Group I winners Paco Boy and Lord Shanakill head a field of nine that will go to the post on Saturday in the Totesport.com Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I).
The eight furlong contest, run over a straight mile at Newbury Racecourse, will mark the seasonal debut of Lord Shanakill. The 4-year-old son of Speightstown will be making his first start for Sir Henry Cecil, who has taken over the training duties from Richard Mandella. Lord Shanakill was sent to California last year to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, with the long-range plan of staying stateside. That plan was scrapped after the colt’s disappointing twelfth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup. (on a side note, one of Lord Shanakill’s maternal relatives, the 3-year-old filly Aviate, won the Musidora Stakes (Eng-III) on Wednesday at York.)
Paco Boy will be making his second start of the year on Saturday. The 5-year-old horse captured the bet365 Mile (Eng-II) at Sandown in his most recent outing. Paco Boy will again be ridden by Richard Hughes; the pair teamed up to take the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) last year at Royal Ascot over a high-class field by 1 ½-lengths.
Juddmonte Farm’s Zacinto will be making his first start since his disappointing performance in the 2009 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT). Prior to that, Zacinto had captured the Totesport.com Celebration Mile (Eng-II), and had finished a good second to Rip Van Winkle in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I). The lightly-raced son of Dansili has won three of his six starts, with his only out of the money finish occurring in the Breeders’ Cup.
Another to watch out for is Pipedreamer, a group II-winning son of Selkirk. The hard-knocking 6-year-old has been mixing it up with top company over the past few years, finishing in the money to such high-class runners as Duke of Marmalade, Campanologist, Tartan Bearer, Mount Nelson, and Twice Over. In his last start of 2009, Pipedreamer finished a close fourth (beaten just two lengths) in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes (Eng-I).
Dante and Middleton Stakes Share Top Billing at York
Thursday’s card at York features two 10-furlong, group II stakes races—the Totesport Dante Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Totesport.com Middleton Stakes for fillies and mares.
The Dante Stakes long has served as a strong prep for the Investec Derby (Eng-I) in June. In the last decade, the race has produced Derby winners Authorized, Motivator, and North Light. Other notable Dante/Derby winners include Shahrastani (1986), Reference Point (1987), Erhaab (1994), and Benny the Dip (1997).
This year’s renewal features a small but select field of six, led by Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Blanco. The chestnut son of Galileo will be making his seasonal debut in the Dante. Cape Blanco is undefeated in three career starts, with his last victory coming in the Galileo E.B.F. Futurity Stakes (Ire-II) last August.
Sir Michael Stoute sends out the highly-regarded Workforce, a bay colt by King’s Best. The Juddmonte Farm-colorbearer has only started once, winning his debut last September at Goodwood. Workforce is certainly the ‘buzz’ horse; word has gotten out that he has been training extremely well at home.
The early favorite for the Dante is Godolphin’s Chabal, a bay son of Galileo. Chabal captured the 10-furlong Classic Trial (Eng-III) last month over Azmeel, who recently came back to win the Dee Stakes (Eng-III) at Chester.
The Dante Stakes may actually take second-billing to the Middleton Stakes, which marks the 2010 debuts of group I winners Midday and Sariska.
Midday notched victories in both the Blue Square Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) and the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) last year, and finished second in the Investec Oaks (Eng-I) to Sariska. The daughter of Oasis Dream has won four of her 11 career starts, and has finished in the money nine times.
Lady Bamford’s Sariska will be making her first start since finishing third to Twice Over in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes (Eng-I) last October. The daughter of Pivotal notched an Oaks double last year, taking both the Investec Oaks at Epsom and the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I)—also over Midday—at the Curragh in July. She will be partnered once again by Jamie Spencer.
Two other fillies that should not be overlooked are Flying Cloud, a daughter of Storming Home who won the Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) in 2009, and High Heeled, a group III winning daughter of High Chaparral who spent most of last year knocking heads with both Sariska and Midday. High Heeled was recently purchased by George Strawbridge and transferred to trainer John Gosden.
Both York races could very well set the stage for an exciting racing season.