Will the Dante serve up the Derby winner?

The Dante Stakes (15.15) is day two’s feature race of York’s prestigious May meeting, and over the years this 1m 2f Group 2 contest has proved a key trial for the Investec Derby.

The inaugural running was named after the North Yorkshire champion Dante, who won the 1945 running of the Derby, and won by the the Cecil Boyd-Rochfort trained Bald Eagle. Bald Eagle didn’t go on to win the Derby at Epsom, but nine horses have.

St Paddy was the first horse to do so in 1960, who provided legendary jockey Lester Piggott with his third winner in the colts’ classic.

Since then Shirley Heights (1978), Shahrastani (1986), Reference Point (1987), Erhaab (1994), Benny the Dip (1997) North Light (2004), Motivator (2005), and Authorized (2007)have completed the Dante/Derby double.

It’s also worth nothing that beaten horses in the Dante don’t have a good record in the Derby, with only 2010 runner-up Workforce having gone to to taste success at Epsom.

This year’s renewal is a cracker, with the first three in the ante post betting for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday, June 6th, due to lock horns.

Here’s a look at some of the main contenders:

Jack Hobbs
Unbeaten in two starts, winning by three lengths on debut at Wolverhampton before putting in a breathtaking display to win a handicap at Sandown by 12 lengths. Jack Hobbs is currently 9/4 favourite to win the Dante.

This John Gosden trained colt strode clear in the latter to win easing down, posting some electric sectionals in the process. Takes a massive step up in class but looks a very exciting prospect and his handler saddled Benny The Dip to land the race in 1997 before going on to Epsom glory.

Coral current Derby price: 4/1 favourite

Elm Park
Ultra-progressive as a juvenile when winning four of his five starts. They included the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket and the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

The Andrew Balding trained son of Phoenix Reach was particularly impressive in the latter when making all and quickening clear to score by 2 1/2 lengths. Bred to stay and has the strongest form in the line-up, but wouldn’t want the ground too fast and hasn’t had the benefit of a run this season.

Current Derby price: 8/1 joint-third favourite

John F Kennedy
Highly-regarded colt who was an impressive winner of a madien at the Curragh on his second start as a juvenile before going on to land a Group 3 contest at Leopardstown by 3 1/4 lengths. Headed the ante post market for the Derby over the winter, but flopped on reappearance when a well beaten third on soft ground at Leopardstown.

Needs to bounce back, but better ground may well enable the beautifully bred son of Galileo to do so, and his trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the race three times in the last nine years.

Current Derby price: 8/1 joint-third favourite

Golden Horn
Looked an exciting propect when overcoming a poor position to make a winning debut at Nottingham and showed a good attitude and smart turn of foot to follow-up in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket on seasonal reappearance. That was a Listed contest, so further improvement needed now stepping up into Group company.

Like Jack Hobbs, is trained by John Gosden and looks the stable second second string on paper. However, the son of Cape Cross arguably has the stronger form in the book and should not be underestimated given his unexposed and progressive profile.

Current Derby price: 20/1

Ol’ Man River
Unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile and looked potentially top notch when easily landing the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh. However, was beaten out of site when trailing in last behind stable companion Gleneagles on seasonal reappearance in the 2000 Guineas and now has plenty of questions to answer.

There has to be a concern that this race comes just 12 days after the Guineas, but the son of Montjeu is trained by Aidan O’Brien who I am sure would not be running him if he did not think that he was over those extertions and ready to do himself justice.

Current Derby price: 16/1