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York Dante Festival guide: Classic clues on the Knavesmire

| 16.05.2023

The York Dante Festival always provides three days of interesting and informative racing, with Classic clues often on show.

Racing in York dates back to Roman times and several important meetings run on the Knavesmire each year invariably attract huge crowds.

We’re taking a look at the key contests for the York Dante Festival, while punters can check out our ITV racing tips for betting pointers each day!


The Group Two Duke of York Stakes over six furlongs is the feature event on the opening day of action and usually attracts some of the season’s leading sprinters.

Barry Hills was a big fan of this contest and saddled a record seven winners, including dual scorer Handsome Sailor in 1987 and 1988.

He went on to land three Group One victories, while Royal Applause was ultimately voted European Champion Sprinter after prevailing for Hills here in 1997.

Indian Ridge subsequently landed the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, while the likes of Hamas, Owington, Lake Coniston and Starman went on to elite-level glory in Newmarket’s July Cup.

Highfield Princess followed up her 2022 success with a trio of Group One triumphs in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, the Nunthorpe back at York and the Curragh’s Flying Five Stakes.

John Quinn’s mare features in our 10 horses to follow for the 2023 Flat season!

Also on day one, the Group Three Musidora Stakes serves as a leading trial for the Oaks, with seven winners of the race going on to achieve Classic glory at Epsom.

Aidan O’Brien’s Irish raider Snowfall prevailed as a 14/1 outsider here in 2021 before romping home by 16 lengths in the Oaks.

Emily Upjohn was odds-on when scoring impressively the following year and was then an unlucky short-head second at Epsom after losing several lengths by stumbling at the start.

The great Henry Cecil trained a record nine winners, including Oaks stars Diminuendo, Snow Bride and Reams Of Verse.

Looking ahead to this year’s renewal, Coral’s David Stevens said: “Savethelastdance dominates the Oaks betting by virtue of her runaway Cheshire Oaks victory last week, but if there is to be a serious market rival to the Ballydoyle filly, it will be Infinite Cosmos if she can justify favouritism in style in Wednesday’s Musidora.”


There are a couple of Group Two events on the second afternoon, starting with the Middleton Stakes for fillies aged four or older.

Sir Michael Stoute has sent up a record seven winners from Newmarket, including subsequent Yorkshire Oaks ace Hellenic.

Sariska struck here for Michael Bell in 2010 after landing the Epsom and Irish Oaks the previous season, while multiple Group One scorer Midday was second that day and then went one better in 2011.

Izzi Top and Coronet both went on to land a couple of elite-level victories in France after obliging on the Knavesmire.

However, Wednesday’s showpiece is usually the Dante Stakes, which has produced 11 winners of the Derby at Epsom.

St Paddy was the first to achieve this notable double in 1960 for Noel Murless and Lester Piggott.

Shirley Heights, Shahrastani, Reference Point, Erhaab, Benny The Dip, North Light, Motivator, Authorized, Golden Horn and Desert Crown all followed in his footsteps.

The last-named cold was a seventh scorer for Stoute in 2022, equalling the record for winners trained by Cecil.

A star-studded honours board is also littered with numerous other future Irish Derby, St Leger and assorted Group One victors, notably Arc de Triomphe heroes Rheingold and Sakhee.

The race is named after the last Yorkshire-trained winner of the Derby back in 1945.


On the third and final day, the Group Two Yorkshire Cup over 1m 6f takes centre stage.

Piggott partnered a record eight winners, culminating with a 1981 and 1982 double for mighty stayer Ardross, who also landed two Ascot Gold Cup triumphs for Cecil.

Felicitation, Permonition, Buoy and Bruni were previous victors who tasted Group One or Classic success in their stellar careers.

Former St Leger star Moon Madness prevailed in 1988, while Doncaster aces Moonax and Classic Cliche achieved the same feat for Saeed bin Suroor.

Celeric and Kayf Tara followed up with Ascot Gold Cup triumphs, Marienbard went on to be a subsequent Arc scorer and Millenary was another St Leger winner to make a successful return to Yorkshire.

Ask soon added the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom to his CV after obliging in 2009 and 2012 victor Red Cadeux later became a three-time Melbourne Cup runner-up.

Perhaps the most popular Yorkshire Cup hero has been Stradivarius, though, with Frankie Dettori riding the striking chestnut to victory in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

John Gosden’s charge twice landed a £1million bonus for also winning the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup in the same season.

His 18 Group-class wins for John and Thady Gosden included four Goodwood Cups and three Gold Cups at Ascot.

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Tony Kelshaw