Day one of the Dante Festival at York got off to the best possible start for followers of Ahead On The Flat with the strongly supported Gaassee winning the Jorvik Handicap. Progressive last term, the four year old was racing on turf for only the second time. Despite being raised nine pounds for his latest win at Kempton in December, he still looked ahead of the assessor as he stayed on strongly to beat the racefit Forza Orta conceding eleven pounds to Kevin Ryan's runner-up. A length winner, his victory here booked his place in the Sky Bet Ebor in August but he is likely to take in something like the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot (17th June) beforehand. Fast ground remains an unknown for the son of Sea The Stars with jockeys reporting conditions to be on the slow side on the Knavesmire. Viewed as a Pattern horse in the making by his trainer, Gaassee is a horse we are going to hear plenty about this year.
Michael Dods commented in AOTF that he felt eight year old Dakota Gold (18/1) was handicapped to win a good prize this year and so it proved as the Equiano gelding registered his sixth victory at York when taking the six furlongs handicap. Connor Beasley's mount battled on well to beat Makanah by a head with stablemate Pendleton half a length further back in third.
The star turn on Wednesday though was Emily Upjohn who trounced her four rivals in the Musidora Stakes. John and Thady Gosden's filly had impressed under a penalty at Sandown last month and she took the transition into Pattern company in her stride. Keen early on, the Sea The Stars filly proved much too good as she drew clear inside the final quarter of a mile. Her trainer feels she will be even better over a mile and a half. Top 40 entry Luna Dorada faded out of contention having made the running. It was only her second start and she hadn't come in her coat, plus her yard is quiet (1 winner from 24 runners during the last fortnight). Expect improvement next time and she won't alway bump into an opponent of Emily Upjohn's calibre.
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