Bonfire enhances Derby prospects with Dante Stakes victory

Andrew Balding

Bonfire enhanced his prospects for the Derby with victory in the Dante Stakes at York.

Making his seasonal debut, the Andrew Balding-trained colt got the better of Ektihaam to take this Group Two test and book his place at Epsom.

The 3-1 shot won by three quarters of a length. Fencing was third but never looked threatening.

Balding said: "It's key at Epsom to get a position and it looks like he's got the ability to do that."

The early pace was set by the Aidan O'Brien-trained Ernest Hemingway, but the stablemate of 2000 Guineas winner and hot Derby favourite Camelot weakened tamely in the straight.

He was a spent force as Bonfire ranged alongside him after they turned into the straight.

Jimmy Fortune had to bustle up the twice-raced Bonfire to go and win his race, which he did in determined fashion from a tough opponent in Ektihaam.

The first two pulled clear of Fencing, while Godolphin's Mandaean was a disappointment on his first run for Mahmood Al Zarooni.

Fortune said: "He travelled very well, he travelled like a good horse. He was probably in front long enough but he held on.

"We went a decent gallop, it was a truly run race. It was a good trial and it was as much as we wanted to do really.

"He's a playful little horse and he likes to do things his own way but he's very genuine."

Balding added: "It was very good. I was getting a bit uncomfortable with all the hype because he's not a brilliant work horse and he's done it in flashes this spring, so it was a relief to get him out.

"He behaved like a professional most of the time and he did it very well in the race. Jimmy was very impressed. It was a truly run race and a proper trial.

"The second has had a run already this season and Jimmy felt we were getting a little leg weary inside the final furlong, not through lack of stamina but through lack of race fitness so that is all the more encouraging."