Bonfire fuels Classic dreams
Bonfire enhanced his Investec Derby prospects with a smooth win in the Betfred Dante Stakes.
Shahrastani, Reference Point, Motivator and Authorized are just four of the horses that have helped make York's 10 furlong contest the leading Derby Trial of the current age and Andrew Balding and the members of the Highclere Syndicate that own the winner will be hoping that their colt can also go on to success in the Investec Derby.
Settling quickly behind the pace set by Ernest Hemingway, who was backed into favouritism, the son of Manduro was always travelling easily and Jimmy Fortune still appeared to have plenty of horse underneath him when taking over inside the final quarter of a mile.
Fencing, who had pulled for his head early, appeared to be travelling equally well and moved up on the inside while Ektihaam - who had given trouble at the start - came from off the pace to launch a sustained challenge on his outside.
However, Bonfire had more than enough firepower to see off both challengers and appeared to have more in the tank than the three and a quarter length winning margin suggested.
Ernest Hemingway was eased right down once his chance had gone while Mandaean, whose price had doubled from the opening shows, took some time to settle but was beaten before those early exertions would have become an issue.
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 said: "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.
"We've only got just over a fortnight, but as long as he comes out of this well, we've got to give Epsom serious consideration.
"It's key at Epsom to get a position and it looks like he's got the ability to do that. But what do I know I've never had a Derby runner!
"I've had a few runners there though so I know what it takes. I just hope it doesn't take too much out of him."
Sky Bet cut the winner to 6-1 from 10-1 for Epsom's showpiece while further shortening the current favourite and stablemate of Ernest Hemingway, Camelot to 4-5 from evens.