Unbeaten ‘Lights’ to step up in very open Dante

J A McGrath

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is keen to test the capabilities of the unbeaten Nordic Lights in Thursday’s G2 Dante Stakes at York.

The Intello colt faces eight rivals in a Classic trial won by six G1 Derby winners in the past 30 years, the most recent of which was Golden Horn (2015).

Appleby said: “Nordic Lights has a progressive profile and this is a decent step up for him. He was bought at a breeze up sale and he has already done much to justify his price tag.

“He’s a good strong galloper and this is his next test. The track conditions will suit him,” he pointed out.

Mark Johnston will send out last-start winner Mildenberger in the colours of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, whose Permian won last year’s Dante.

Crossed Baton, winner of the Listed Blue Riband Trial at Epsom, is one of two runners for Newmarket trainer John Gosden, who also saddles Roaring Lion.

Other interesting contenders are unbeaten Wells Farhh Go (Farhh) and White Mocha, who have both shown considerable promise. Aidan O’Brien saddles James Cook.

This key trial invariably uncovers a three-year-old of note, one capable of G1 success, if not at Epsom, then in some other important race targeted later in the season.

Nordic Lights has reportedly improved significantly in his work in recent weeks.

“He doesn’t have any Classic entries, but if he were to win the Dante, he would be a strong candidate to be supplemented for the Derby,” Appleby said.

“On his last run at Newmarket, he should get the trip well. In that race, he was relentless, the way he galloped to the line under a penalty. It’s a stiff 10 furlongs at Headquarters...and he wasn’t stopping,” the trainer pointed out.