To a man, the four trainers sending out Godolphin-owned Derby contenders in Thursday's G2 Dante Stakes at York are expecting big runs from their respective colts. Nobody could ever accuse Godolphin of trying to protect the reputations, or attempting to disguise the strengths and weaknesses of their young horses. There will be plenty learned on this Dante voyage of discovery. A classy field of 11 are to line up in an authentic Derby trial that again looks the strongest seen in Europe.
Saeed bin Suroor believes Godolphin fans will see "the real Benbatl" as he attempts to improve on his third in the G3 Craven Stakes at Newmarket last time, which was only his second start. "He didn't really handle the ground at Newmarket. It was too quick for him. He will prefer easy ground," Saeed pointed out. "His last piece of work was very good, and he has been improving all the time at home. We know he needs this step up in trip (to ten and a half furlongs). "We'll see the real horse this time. We will see how good he is. There are no excuses," the trainer added.
Kevin Ryan is equally bullish about the chances of Godolphin's Syphax, who ran on well for second in a one-mile conditions race on the all-weather at Newcastle last month. "He has really improved for his run at Newcastle, and he has worked very, very well at home. I'm hopeful of a big run from him," Ryan said. The trainer pointed out that Syphax had been a little weak physically as a juvenile, yet he still won both his starts, including the G3 Acomb Stakes, over seven furlongs, at York. "He over-achieved last year, but this time in training he is looking more like the finished article," Ryan added.
Charlie Appleby is another Godolphin trainer keen on the chances of his Dante runner. The rapidly-improving Wolf Country is set to make the progression to G3 company following a gutsy all-the-way win in the Listed Prix de l'Avre, over a mile and a half, at Saint-Cloud. "I have been very pleased how he has progressed since his trip to France, and some ease in the ground should be to his liking," Appleby said. "The drop back in trip is a slight concern, but he is ready to run a good race," he added.
The Godolphin quartet is completed by the David Elsworth-trained Swiss Storm, who missed the 2,000 Guineas because his trainer felt the Classic came a little too soon in the colt's preparation. Elsworth has a liking for the Dante as a prep race for the Derby. He won it in 1999 with Salford Express. Godolphin have won the Dante twice -- with Classic Cliche in 1995 and Moon Ballad in 2002. The John Gosden-trained Cracksman is unbeaten in two starts, having most recently won the Investec Derby Trial at Epsom, in which he narrowly defeated the Mark Johnston-trained Permian. They renew rivalry in the Dante.