Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Bonfire burns rivals in Dante

Marcus Armytage

Bonfire, a black colt who was raised as a foal in the same paddock as Camelot, established himself as the 2,000 Guineas winner's main rival for Flat racing's biggest prize, the Epsom Derby, by winning the Dante Stakes at York yesterday.

The son of Manduro justified Andrew Balding's decision to take him out of last week's Dee Stakes at Chester because of the soft ground by beating the race-fit Ektihaam by three-quarters of a length with four lengths back to Fencing in third.

Godolphin's hopes for Mandaean and Ballydoyle's for Earnest Hemingway went up in smoke as they trailed in a distant second last and last, with the latter losing his action according to jockey Joseph O'Brien.

Bonfire is now a best-priced 8/1 with Ladbrokes, who also shortened his old paddock companion to 8/11.

The winning margin did not quite tell the whole story. Jimmy Fortune, fully aware that the Derby was only two weeks and two days away from the Dante, did enough to win on Bonfire but spared him a hard race.

"He just got a little tired in the last 50 yards but a mile and a half shouldn't be a problem and he's a handy little horse who travels well so he should be suited to Epsom," said Fortune.

"He's a monkey in the preliminaries but he never been anything other than very genuine in his races."

Balding, who won the Oaks with Casual Look in 2003 at his first attempt, has never had a runner in the Derby, which his father Ian so famously won with Mill Reef in 1971.

"The Dante was the last place we wanted to come because it is so close to the Derby," he said.

"But it was probably a good decision in the end. It's been quite hard reading in the paper how he's working brilliantly when he hasn't been all the time. He's not a brilliant workhorse but he seems to do it on the track. He can be handful but he's not an ogre. He likes to get his own way."

The colt is owned by Highclere Thoroughbred's Pocohontas Syndicate, whose 20 members put in £14,000 a share for two horses. In an almost ridiculous piece of good fortune the other horse is the Oaks fancy, Vow.

As for Highclere Stud, it would appear to have all the Derby bases covered now having bred both Bonfire and Camelot and brought them up in the paddock named Blenheim after the 1930 Derby winner.

The last time the two colts were together was in neighbouring stables at Tattersalls in October 2010. Camelot sold for 525,000 guineas, Bonfire went for 90,000 guineas. They will meet again on racing's field of dreams a fortnight tomorrow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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