05/13/2009 11:00PM

Black Bear Island impresses at York

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Aidan O'Brien added two more strings to his Epsom Derby bow at York on Thursday as Black Bear Island and Freemantle finished first and second in the Group 2, $227,000 Dante Stakes. A full brother to 2002 Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral, Black Bear Island came from last to first with a late rush in traffic under Colm O'Donoghue to catch his pacesetting stablemate near the line for a head victory. Sans Frontieres was three-quarters of a length away in third with the 2-1 favorite Crowded House a one-paced eighth.

Third in his seasonal debut at Saint-Cloud in the Group 3 Prix La Force, the 12-1 Black Bear Island won the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard Dante as if the Derby's 1 1/2 miles would be no problem. He clocked 2:11.64 on good to firm ground and is now SkyBet's 7-1 third choice for what is shaping up as the classiest Epsom Derby in many years. SkyBet lists the O'Brien-trained Fame and Glory as its 5-2 Derby favorite with 2000 Guineas winner Sea the Stars at 3-1. Guineas third Gan Amhras is 8-1 with O'Brien's Rip Van Winkle 10-1 and Freemantle 12-1. All six of the favorites are trained in Ireland.

* Paco Boy attempts to underline his status as the leading older miler in England on Saturday in the Group 1, $379,000 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, where Aqlaam appears to have the best chance of upending the favorite.

A three-time group race winner going seven furlongs last year, including the Group 1 Prix de la Foret, Paco Boy won for the first time at a mile when taking the Group 2 Sandown Mile on April 25. The Richard Hannon-trained son of Desert Style will be ridden by Richard Hughes.

The 4-year-old Aqlaam has had only three starts in his injury plagued career. The William Haggas trainee has not run since winning the seven-furlong, Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 18 and has plenty of room for improvement. Second in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Champion Stakes last fall, Twice Over failed when third in the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes at 1 1/8 miles last month, while Godolphin's Alexandros, a two-time handicap winner at Nad Al Sheba this winter, was a distant third to Gladiatorus in the Dubai Duty Free last time.

Sandown Mile second and third Dream Eater and Virtual could have a say, while Pressing, the winner of the one-mile, Group 2 Premio Ribot in November, cannot be overlooked.