WILLIAM HAGGAS hopes Give And Take can prove her Classic credentials in today’s Musidora Stakes – York’s season-opening meeting.
The proud Yorkshireman, who trains in Newmarket, continues to regard the Knavesmire track as his second home and holds the three-year-old in high regard.
Second in her first two races, she broke her maiden in fine style at Lingfield on her last outing in 2017.
On her seasonal reappearance, she was second at Sandown to Sir Michael Stoute’s promising Crystal Hope, giving the winner 6lb, with John Gosden’s reopposing Highgarden back in third.
And today’s test will determine whether Give And Take is a contender for next month’s Epsom Oaks.
“She finished in front of John Gosden’s filly last time and that one is clearly highly-rated,” said Haggas. “Our filly ran a very good race at Sandown. Whether she needs that (soft) ground I don’t know, but she handles it well.
“It will be lovely ground at York, no excuses on that front. She’s a very genuine filly who tries like hell. I think she’ll run her race, whether that is good enough we’ll see.
“She has lots of stamina on the dam’s side but she shows a bit of speed at home. I’ve left her in the Oaks but I’m not convinced she’s going to be better over a mile and a half. If everything went well tomorrow, we’d have to have a go.”
York’s three-day Dante meeting marks the last recognised trials for the Oaks – and Epsom Derby – as top trainers begin to finalise their big race plans for high summer.
As well as top class racing, this is the first high-profile meeting since crowd trouble marred recent fixtures at Goodwood and Ascot.
With warm weather forecast, officials will be hoping that this fixture passes without incident and that the only headlines are made by the equine stars who will be racing for £1.2m over the three days.
They include Clive Cox’s “once in a lifetime horse” Harry Angel who makes his seasonal reappearance in Duke of York Stakes.
The six-furlong sprinter, who won last year’s July Cup at Newmarket and then the Sprint Cup at Haydock, must concede weight to his rivals and Cox clearly believes that the Godolphin-owned four-year-old will improve for the run.
His rivals include last year’s victor Tasleet for the aforementioned Haggas. No match for Harry Angel at Newmarket or Haydock last season, the trainer is phlegmatic about the horse’s chances.
Haggas said: “He’s a good horse, softer ground slows the others down a bit, probably, but he’s as good as we can have him for this stage of the season.
“Obviously Harry Angel is a top-class horse and even with a penalty will be very hard to beat still, but you never know.”
The Kevin Ryan-trained Brando was a disappointing favourite in this race a year ago and connections will expect better after he won the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket for the second time last month.
Hambleton-based Ryan said: “He’s in good form, he did well at Newmarket and he should have improved from the run. He was disappointing in this race last year, but it’s a different year now and we’ll try again. Harry Angel will be tough to beat, but we’ll have to take him on sometime and we can’t avoid him.”
There’s further local representation courtesy of the David Griffiths-trained Ornate and Mick Easterby’s Perfect Pasture.
Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden are doubly represented in tomorrow’s Dante Stakes.
O’Brien sends James Cook and Zabriskie across the Irish Sea in his bid to win this recognised Derby trial for a fifth time.
Gosden appears to hold stronger claims, with his Epsom trial winner Crossed Baton joined by stablemate and likely favourite Roaring Lion who steps up in distance after finishing fifth in the 2000 Guineas under Oisin Murphy.