Highest Ground heads six for Dante

Juan Elcano among York opposition to Stoute’s unbeaten colt.

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Sir Michael Stoute’s exciting colt Highest Ground heads a field of six for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

The son of Frankel won on his only outing at Leicester as a two-year-old, and impressed on his seasonal debut when beating Waldkonig at Haydock.

Aidan O’Brien sends over Cormorant, winner of the Derrinstown House Stud Derby Trial, and Kevin Ryan runs the 2000 Guineas fifth Juan Elcano.

Completing the line-up in Thursday’s Group Two over an extended 10 furlongs are Richard Hannon’s unbeaten Al Madhar, the John Gosden-trained Encipher and Thunderous from Mark Johnston’s stable.

Franconia, Ricetta and Pocket Square do battle for owner Khalid Abdullah in the Group Three Tattersalls Musidora Stakes.

The first two are trained by John Gosden, with Roger Charlton responsible for Pocket Square. Lake Lucerne gives the Gosden stable a triple hand in the nine-runner line-up.

Among nine two-year-olds declared for the Listed EBF Marygate Fillies’ Stakes are Roger Varian’s Sardinia Sunset, who was fourth in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, David O’Meara’s Beverley scorer Country Carnival and Different Face, winner of her second start at Lingfield for Simon and Ed Crisford.

The meeting ends a long wait for York officials as their season finally gets under way eight weeks later than scheduled.

The Dante and the Musidora are normally recognised trials for the Derby and the Oaks but come after the two Epsom Classics this year in a drastically re-drawn fixture list because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Racing may be back after lockdown restrictions have been eased, but must continue behind closed doors. York chief executive and clerk of the course William Derby confirmed everything is in place to ensure a safe environment.

“It’s unusual to have the Musidora and the Dante after Epsom – but they have attracted quality runners, so we are pleased at that and delighted to be getting racing again on the Knavesmire,” he said.

“We’ve got 10 races on Thursday, so it’s a bumper card.

“We’re delighted to welcome back owners, so we have re-adjusted our plans to account for that.”

The Knavesmire, of which the racecourse is a part, is a public open space – owned by the City Of York Council – so the racecourse executive has had to erect some fencing for the meeting.

“We’ve got about three miles of fencing gone up on the Knavesmire to do two things,” added Derby.

“One is to ensure we are complying with the behind-closed-doors protocols, so that people coming will not be able to see anything of interest outside on the Knavesmire, but keeping it open for local community so that people can still enjoy the Knavesmire in the centre.

“We are still allowing locals to walk their dogs and run on the Knavesmire while we are racing, but ensuring it is not an attraction to viewing the racing.

“We want people to enjoy the racing on ITV and Racing TV.”

This week’s meeting was never in doubt, despite being the subject of a scare over local lockdowns which could have put it in jeopardy. That conjecture, however, was quickly shown to be inaccurate.

“York appeared on a list of local lockdowns – but having spoken to the director of public health for York, she issued a statement saying she did not know where that came from,” said Derby.

“York is not on an at-risk list, but we have had a lot of dealings with the local authority who have been very supportive of our plans to resume racing while rightly ensuring that public access to the Knavesmire remains.

“That has been a very good and constructive relationship with our landlord and our local community.”

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