05/14/2013 3:34PM

Epsom Derby: Indian Chief preps in Dante Stakes at York


Indian Chief can join trainer Aidan O’Brien’s crew of Epsom Derby hopefuls with a strong showing Thursday at York in the Group 2 Dante Stakes, one of England’s major Derby preps.

While Kingsbarns, O’Brien’s leading 2-year-old of 2012, is behind schedule and doubtful to make the Epsom Derby, the stable still has three horses – Battle of Marengo, Ruler of the World, and Mars – priced at odds of about 10-1 or less in antepost Derby betting.

The jury is very much out on Indian Chief’s performance level, as he finished second in his lone start at 2, and won an April 15 maiden race at Leopardstown in Ireland in his only start this year, but that victory rippled with potential. Held up last of seven behind a modest pace, Indian Chief blasted to the front with a strong rally in the final quarter-mile to win by two lengths, and the horse who came second, Dubai Deer, has since returned to win.

In the Dante, to be run on good-to-firm turf at slightly less than 1 5/16 miles, Indian Chief will have seven rivals, though Telescope, the likely favorite, was forced to miss the race after a scrape on his leg became infected.

The Godolphin-owned colt Secret Number makes his first start on turf after winning a pair of all-weather races and finishing a decent third in the UAE Derby, his first loss. Windhoek, another Dante contender, has won all three of his starts, capturing an early-season, six-furlong 2-year-old race in 2012, and a pair of 1 1/4-mile races this spring, including a rich victory in the Tattersalls Millions. Second and third in that race were two more Dante entrants, Greatwood and Ghurair, while Dashing Star, Libertarian, and Trading Leather all would need to improve significantly to win the Dante. So would Indian Chief, but for now, at least, his ceiling looks higher.