There was some terrific action at York's Dante meeting with the ground drying up during the three days - it was nice to see the words good to firm appearing in the going description, something we haven't experienced too often this spring. Having highlighted Soul Sister (18/1) in the Classic Contenders section of Ahead On The Flat, it was pleasing to see John and Thady Gosden's filly show what she is capable of in the Group 3 Musidora Stakes on the opening afternoon. The Frankel filly found the trip too sharp and ground too slow on her reappearance in the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury last month but she put that well and truly behind her with an authoritative display under Frankie Dettori. A four lengths winner, she will head to Epsom for the Oaks in June as a leading contender and the Gosden stable will be keen to atone for Emily Upjohn's unlucky defeat twelve months ago. Sir Michael Stoute's Infinite Cosmos could only finish third and, while she holds an entry at Epsom, the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot appeals as a more likely target. She will improve when stepped up to a mile and a half.
Michael Dods has trained a couple of Group 1 winning fillies, namely Mabs Cross and Mecca's Angel and the Piercebridge based handler could have another on his hands in the fast improving Azure Blue. The daughter of El Kabeir won the Listed Kilvington Stakes at Newmarket earlier this month and was quickly stepped up in grade in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes on Wednesday. That proved no obstacle for the four year old as she came with a strong challenge to wear down the Nunthorpe Stakes winner Highfield Princess to prevail by half a length. I spoke to her rider Paul Mulrennan in the car park afterwards and he feels she will have no trouble dropping back to five furlongs and had no trouble with the quicker surface, too.
Another classy filly, Free Wind, belied an absence of 320 days when taking the Group 2 Middleton Stakes on day two. The Gosden trained runner hadn't been seen since winning the Lancashire Oaks last summer sustaining an injury in the process. Reverting back to ten furlongs for the first time since June 2021, she displayed an admirable attitude to hold the sustained challenge of Rogue Millennium to score by half a length with the pair clear. Provided she remains in one piece, the five year old looks set for a productive season with the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot her likely target. The former champion trainer won the twelve furlongs contest with another filly, Fanny Logan (4yo), in 2020 but no five year old mare has landed the prize since 1983.
The Clarehaven outfit rounded off a decent few days on the Knavesmire when Top 40 Prospects entry Mostabshir (3/1) blitzed a handful of opponents by upwards of five lengths in the one mile novice stakes. The well bred son of Dark Angel is related to Group winning stablemates Mostahdaf and Nazeef and he bounced back to form in no uncertain terms here. Below par on rain softened ground in the Craven Stakes at HQ last month, he was much more at home on a sounder surface and made all under William Buick. A five lengths winner, he streaked away inside the final furlong looking a top-class prospect in the process. It is a big step up but the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot must be tempting, granted a quick surface.
The Top 40 continue to hit the post, cross bar and occasionally the corner flag but at least they have unearthed a couple of smart types this week, namely Mostabshir and Artistic Star (9/4) who maintained his unbeaten record in good style at Sandown on Tuesday evening. There have been plenty of others placed this week who ought to be hard to beat next time.
Artistic Star is trained by Ralph Beckett and the Hampshire handler is beginning to hit form with 11 winners during the last fortnight. He has sent out a clutch of promising three year olds this week - Artistic Star, Davideo and Nothing To Sea all look Royal Ascot material and expect to see a few more emerge shortly.
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