Friday 14th - York (1.40pm-4.50pm; seven races)
Friday is Yorkshire Cup Day at the Dante Festival. The 1m6f Group 2 event for the stayers goes to post at 3.10pm and was won in 2018 and 2019 by the might Stradivarius for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori. The race was lost last year amid the rescheduling after racing resumed.
No Stradivarius this time but, in his stead, perhaps the main threat to his Gold Cup aspirations at Royal Ascot next month lines up hoping to rubberstamp those credentials.
SIR RON PRIESTLY missed 571 days off the racecourse after finishing second to Logician in the 2019 St Leger at Doncaster but he has returned looking better than ever. He won a Nottingham Listed race over 1m6f in April on his first start back and backed that up in decisive fashion at Newmarket (1m4f, good to firm) when accounting for Pyledriver at the beginning of this month. He was well on top at the line and a return to this trip ought to suit Mark Johnston's charge. Further success at York should tee him up for what will become an eagerly anticipated showdown with Stradivarius next month.
This won't be a doddle. Stablemate Nayef Road is well-versed in this sort of race and has decent York form, while Roger Varian's filly Believe In Love was very progressive last season and is capable of a big showing fresh getting weight from the boys. Add in last year's Irish Derby winner Santiago and Doncaster Cup winner Spanish Mission and this race has plenty spice to it.
Richard Hannon will have high hopes that SNOW LANTERN can prove a cut above her rivals in the Oaks Farm Stables Fillies' Stakes (2.10pm) on Friday afternoon.
The regally-bred filly - who is by 2000 Guineas winner Frankel out of 1000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern - had just one run at two, finishing second to the useful Zabeel Queen in an Ascot novice that supplied plenty subsequent winners. Snow Lantern created a good impression on her comeback at Newbury (1m, good) last month, accounting for the Gosden runner Derab in taking fashion. That race has already provided multiple next-time-out winners and a step up into Listed company is fully merited.
This week at York is a sure sign that the Flat season is now into full cry and the exciting summer months are just around the corner. The return of racing on the Knavesmire will be a sight to savour for followers of this pursuit.
Wednesday 12th - York (1.40pm-4.50pm; seven races)
The feature on day one at York is the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (3.10pm), an established Oaks Trial for next month's fillies' Classic at Epsom. John Gosden has lorded this race in recent times, winning five of the last 10 renewals. His new training partnership with son Thady is represented here by Senita, a Frankel filly in the Khalid Abdullah colours, but she has to put a disappointing reappearance at Newbury in April to one side if she's to star now.
The headline acts are Snowfall (Aidan O'Brien), Teona (Roger Varian) and NOON STAR for Sir Michael Stoute. The last-named returned with a sparkling display in a Windsor novice (1m2f, good) in April, the Galileo filly powering through the line under Richard Kingscote in a manner that strongly suggests she's going to carry on improving as her stamina is further teased out. She's around the 2/1 mark for this race and can stamp her ticket to The Oaks by winning the Musidora.
Teona is capable of further improvement having won an all-weather maiden at Newcastle in facile fashion in November on second start, but perhaps Snowfall will emerge as a key danger. The Deep Impact filly has that all-important pattern-race experience from her juvenile campaign in Ireland. She came up shy in elite company at up to a mile but may have plenty more to come upped in distance now.
There's also Group 2 fare at York on Wednesday via the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes (2.40pm) and a strong field of 12 is set to contest this six-furlong sprint.
ART POWER was touted to give Battaash a race in the Nunthorpe over 5f here last summer but this speedy sort has so far shown his best at this trip. He was a Group 3 winner in Ireland last July and ended his season with a close-up fourth in the Champions Sprint at Ascot in October.
Tellingly, those efforts both came with soft in the going description and he's likely to relish conditions on his seasonal bow, while Tim Easterby's Dark Angel colt is also proven to go well fresh. He's a massive player on a track where's got winning form.
Summerghand arrives in splendid form, David O'Meara's seven-year-old having won on All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield last month before upsetting July Cup hero Oxted soon after in Newmarket's Group 3 Abernant Stakes. Roger Teal's charge had every chance in that race but was picked off late having got to the front. He'll be out for revenge now. Emaraaty Ana is well-matched with that pair on Newmarket form and has run well since, while one at a massive price to take note of is Queen Jo Jo, Kevin Ryan's mare possessing a good record at York and with the ability to go well fresh.
Later on Wednesday, look out for potentially interesting newcomers Jadhlaan and Red Power in what should be an informative British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes at 4.15pm over the minimum distance.
Thursday 13th - York (1.40pm-4.50pm; seven races)
Thursday of course brings the main event itself, the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes (3.10pm) - a key Derby trial. The race was denied some of its lustre in 2020 with the pandemic seeing it rescheduled to follow the Epsom Classic but it's now back in its rightful position and is the final Classic clue given the proximity to the first Saturday in June.
The most talked-about contender is Aidan O'Brien's High Definition. He missed the Lingfield Derby Trial after his trainer was unsatisfied with a blood test, but he appears likely to turn up at York. After his stablemate Bolshoi Ballet stamped his authority on the Derby betting with Sunday's demolition job at Leopardstown, this twice-raced son of Galileo should get his chance to answer back.
High Definition won both starts last season at the Curragh over a mile (soft/yielding) and in both instances it was late in the race before he stamped his authority on proceedings. He looks very likely to improve for the increased trip and is a ready-made Classic pretender for Ballydoyle in that scenario. The leading Irish trainer hasn't bagged a Dante Stakes win since Cape Blanco in 2010.
This race has been hogged more recently by John Gosden and Mark Johnston - responsible for five of the last six winners between them - the exception being Hughie Morrison's 2019 scorer Telecaster.
GEAR UP could be a very interesting contender for Johnston here. He won his first two starts last season on this track, including the Group 3 Acomb (7f, good) in August. Things didn't fall his way afterwards in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket (fourth) but he ended the term with a gutsy Group 1 win in the Criterium De Saint-Cloud (1m2f, heavy), advertising his ability at this trip in doing so. The Teofilo colt could be one for his Middleham handler to have big aims with this season.
The Gosden's meanwhile saw Uncle Bryn turned over at Epsom on his comeback last month, the Sea The Stars colt having won both starts at two. He may come on for that effort but would need a big performance on the Knavesmire to re-establish himself in the Derby betting.
Look out also for the potential of John Leeper for trainer Ed Dunlop. The Frankel colt didn't get much luck in the run in one start last autumn but he turned in a very stylish winning performance at Newcastle in late April under Hollie Doyle and could have plenty more to come.
Leading the support on Thursday is the Middleton Fillies' Stakes (2.10pm), a Group 2 over the same C&D as the Dante itself for fillies aged four-plus. Jessica Harrington's Cayenne Pepper had some smart performances in Group 1 company last summer before she got her head back in front with a four-length success in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend over this trip. Her subsequent Breeders' Cup run is easily enough forgiven.
Passion (Aidan O'Brien) and Queen Power (Sir Michael Stoute) are other potential leading contenders, with the latter shaping nicely on her seasonal comeback at Newmarket.