITV Racing: “It was a genuinely-run race. William (Buick) was keen to make it on Wolf Country and gave Franny a chance to sit in. Permian finished it off really well, with Benbatl at his girths all the way down the straight.
“We’re delighted with the two horses there. I’ve already spoken to Sheikh Mohammed and he is as thrilled as we are and is very keen to have this horse supplemented for the Derby.
“Permian will be supplemented. Saeed (Bin Suroor) had Best Solution win the Lingfield Derby Trial and Benbatl finish second in the Dante so we have to sit down, think, decide and talk to Sheikh Mohammed about that and what he thinks is the right thing to do.”
Godolphin now appear to hold a strong hand for Epsom and Ferguson added: “With the way Benbatl has run on there, there’s every chance (could go to the Derby). The Epsom Derby is the Epsom Derby.
“If you look at the form leading up into this race, there’s a lot of respect for Aidan’s (O’Brien) horse who won the Dee Stakes (Cliffs Of Moher) and he was followed home by Bay Of Poets, who wasn’t far behind this horse and Cracksman at Epsom.
“Luckily there are still cards, not to play, but to analyse. It’s just great to be in a season where so many three-year-olds have a live chance and no doubt in time we will find out exactly where they stand.
“If Churchill stays the mile and a half he is going to be a very tough nut to crack, but these horses all deserve to take their chances and it’s just great to be going to the party.”
Bin Suroor felt the runner-up would learn again for the experience.
He said: “I’m happy with that, he still needs more experience but he’s learning all the time.
“He shows us he is a good horse at home. A mile and a quarter looks to be his trip, but we’re still looking at the Derby as his aim, along with Best Solution. Obviously, Sheikh Mohammed will make the decision.”
Stoute expressed doubts about Crystal Ocean’s Derby claims before the race and when asked about Epsom, he said: “I wouldn’t (run), but he has an owner that might want to.”
Joseph O’Brien said of Rekindling, who was fourth: “He ran a good race, but he could have done with better ground.
“It’s a bit early to say whether we’ll go for the Derby after that.”