Roaring Lion after scoring in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket

Roaring Lion after scoring in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket

Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

Roaring Lion Heads Field of Nine in Dante at York

Trainer John Gosden will send out Roaring Lion and Crossed Baton May 17.

John Gosden's Roaring Lion and Crossed Baton head a field of nine 3-year-old colts declared for the May 17 Betfred Dante Stakes (G2) at York.

A key trial for the June 2 Investec Derby (G1) run over a distance of 10 1/2 furlongs, the Dante is named after the last Yorkshire-trained horse to win the Epsom showpiece in 1945. Ten Dante winners have gone on to score at Epsom, the most recent being Gosden's own Golden Horn in 2015.

Kentucky-bred Roaring Lion stretches out in distance after finishing fifth in the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1) over a mile at Newmarket last time. The son of Hill 'n' Dale Farm-based Kitten's Joy  opened his 2018 campaign with a third in the bet365 Craven Stakes (G3) over the same Newmarket track. His juvenile career, which consisted of three wins from four starts, ended with a neck defeat to eventual QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas winner Saxon Warrior in the Racing Post Trophy Stakes (G1) at Doncaster.

Roaring Lion is owned by Qatar Racing and will be ridden by Oisin Murphy.

Crossed Baton, owned by Khalid Abdullah and bred by his Juddmonte Farms operation, makes his first start in group company on the back of a score in another Derby trial, the Investec Blue Riband Trial at Epsom last month. Prior to that, the son of Dansili took out a conditions race on Kempton's Polytrack to kick off his season. Both of those wins came over 10 furlongs.

Frankie Dettori, who landed the race in 2007 with subsequent Epsom hero Authorized, will ride.

"Roaring Lion ran a good race in the Two Thousand Guineas, and we've always felt this was more his kind of trip for this year," Gosden said. "We discussed running him in the Dante before the Guineas, and he has come out of that race extremely well. He's fresh, well and in good form at home.

"Crossed Baton has done nothing wrong, and the form of his win at Epsom looks fairly decent. He should like the galloping track and stay very well."

Mark Johnston saddles Mildenberger for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. The son of Teofilo made a bright start to his classic season when he took out the listed bet365 Feilden Stakes at Newmarket in April. He ended his juvenile year by finishing third to Roaring Lion in the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) at the same venue. Jockey James Doyle partners.

"All through the winter, we felt if we had one horse who might take us to the big races and big days that Permian (winner of last year's Dante) did, then Mildenberger was top of the list," assistant trainer and son Charlie Johnston said. "We were very pleased with him in the Feilden, and the extra furlong he gets here should help him for sure.

"We're probably more confident than we were going into the Dante with Permian, but this is Derby D-day," he continued. "We're going to find out if we should be going to Epsom, and hopefully we will be."

Coolmore will rely on Aidan O'Brien-trained James Cook, fourth to Crossed Baton at Epsom on return last time, while Godolphin and Charlie Appleby will send Nordic Lights, unraced at 2 and unbeaten in a pair of 1 1/4-mile conditions races this season.

Wells Farhh Go, trained by Yorkshire local Tim Easterby, has not been seen since landing the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes (G3) over seven furlongs at the track in August. But the runner-up in that race, James Garfield, went on to land a pair of group races before finishing seventh in the Two Thousand Guineas. Wells Farhh Go's connections recently shelled out £9,000 (approximately US$12,000) to supplement the son of Farhh for Epsom's most famous classic.

"I'm hoping it won't be a case of £9,000 down the Swanee. If he can get that money back in the Dante, I'll be happy," Easterby said. "I expect him to run very well, and it would be good to see him finish in the first three. However, he really has only just come to himself. He wouldn't have been ready to run three weeks ago. He is a nice big horse with a lot of furnishing to do, but he is eating better now and he looks well."

Hugo Palmer's White Mocha finished one place in front of Roaring Lion in the Craven and, like that rival, stretches out for the first time. 

"Ryan Moore rode him to beat Roaring Lion in the Craven—and he did beat Roaring Lion. He came out of that wonderfully well and should relish the step up in trip at York. We're now going to find out where we are—we will be left with either a Derby dream or a different dream."