Dakota can strike Ripon gold in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap says trainer Michael Dods

MICHAEL Dods hopes Dakota Gold can go one better than last year in the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap – Ripon’s feature race of the year.

Ripon hosts its feature race of the year today.

The five-year-old was the first home on the far side 12 months ago, but second overall – two and three-quarter lengths behind Gunmetal who defends his title.

Dakota Gold has been drawn on the stands side in stall 15 this time, and returns to the North Yorkshire venue after a victory at York three weeks ago.

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Dods has also given the Equiano gelding an entry in the Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap that opens the Ebor Festival on Wednesday, but the Ripon feature is too good to miss.

“He did well at York, and obviously we’ve got York next week, but we thought we’d go here first and then decide about York later,” said the Darlington trainer whose star sprinter Mabs Cross is due to line up in Friday’s Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

“He does it the hard way, because he’s got to be ridden handy, but we’re pleased with him. He’s in good form with himself. It’s a good race, and the draw always comes into it – which side you need to be on. We’ll have to make the best of it.”

Gunmetal has to defy top-weight this time and will race from stall three as he bids to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood.

His trainer David Barron is hoping the rain stays away for the six-year-old. “He seems in good form,” said the Thirsk trainer. “The faster the ground the better it would be for him.”

Barron also saddles bottom-weight Venturous, who showed his well-being when second to Poyle Vinnie in the consolation race for the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood. He’s a hold-up horse, so we need a few things to go right for him, but he seems in good form,” added the trainer.

As for Poyle Vinnie, Ruth Carr reports the in-form nine-year-old to be thriving on his racing.

“He’s been good – he carries a few pounds more for winning at Goodwood,” said the North Yorkshire trainer. “It will be harder for him, but he’s come out of the race well. He’s tough and consistent and won’t mind a bit of juice in the ground, so I hope he’ll run well. He’s a hardened warrior.”

Carr has a second string to her bow in Reputation, who has good course form.

In other news, Enable and Magical look set to clash for the fourth time after Aidan O’Brien supplemented the latter for the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday.

There is little between the two horses on form, but to date Enable has come out on top in all three clashes. The most recent was the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in which Frankie Dettori’s mount just prevailed from her great rival.

In the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes, Malton trainer John Quinn’s speedy Liberty Beach – the mount of Jason Hart – is among 16 fillies confirmed.

Meanwhile Quinn hopes there is enough cut in the ground for Safe Voyage to land the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. The six-year-old won his first three races of the season, all at Haydock, progressing from handicaps to a Group Three.

Former champion Flat jockey Kieren Fallon and Noel Fehily, the recently retired jump jockey, are among the names engaged for this year’s Mondialiste Leger Legends race at Doncaster on September 11.

In Sports Monday: Mick Kinane and John Oxx on the York win of Sea The Stars 10 years ago.