The Foxes foils White Birch for Dante glory
The Foxes took a muddling Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York that left the Betfred Derby market in something of a flux.
The Andrew Balding-trained, King Power-owned Churchill colt was given a polished ride by Oisin Murphy, who was happy to sit off a well-contest pace early on from his good draw in stall two.
Liberty Lane, Killybegs Warrior and Dancing Magic helped set a decent clip, with Craven Stakes runner-up The Foxes (6-1) travelling sweetly in mid-division.
Murphy decided to switch left with a furlong to run and he quickened nicely to score by a neck from White Birch, who came from last to first under Shane Foley.
Aidan O’Brien’s Continuous was produced with a promising run but did not quite seem to get home and dead-heated for third with Sir Michael Stoute’s once-raced Passenger, who looked unlucky with jockey Richard Kingscote unable to find a gap when it mattered. He ran on well once finding daylight.
The Foxes was cut to a general 8-1 for Epsom glory.
Balding said: “He did a bit of meandering across the track. He’s a very good horse, it looked a deep Dante today.
“He’s very professional, he was the most beautiful yearling and he’s been a star to train so far.
“You’d have to think Epsom is the next step as long as you take the usual caveats into account, it comes close enough for example, but if he comes out of it well I think we’d have to give it a go.
“The way he’s hit the line there he’d give himself every chance of getting the trip, it didn’t look like he was stopping at the end there to me.
“I think the main thing is he’d give himself every chance of staying because of his demeanour.”
Balding would not be winning the premier Classic out of turn should The Foxes prevail, after recent near-misses with Khalifa Sat and Hoo Ya Mal.
He added: “We’ve gone close in the Derby a few times, but I think he’d be the best chance we’ve had going there as both Hoo Ya Mal (runner-up last year) and Khalifa Sat (second in 2020) were big prices.
“His half-brother Bangkok went there after winning this well fancied, but he ran poorly. We always thought he’d stay, but he was a real 10-furlong horse.
“I think he’ll stay as his dam got a mile and a half well.”
Murphy said: “That was fantastic. I ride for a great stable and this fella was really well prepared at home.
“He’s easy to ride, he relaxes and then he’s able to show that turn of foot. He has all the attributes of a top-quality horse.
“We didn’t go crazy, but rolled along – I hope it’s a good trial for the big races to come. I won this five years ago on Roaring Lion, and on Telecaster, and I hope it’s a good pointer to the Derby.
“I hope he’s a good Derby ride, he relaxes, he’s a beautiful mover and hopefully he’ll stay.
“He gives himself a chance of staying, but he is a fast horse. It’s exciting.”