Bonfire heads Dante contenders

Bonfire heads Dante contenders

Andrew Balding’s Derby hope Bonfire puts his reputation on the line in Thursday’s Betfred Dante Stakes at York.

An easy winner on his debut at Salisbury last season, he was an unlucky third in a Group One in France at the end of the campaign.

That form has since been boosted by the winner, French Fifteen, who ran so well to finish second in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The Highclere Thoroughbred Racing-owned Bonfire was supposed to run at Chester last week but the desperate conditions saw Balding change his plans at the last minute and re-route his charge to the Knavesmire.

He is unlikely to have it all his own way, however, with John Gosden’s 2000 Guineas sixth Fencing bringing Classic form to the table after a good juvenile campaign which saw him finish third behind Guineas winner Camelot at Doncaster.

Roger Varian’s Ektihaam is the only one of the seven declared runners to have won this season.

The giant colt finished last in the Dewhurst but showed that to be all wrong when returning this season with a smooth performance at Newbury.

Godolphin’s Mandaean was unbeaten in France last season for Andre Fabre, including a Group One at Saint Cloud. He has since joined Mahmood Al Zarooni.

Another viable candidate is Aidan O’Brien’s Ernest Hemingway. A few dry days in Yorkshire have encouraged O’Brien to let the once-raced 10-length maiden winner take his chance.

Clive Cox has declared the maiden Dream Tune, while Bryan Smart runs 2000 Guineas seventh Ptolemaic.

Henry Cecil decided against running both Noble Mission and Wrotham Heath.

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