Dante Runner-up an Unlikely Derby Contender

5/18/12 - Ektihaam, a fine runner-up to the impressive Bonfire in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York’s May meeting, is a very unlikely starter for the Investec Derby, even though he is still a 16/1 pick in the Epsom Derby betting odds with some firms, writes Elliot Slater.

Roger Varian’s three-year-old is not entered in the Epsom showcase event, so he would need to be added to the classic field at considerable expense.

The prospect of supplementing the son of Invincible Spirit for the blue riband contest seems not to appeal to connections, who believe that, at this stage of his career, the Dante trip of 10 furlongs is about as far as they would like their horse to go.

Jockey Tadgh O’Shea suggested that his mount’s stamina was stretched to the limit, over the last few yards of the trip on the Knavesmire, an opinion that concurs with that of his trainer and owner for the time being.

Ektihaam did well to last as long as he did at York, having taken a strong hold through the first couple of furlongs, before settling into a nice rhythm under O’Shea, who was riding the horse for the first time. Champion jockey, Paul Hanagan, had been on board when Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum’s colt made an impressive seasonal reappearance at Newbury, four weeks earlier.

Driven up to challenge Bonfire just over a furlong from home, there was very little between the pair for a few strides, before the stronger stamina and staying pedigree of the eventual winner kicked in, and he forged away to score by three-quarters-of-a-length.

Ektihaam nonetheless ran a fine race and Varian is thought to now be considering a crack at the French Derby at Chantilly, next month, a race run over the 10 furlong trip that seems (at this point), to be the ideal distance for a horse who is fast developing into a smart performer.

The Betfair Royal Ascot page has more information on the upcoming event, as well as gambling tips for the popular race.

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