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Dante Festival: Roaring Lion should benefit from step up in trip in ‘The Dante’

The finish of last season's Racing Post Trophy when Saxon Warrior, in the purple silks, beat Roaring Lion.
The finish of last season's Racing Post Trophy when Saxon Warrior, in the purple silks, beat Roaring Lion.
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EPSOM DERBY favourite Saxon Warrior’s burgeoning reputation could increase still further if Roaring Lion wins today’s Dante Stakes – the traditional centrepiece of York’s May meeting.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt came to prominence when overhauling the probable winner Roaring Lion in the dramatic closing stages of last October’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and then confirmed the form earlier this month by winning the 2000 Guineas at Doncaster.

His run in the Guineas was a huge improvement on his Craven run and Mr Gosden says he’s in good form, so we’re looking forward to him

Jockey Oisin Murphy

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Yet, while Saxon Warrior heads straight to Epsom amid dreams of becoming the first Triple Crown victor since 1970 if he also wins the Derby, and then Doncaster’s St Leger, John Gosden has opted to run Roaring Lion over 10 furlongs.

Well-beaten on his seasonal reappearance in Newmarket’s Craven Stakes last month, the Qatar Racing-owned colt was running on gamely in the Guineas and jockey Oisin Murphy is hopeful the horse can continue to progress and will be suited by stepping up in trip to a mile and a quarter.

“His run in the Guineas was a huge improvement on his Craven run and Mr Gosden says he’s in good form, so we’re looking forward to him,” said Murphy. “He’s bred to stay.”

Though victory would put Roaring Lion on course for the Derby, Saxon Warrior’s claims will be enhanced still further.

A fascinating race sees Gosden saddle Crossed Baton who won Epsom’s Derby trial last month under Frankie Dettori.

Crossed Baton is owned by Khalid Abdullah and his racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe, also chairman of York, said: “He made all at Epsom which is never an easy thing to do there, so we thought he deserved a chance in a trial and this is the best one.

“His form is fairly solid throughout – interestingly he was behind Roaring Lion in a maiden at Newmarket. He looks like he should stay a mile and a half and this will give us a good idea.”

The aforementioned O’Brien is represented by James Cook and Zabriskie – but they do look like second-string horses.

“Obviously the Derby is the race everyone will be looking at,” said the Ballydoyle maestro. “We have Saxon Warrior, but we need to have back-ups in case things don’t work out like we hope.”

As previously reported, Yorkshire is seeking its third win in the race since 2013 when Libertarian, the subsequent Derby runner-up, triumphed for Karl and Elaine Burke.

Mark Johnston – responsible for last year’s victor Permian – is represented by Mildenberger while Wells Farhh Go carries the hopes of Tim Easterby. The horse won both of his starts at York last season and Easterby hopes David Allan’s mount will develop into a St Leger contender after today’s reappearance.

“He’s a big, rangy horse and will improve as the season goes along,” said the trainer.