Desire's Dante deepens Derby disarray
A Dante Stakes won by a horse that had been taken out of the Derby and saw the Classic favourite capitulate yesterday served only to muddy the Epsom waters further.
The York Group Two is often one of the final pieces of the jigsaw in terms of a general picture ahead of the Derby.
However, with the Pat Smullen-ridden Midterm failing pretty spectacularly to justify its status as the big-race market leader, it was left to Wings Of Desire to triumph under another superlative steer by the irresistible Frankie Dettori.
Dettori and his sidekick John Gosden have taken York by storm, having produced a live Oaks threat to Minding in So Mi Dar in Tuesday's Musidora.
Wings Of Desire was their third winner at the meeting ahead of this afternoon's finale. Whether or not he is a genuine Derby contender remains to be seen, but, so backward was the son of Pivotal that Gosden elected to take him out of the Classic in March.
Having then been beaten three lengths by Winning Story on its racecourse debut at Newmarket on April 13, that might have looked a discerning move. It seems a bit less so now.
Ten days subsequently, Wings Of Desire won at odds-on on the all-weather at Wolverhampton. Yesterday, 29 days after it first set foot on a racecourse, it edged out the Aidan O'Brien-trained Deauville by a neck to be catapulted to the head of the Derby betting.
A full-brother to Eagle Top, he wasn't in many of the major bookmakers' lists yesterday morning, yet this morning he vies with O'Brien's US Army Ranger for the market lead at as low as 7/2. All of a sudden, he is back in the Derby conversation.
"This horse is still learning," Gosden said afterwards of Wings Of Desire.
"He has gone from a maiden to Wolverhampton to here. This horse never did a half-speed piece of work until the middle of March, so consequently he's still learning a lot. We'll take him to Epsom to let him have a feel of the hill. He's still very much a baby - he's freakish. He showed me things early on, I thought, 'Goodness'.
"I took him out of the Derby as I thought he was for the King Edward VII, like his brother Eagle Top. That was my plan and it has obviously changed. He went round a bend at Wolverhampton and learnt a lot. He's still learning; he has come here and won a Dante. There's a lot more to come and all being well we'll go to Epsom.
"For a horse like this to come from no education as a two-year-old to win a Dante is pretty special."
A year ago, Gosden won the Dante with Golden Horn, which was also having its third start, albeit over a longer period.
Those are big hoof-prints to fill, but, with So Mi Dar, Minding and Galileo Gold all unlikely to run, it's not that far-fetched to envisage Wings Of Desire also triumphing at Epsom.
Of Midterm, which finished fifth after racing keenly, Smullen ventured that his mount's immaturity might mean that the Derby will come too soon. Aidan O'Brien, meanwhile, expressed himself happy with the reappearing Deauville.
"The lads will decide if goes to the Derby," O'Brien added, "but I've been very happy with all the horses in all the trials, even those that haven't won."