Derby plunge horse Desert Crown and Group One-winning colt El Bodegon are among nine colts declared for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.
Despite only winning a Nottingham novice event to date, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown is a best priced 6/1 for next month’s Classic at Epsom following sustained support in recent weeks.
The Nathaniel colt, who carries the colours of Stoute’s 2003 Derby hero Kris Kin, is the narrow favourite to book his ticket to Epsom with victory on the Knavesmire under Richard Kingscote.
James Ferguson’s El Bodegon makes his first appearance since rounding off his juvenile campaign with a top-level triumph in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October.
That form has worked out exceptionally well, with Aidan O’Brien’s runner-up Stone Age now Derby favourite and the fourth home Buckaroo also impressing on his latest appearance.
John Gosden has trained four previous winners of the Dante, with both Benny The Dip (1997) and Golden Horn (2015) both going on to follow up in the Derby.
This year the Clarehaven handler, who now trains in partnership with son Thady, is represented by recent Leicester scorer Magisterial, the mount of Frankie Dettori.
Mark and Charlie Johnston’s Royal Patronage turns out less than two weeks after finishing down the field in the 2000 Guineas, while Bluegrass bids to strengthen O’Brien’s formidable Derby hand.
Masekela is an interesting contender for Andrew Balding off the back of finishing second in Newmarket’s Feilden Stakes.
The field is completed by Kevin Ryan’s Dark Moon Rising, Saeed bin Suroor’s White Wolf and the Dave Loughnane-trained Kingmax, who steps up in trip after finishing fourth behind Native Trail in the Craven Stakes.
Loughnane said: “I have no worries at all about the trip, to be honest – I’ve always felt he wanted a-mile-and-a-quarter.
“We ran him in the Craven to see if he was going to be quick enough for a Guineas or not. He showed to us that he wasn’t, so I’d be very hopeful a mile-and-a-quarter shouldn’t be a problem at all for him.
“He was only rated 86 going into the Craven, so it was a proper hike up and I think he’ll be a much better horse over 10 furlongs.”
Kingmax is not currently entered in the Derby at Epsom, but could yet earn himself a starting berth.
“We feel he’s good enough to be in these sort of races and he has to go and prove it on the track now,” the trainer added.
“The Dante is the plan for now. He’s got an entry in the French Derby, which is also over 10 furlongs.
“If he was to go and run very well or win the Dante and we thought he’d get further, there’s always the option to supplement for Epsom.”