York Preview: Dante Stakes (15.15)

Jack Hobbs can take the step up into Group 2 company in his stride to land the Dante Stakes at York today (15.15), and strengthen his position at the head of the betting for the Investec Derby.

The John Gosden trained colt is unbeaten in two starts, scoring by three lengths on debut at Wolverhampton before putting in a devastating display to land a handicap at Sandown by 12 lengths.

Jack Hobbs travelled powerfully throughout in the latter, and after challenging out wide on the bridle three from home showed a blistering turn of foot to power clear and put the race to bed.

Although it was only a handicap, in which Jack Hobbs was running off a rating of just 85, the manner of the success marked him out as something special.

That view was confirmed by the clock, as the race was the quickest of the day on the round course and Jack Hobbs produced some stunning sectionals.

This son of Halling covered the last four furlongs in 50.05 seconds, and despite jockey Frankie Dettori easing down heavily clocked 13.20 seconds in the final furlong.

Those are superb times, and Jack Hobbs clearly has a huge engine and the potential to go right to the top.

The frightening thing is that Jack Hobbs has also had just two races and is a brute of a horse open to stacks more improvement.

He does face a stiff task on official ratings, and has 8lb to find on Elm Park and 4lb on John F Kennedy.

However, given his rate of progress that doesn’t look a massive ask and I fully expect him to rise to the task and land the hat-trick.

Jack Hobbs is currently Coral’s 4/1 favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday, June 6th. If, as expected, he comes through this test with flying colours then I would expect him to be cut to around 7/4 for the colt’s classic.

Elm Park is the form horse in the race and rates the main danger if ready to go at the first time of asking.

This Andrew Balding trained colt won four of his five starts as a juvenile, rounding off the campaign with an impressive victory in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

That win sets the standard, and the son of Phoenix Reach is bred to come into his own over middle distances.

The big concerns are whether Elm Park will be able to cope with the drying ground on the Knavesmire and be fit enough to do himself justice after 201 days on the sidelines.