05/13/2009 11:00PM

Black Bear Island impresses at York


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.