No race mystery as Line of Duty heads for Dante
This, after all, was the horse that confirmed its promise – and class – when rounding off its juvenile campaign by winning at the America’s Breeders’ Cup meeting at Churchill Downs, Kentucky.
And the pair, who won the Investec Derby last June with Masar in the iconic Godolphin blue colours of Sheikh Mohammed, are looking forward to Line Of Duty reappearing in Thursday’s Dante Stakes at York.
A noted trial for the Epsom Classic on June 1, 12 entries include champion trainer John Gosden’s Group One winner Too Darn Hot and Aidan O’Brien’s highly-touted Japan.
Potential Yorkshire contenders include Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision and Nayef Road as well as Kadar from the yard of Karl Burke.
But while Appleby and Buick speak with palpable pride about Masar’s landmark Derby success, and what it meant to them, the Dante – rather than Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas – has always been the plan for Line Of Duty.
“Far from saying that Line Of Duty is a Derby horse yet, him and Masar have very similar profiles,” said Appleby, who has risen through the ranks to become Godoplhin’s pre-eminent trainer in Britain.
“They both raced five times at two, they both went to America and Line Of Duty actually came out with a better result than Masar (sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) on the day. We made the decision not to send Line Of Duty to the 2,000 Guineas.
“I have always said that a turning track is better for him, as it keeps him interested.
“I was confident going into the Breeders’ Cup that the turns there as well as the hustle and bustle would suit him.
“He is terrier-like and enjoys getting into a bit of a scrap. Those are things you are sure to get around Epsom.
“Over the straight mile in the Guineas, with a horse like him I felt boredom could set in slightly. I would rather go the Dante route to give him that opportunity up in trip and see where we are.
“I am looking forward to Line Of Duty running next week and we will be going there in good shape and he will be a live player.”
As for Masar, an injury setback left the colt on the sidelines after winning last year’s Derby from Dee Ex Bee – trained at Middleham by Mark Johnston – and Roaring Lion who had won the 2018 Dante under Oisin Murphy (the grey went on to be horse of the year).
However, Masar could return to action next month – the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot is a probable target – and the aforementioned Buick, a graduate of Northern Racing College, knows it will take a special horse to replicate the personal thrill of winning the Derby.
“The Derby doesn’t need any introduction. It is the most important race in our calendar and everyone dreams of winning the Derby. It was a great day,” he said.
“Masar looks well and horses develop and get stronger. He looks to have matured and looks a man now. He is a very professional horse.
“Anyone’s first Derby is very special and it is probably the most important victory of my career.”
As for Line Of Duty, he is looking forward to the Dante – while also acknowledging the importance of building on past successes.
“You can never rest on your laurels in this sport or any other. I’m not old, but I’m 30 now and I can see the younger riders coming through all the time. You have to keep up and you have to up your game year after year. You have to try and better yourself,” he added. “The Dante’s always an informative race. Charlie always felt the horse would want a step up in trip and hopefully all goes well for him at York.”