Dante Double Sparks A Royal Visit
York is a special track but even more so for those who train in and around the Knavesmire. We are lucky to have one of the best tracks in the world right on our doorstep. Along with great racing, friendly atmosphere, the track has one of the best infrastructures for owners thanks to William Derby. Price money seems to increase year on year and all these lead to a very special place to have runners. The Dante meeting is one that everybody in the north looks forward to and this year saw the team kick off with a double courtesy of Bielsa and Mon Na Slieve.
Bielsa became a hero in Yorkshire thanks to his management of Leeds United and his equine namesake seems to be building his own following. The 2021 Ayr Gold Cup winner has always shown he is a class act but had been winless since that fine effort. He made up for the time between wins when he gave Yorkshire their first winner of the year on the Knavesmire by taking the 6f Churchill Tyres Handicap.
When it comes to the top handicap sprints, Bielsa has seen it all. He has bagged a Gold Cup and been to all the top meetings. York has always been a track where Bielsa has run well but never quite got the luck he deserved. On his previous 3 visits the Gedling has gone well but been drawn away from the action or found a bit of trouble.
Although Bielsa turned 8 yrs old this year, there are very few miles on the clock. With only 26 runs to his name, there was plenty of reasons to believe that 2023 could provide another fruitful year. When he returned to action at Redcar, Bielsa proved this by finishing runner up and showing plenty of promise for the season ahead. Having run in the same race for the previous two seasons, Bielsa was immediately aimed at York.
Oisin Murphy was boekt for the ride and lined up against 20 rivals who know each other inside and out, racing against each other throughout the years. The usual cavalry charge ensued when the gates flew open. The field split into three groups, but they were not spread too far apart. Bielsa just tracked the pace towards the near side and got a lovely sit through the early stages.
The groups meted into one as the field charged through the first half of the race. Clocking 43 mph, the 21 runners were actually well bunched, with the far side runners tucking in to to create one group. Bielsa was always in a good spot and tracked the pace quite comfortably.
Moving down towards the 2f marker the race began to develop and quickly found a few of the competition out. Oisin angled Bielsa out for a run as the leaders just began to struggle and give way. Gaining daylight, Oisin moved through and went for his run inside the 2f pole. Within a few strides Bielsa had hit the front and now had his sights on the finishing line.
York is a fair, flat track but whenever you hit the front the line always seems to be a lot further away. Bielsa had moved to the front and held a neck advantage over a rival half his age. Nothing else was getting into the picture so the pair settled down to battle for the win. Inside the final furlong Bielsa continued to find for pressure and the advantage he had taken was being maintained. Although he was made o work for it, Bielsa was always doing enough and hit the line well, securing a neck win.
It was great to see Bielsa back and he thoroughly deserved this win. He has always been a class act and whilst it is hard to be consistent in these big races, he is always a big player. King Power Racing have owned Bielsa for the previous 3 seasons and it is great to have a winner in their colours. It is even more so at the big meetings where their support deserves to get them. Bielsa will be doing his usual this year and all the top handicaps will be his aim.
Whilst one stable star, and favourite, was returning to winning ways, there was a younger potential star making his debut. Mon Na Slieve was seeing the racetrack for the first time and he impressed by comfortably taking the 5f British EBF 40th Anniversary Novice Stakes.
The Craven breeze up sales has been a huge source of success. With this the prices do reflect it and you must have support to try and get the future stars. The chestnut son of Exceed And Excel impressed when he breezed, clocked a good time and then matched up when viewed as a physical. Kevin didn’t want to leave him behind and thankfully Mr Brendan Macdonald backed him, securing Mon Na Slieve for 190,000gns.
It is all well and good making plans but then the horse has to go and do it. Mon Na Slieve was bought as a potential Royal Ascot horse. He had proved it at the breeze but could he do it when the real racing started. After continuing to impress at home, Kevin turned his attention to York for the colt to make his debut.
Everybody knows that Kevin sends good juveniles to York. The reason for that is you have to have a good one, as your rivals will be doing likewise. The 5f Novice attracted just 7 runners but it was a very interesting line up. There were plenty of talking horses with some big yards, fancy pedigrees and the one experienced runner coming in with good form. It was a race that would take some winning.
Tom Eaves took the ride and with Mon Na Slieve jumping well he went to the fore. The colt showed blistering speed early on but it was very natural and took Tom there. As they settled down Mon Na Slieve held the early advantage as the rest filtered in behind.
Despite travelling at around 42 mph, the 7 runners were well bunched up. Mon Na Slieve was going great guns in front as he was stalked by the market leaders. They charged through the first half of the race and were quickly on to the business end. Tom began to nudge his mount along as they passed the 2f marker, ensuring he kept his advantage.
Mon Na Slieve was lengthening, he was striding out and starting to find top gear. With his rivals travelling well in behind they suddenly came under pressure thanks to Mon Na Slieve. He began to pull away and entering the final furlong he held a length lead. Nothing could match the leader and Mon Na Slieve was not for stopping. He powered through the final furlong, stretching clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
It was a very impressive debut from Mon Na Slieve and was done with the minimum of fuss. He showed great speed, was very professional and then managed to quicken off a strong pace. Tom barely had to do anything and it was a hand’s and heels ride. Royal Ascot was the agenda and this performance guaranteed that. He is a very fast horse and the 5f juvenile races will be his target.