The feature race on the final day of York’s Dante Festival on Friday is the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup (15:00) – a 1m 6f contest for four-year-olds and upwards.
Ispolini is a progressive sort, so looks decent value at 11/2 with William Hill to land the spoils and provide leading owners Godolphin with a sixth winner of the race.
This Charlie Applenty trained four-year-old has only had nine starts, winning three times and running some cracking efforts in defeat to make the frame on three occasions.
He landed a 1m 6f handicap at Meydan back in January when scoring in good style by 1 3/4 lengths and followed that up with a stunning wide-margin success in a Group 3 at the same venue.
After being settled at the rear, Ispolini made smooth progress three from home to take up the running 1 1/2 furlongs out.
He then stretched effortlessly clear to slam Red Galileo, who is no mug and rated 105, by 10 1/2 lengths.
The son of Dubawi also had the 106 rated Bin Battuta a further 11 1/2 lengths back in third, so the form looks strong.
Isplini then lost little in defeat when last seen in action over 2m in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup and beaten just 1 1/4 lengths by Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter.
Those performances have earned him a rating of 116, just 4lb below that of Stradivarius who is favourite for this and has to give him 3lb.
It means that there is very little to split the pair, but Ispolini is clearly at the top of his game, is 2-2 over the trip, and looks the type that should have plenty more to offer.
Stradivarius odds-on to retain crown
The aforementioned Stradivarius won the race 12 months ago and is 4/6 with Betfred to retain his crown.
This John Gosden trained five-year-old was the star of the staying division in Britain last year when unbeaten in five starts.
After landing this he went on to scoop the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ £1,000,000 bonus by winning the Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup at this venue over the summer.
The son of Sea The Stars put in his best performance in the Ascot Gold Cup when staying on gamely to assert close home and beat leading French stayer Vazirabad by three-quarters of a length.
Stradivarius went on to round off the campaign with a length success over Thomas Hobson in the Group 2 British Champions Long Distance Cup over 2m at Ascot.
He has a tremendous strike rate having won nine of his 13 career starts, built up a tremendous rapport with regular jockey Frankie Dettori and is also versatile as regards ground.
However, this looks a stronger renewal than last year and he has an absence of 209 days to overcome at a trip which is arguably shorter than ideal – for all that he is two from two over it.
So, at the cramped odds on offer, Stradivarius looks worth opposing on this occasion despite having the strongest form in the book.
Twist N’Shake looks tasty in Michael Seeley
Newmarket handler Gosden has his team in fine form and Twist N’Shake looks to hold leading claims of providing him with another winner in the Listed 1m Michael Seeley Memorial Fillies’ Stakes (14:25).
This beautifully bred daughter of Classic winner Kingman shaped with plenty of promise on juvenile debut when in the care of Luca Cumani and finishing third of 10 to Dubai Beauty.
Twist N’Shake duly built on that promise on her first start for Gosden when going down all guns blazing by a short-head to Maqsad in a 10-runner maiden at Newmarket last month.
The pair pulled nine lengths clear of the third home, and the winner has since landed the Listed 1m 2f Pretty Polly Stakes at the same venue impressively by five lengths to be a leading contender for the Epsom Oaks.
That gives the form a strong look and Twist N’Shake has since opened her account in emphatic fashion at Nottingham when making all to coast home by 11 lengths from Audanya.
She is clearly going the right way and, judged on the manner of that success, looks well worth a crack at this level.
Twist N’Shake also has just 3lb to find on official ratings with top rated duo Natalie’s Joy and Sunday, so given her untapped potential she looks the one to be on in this at the 3/1 on offer with BetVictor.
Sunday Star not to be underestimated
Sunday Star failed to shine last time out, but is closely matched with Twist N’Shake on a line through Maqsad, so at 12/1 with Ladbrokes looks the each-way value in the race.
This Ed Walker trained daughter of Kodiac improved in each of her four runs as a juvenile, and has the size and scope to suggest she can keep going on progressing as a three-year-old.
After running really well second time up when a head runner-up to Glance at Goodwood, where she had Mot Juste who is favourite for this five lengths behind in fourth, Sunday Star opened her account at Newmarket when running on strongly to beat Maqsad by 1 3/4 lengths.
Connections decided to pitch Sunday Star into Group 3 company on the back of that and she ran really well when a length third to Mot Juste in the Oh So Sharp Stakes.
She raced too keenly for her own good in the early stages, but only got headed inside the final furlong before weakening and losing second close home.
It’s fair to say that Sunday Star ran well below expectations on return at action in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket last month, but she was eased down that day by Gerald Mosse and shaped as if something was amiss.
This represents a drop in class, so if she can bounce back Sunday Star looks capable of making her presence felt on the pick of her form.
Class-dropping Starlight Romance weighted to shine
In the 7f Frank Whittle Partnership Fillies’ Handicap (16:05), the Richard Fahey trained Starlight Romance looks cracking each-way value at the 14/1 available with William Hill now dropped back in grade at a track where she has proven form.
This five-year-old mare has won once and been placed once in four starts over course and distance.
In the last of those 11 months ago, Starlight Romance ran on strongly to land a competitive 16-runner class 3 affair by a neck off a mark of 85.
The daughter of Excelebration went on to finish a fine half-a-length second to Get Knotted in a class 2, again over course and distance, and also ran well when a three-quarters of a length runner-up to Cold Star off the same rating at Haydock.
Having stated off this campaign on a rating of 91, Starlight Romance is now able to race off 85 again – the same as when last successful.
It gives her a big shout from a handicapping perspective and, having run in a class 2 last time out at Lingfield, Starlight Romance now goes back into class 3 company in which she has a 27 per cent strike rate.
She also has proven winning form on the ground, so taking everything into account has lots more going for her than her odds would suggest.
Accommodate could be thrown-in on handicap debut
There are plenty of dangers in a wide-open contest in which 17 are set to go to post and the Sir Michael Stoute trained Accommodate could well have got in lightly on handicap debut, so looks sure to go well.
This three-year-old daughter of Acclamation opened her account at the third time of asking last time out at Chelmsford when scoring comfortably by 3 1/4 lengths.
The third home that day Muchely has won twice since to be rated 102, so that suggests Accommodate could be absolutely thrown-in at the weights off an opening mark of just 82. She can be backed at 7/2 with Betfred.