Horse Racing Tips

York Thursday Racing Tips: Passenger for Dante Glory

Mark Milligan has two bets on Dante day

Mark Milligan looks ahead to Dante day at York, where he has two bets for us, including one in the big race itself...

  • Mark previews Dante day

  • Passenger fancied in the big race

  • Astro King to strike on debut for new stable

It goes without saying that the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes (15:35) has historically proven to be one of the key trials for the Derby and this year's race ought to prove no exception, particularly as the Epsom showpiece appears to lack a star performer currently.

With Auguste Rodin's abject 2000 Guineas effort still fresh in the memory, Charlie Appleby's Military Order propelled himself to the top of the Derby betting with victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial at the weekend, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he could be usurped if we see an impressive winner on Thursday.

Epictetus heads the Dante betting on the Sportsbook and he won't lack anything for fitness having taken the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom on his comeback last month, though it's hard not to forget how Auguste Rodin put him in his place in last year's Futurity at Doncaster.

He just about sets the standard on form, but I'm happy to look elsewhere with several likely improvers lurking in the wings.

Passenger the one to be with

Canberra Legend, The Foxes and White Birch fall into that category, but the one that intrigues me above all others is Sir Michael Stoute's Passenger, who created a big impression when taking the Wood Ditton at Newmarket on debut.

I primarily use Timeform timefigures to inform my betting, but sometimes the final time can't tell you everything about what a horse achieved on the clock, and that's where sectionals come in very handy.

Taken as a timefigure in isolation, Passenger's performance was nothing special on the clock, but the Wood Ditton was a steadily-run affair that effectively became a sprint for home.

When that sprint started, Passenger wasn't as well placed as some and his final timefigure figure is worth a big upgrade based on his positioning and the final 3f sectional he recorded.

In fact, when you add the sectional upgrade to Passenger's bare timefigure, we come out with 104, which is a very high level for a horse to achieve on debut and is only just shy of the top figures in this race that belong to Epictetus and Flying Honours.

It's rare that a horse who runs a 100+ timefigure on debut doesn't go on to be a Group-class performer and I'm confident that Passenger is very much on that trajectory.

We also don't have to go back very far to find a lightly-raced Sir Michael Stoute 3-y-o taking this race before going on to Epsom glory (think Desert Crown last year).

Back Passenger at


Stable debutant one to take seriously

Speaking of Sir Michael Stoute horses, he has the favourite for the Sky Bet Hambleton Handicap (15:00) in the shape of the progressive Assessor, but he hasn't been missed in the market and I'm looking at one of his ex-stable companions, Astro King, at a much bigger price.

Daniel and Claire Kubler are rapidly establishing themselves as one of the shrewdest training partnerships around and they have a really good record when it comes to improving horse from other stables.

In fact, I dug into the stats and found that they have a very healthy 29% strike-rate with new acquisitions making their debuts for the stable in handicap company.

That bodes well for Astro King, who has a touch of class and ran a cracker when fourth in last year's Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot from a mark 3lb higher than he gets to race off here.

He didn't cut much ice in listed company on his next start and then ran poorly on heavy ground back at Ascot when last seen in October, but he clearly wasn't right that day and is better judged on his efforts in the early part of the year.

Purchased from the Stoute stable for 36,000 guineas after that Ascot run, Astro King was subsequently gelded and it would be no surprise if he could get a good chunk of that purchase price back in one hit here, his proven ability in big-field handicaps sure to stand him in good stead.

A handy draw in stall 4 adds to the appeal, and with six places available on the Sportsbook, Astro King looks overpriced at 20/1.

Back Astro King each-way at


Recommended bets

Mark's P/L (Not including Weds)

Staked: 375 Returns: 464.47 P/L: +89.47


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