The feature race on the opening day of York’s prestigious Dante Festival on Wednesday, May 15 is the Group 3 Musidora Stakes (15:35), a 1m 2f contest for three-year-old fillies that’s a key Epsom Oaks trial.
Trainer John Gosden has a fine record in the race having won it six times, including five of the last eight runnings.
He saddles two in this year’s renewal in the shape of Entitle and Sparkle Roll, with preference is for the latter who can be backed at 5/2 with Paddy Power.
This beautifully bred daughter of Classic winner Kingman has only had three starts and showed improved form in each.
After shaping with stacks of promise when a tenderly handled fifth on debut as a juvenile at Haydock, she opened her account in good style at the same venue when scoring easily by 3 3/4 lengths.
Sparkle Roll showed plenty of pace to track the leaders, before forging clear inside the final furlong and it was a performance which suggested she had a bright future.
That view was confirmed on seasonal reappearance at Sandown, where she justified heavy market support in fine style when accounting for King Power by two lengths in a decent 11-runner novice stakes contest when stepped up to the 1m 2f trip of this for the first time.
Sparkle Roll travelled well throughout in the hands of Oisin Murphy and, after taking up the running two from home, only had to be ridden out to score with plenty in hand.
It was a most taking performance – especially a she had to give 7lb all-round. This represents a big step up in class, but Sparkle Roll is fully expected to prove up to it and land the spoils en route to better things.
Top rated Sand Share feared most
Of those that have achieved a rating, Sand Share is officially the highest in the 10-runner line-up off 102, so commands the utmost respect and is feared most.
This daughter of Oasis Dream hails from the yard of Ralph Beckett, who does particularly well with his fillies.
After winning on debut at Kempton, she ran a blinder when stepped into Group 2 company and finishing a two-length third of 11 to Fleeting in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster.
Sand Share, who can be backed at 5/1 with Betfred, went on to round off her juvenile campaign with a solid 1 1/4 lengths fourth in a Group 3 at Deauville and the form of those races set the standard in this.
The one concern is that she has an absence of 203 days to overcome, but the stable is in good form and operating at a strike rate of 23 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing, so fitness is unlikely to be an issue.
Frankellina is the least exposed in the field having had just one run. That saw the William Haggas trained daughter of the mighty Frankel score by a head over 1m at Yarmouth when staying on very strongly.
The form of that race has been boosted with the fifth home Cafe Espresso having won her first two starts his season, before chasing subsequent Cheshire Oaks heroine Mehdaayih at Chelmsford.
Frankellina is clearly an exciting prospect open to any amount of progression, so at a standout 11/2 with Coral looks a solid each-way contender.
Invincible Army the answer to Duke Of York
Invincible Army impressed when scoring on seasonal reappearance, so looks a worthy 5/2 favourite with William Hill to follow-up and land the spoils in the Group 2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistic Stakes run over 6f (15:00).
This Jason Tate trained four-year-old is a tough and consistent sort that has won four of his 11 starts and also made the frame on five occasions.
The son of Invincible Spirit was a useful juvenile and looked a sprinter to keep onside when landing the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot on seasonal bow last year.
After showing plenty of pace to track the leaders, Invincible Army cruised into contention two from home before quickening smartly to readily beat Eqtidaar by 1 1/2 lengths.
It was a most taking display and the Saeed Manana owned colt backed it up with a cracking nose second of eight to Sands Of Mali in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.
Invincible Army was then far from disgrace when a four-length ninth of 22 to old rival Eqtidaar in the Group 1 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, before shaping as if amiss when a well below par ninth of 10 in a Group 3 at Newbury won by Yafta.
However, he looked better than ever on return to action at Doncaster when running on strongly to beat Major Jumbo in the Listed 6f Cammidge Trophy.
The form of the race has a solid look to it, as the runner up and third home Equilatteral have gone on to be placed behind crack sprinter Mabs Cross in a Group 3 at Newmarket.
So, on ground which is ideal, it makes Invincible Army look the one they all have to beat.
Brando and Yafta key players
The Kevin Ryan trained Brando, a 9/2 chance with Betfred, is a Group 1 winner and the highest rated in the race, so looks sure to go well.
This seven-year-old is an eight-time winner who ran a cracker in this 12 months ago when finding only Harry Angel two lengths too good.
Brando went on to chase home U S Navy Flag in the Group 1 July Stakes at Newmarket and a fine half-a-length second of 12 to The Tin Man in Haydock Sprint Cup. That is form of the highest order.
There was lots to like about his reappearance run at Newmarket when a half-a-length third to Keystroke in the Group 3 Abernant Stakes, after coming from off the pace to lead inside the final furlong before being unable to find any extra close home.
Brando is entitled to strip fitter for that spin and also has a fine strike rate of 30 per cent over the trip, so everything points to a bold bid.
Given that the aforementioned Yafta holds a victory over Invincible Army, and also finished in front of Brando when runner-up in the Abernant, he is another well worth considering and can be backed at 11/2 with Betfair.
This Richard Hannon trained son of Dark Angel progressed throughout last season when winning four times.
He was arguably an unlucky loser in the Abernant as he got hampered inside the final furlong when switched right to mount a challenge before going down by just a diminishing head to Keystroke.
Judged on that effort, there are plenty more races to be won with him as a four-year-old and he doesn’t have much to find on ratings to play a leading role in this.
Fujaira Prince fancied for Jorvik glory
In the extended 1m 3f Jorvik Handicap that gets proceedings underway on a superb seven-race card on the Knavesmire (13:50), Fujaira Prince looks worth siding with at the 5/1 on offer with Betway to defy a rise in the weights and provide in-form trainer Roger Varian with another winner.
After shaping with plenty of promise when runner-up on debut at Windsor back in July 2017, this son of Pivotal overcame a lengthy absence to register a runway six-length success at Wetherby 12 months ago.
Fujaira Prince went on to follow-up in facile fashion at Carlisle when quickening clear to score easily by six lengths.
He then made a total mockery of his opening handicap mark of 88 when tearing apart a competitive 14-runner class 3 contest at Doncaster on return to action last month.
After being backed off the boards into 11/8 favouritism that day, his supporters never had an anxious moment as Fujaira Prince travelled ominously well throughout before taking up the running two from home and stretching clear to beat Mistiroc by three lengths.
It was a performance which suggested he was a potential pattern performer in the making. If that is to be the case, then a 7lb rise in the weights is unlikely to be enough from stopping this unexposed and improving sort going in again.
First Eleven a formidable opponent
There are plenty of potential dangers in a wide-open class 2 affair in which 16 are set to go to post, and First Eleven is feared most now dropped down in grade.
The John Gosden trained son of Frankel improved throughout last season when winning twice.
In the last of those successes at this level at Ascot, he showed a smart turn of foot to beat the very useful Ghostwatch by two lengths off a mark of 97.
That taking success saw First Eleven put up to a rating of 104 and he was far from disgraced off it when a 6 1/2 lengths third to Laraaib in a Group 3 – again at Ascot.
This represents a return to calmer waters and he appeals as the type that will have more to offer as a four-year-old.
So, off an unchanged mark, First Eleven – who has the services of Frankie Dettori in the saddle and is a top-price 7/1 with Betfred – looks sure to give Fujaira Prince plenty to think about.