Dante Festival: El Bodegon is ‘one to beat’ in York’s lucrative Dante Stakes

Trainer James Ferguson is of the belief that his Group One-winning colt El Bodegon is “the one to beat” in Thursday’s £175,000 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

This year’s renewal, the richest in its history and the first in front of crowds since 2019, has Newmarket trainer Ferguson eager to see how his charge has progressed.

The three-year-old won three of his five starts as a juvenile last season, supplementing Group Three success at Chantilly with a top-level victory in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October.

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The form of that 10-furlong contest could hardly have worked out better, with Aidan O’Brien’s runner-up Stone Age now favourite for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom next month, while the fourth home Buckaroo has since emerged as a leading contender for the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Kihavah ridden by Ryan Sexton (right) go on to win The Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap during day one of the Dante Festival 2022 at York racecourse. Picture: Tim Goode/PA.

Having been off the track since, El Bodegon was initially set to reappear in last weekend’s Prix Greffulhe – and while a minor setback meant he instead returns on the Knavesmire for the Derby trial four days later – Ferguson has no worries about his fitness.

“I wouldn’t have declared him if I didn’t think he was 100 per cent. It was very minor and he’s A1,” said the handler.

“On paper and on form he’s the one to beat and it’s wonderful to have a horse running in a race like the Dante with a genuine chance.”

The likely favourite is the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown, who has been a plunge horse in the Derby market in recent weeks.

O’Brien runs Bluegrass, fourth in the Ballysax Stakes on his reappearance and ridden by Ryan Moore, with the duo having mopped up most of the Derby trials to date, while John and Thady Gosden field Frankel colt Magisterial, ridden by Frankie Dettori.