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By Martin Kelly, Press Association Sport. Last Updated: 13/05/10 6:29pm
Cape Blanco - impressive in the Dante.
Cape Blanco warmed up for the Investec Derby with victory in the all-important totesport Dante Stakes at York - but it was stablemate St Nicholas Abbey who was all the rage for the Epsom Classic in the immediate aftermath.
With nine winners since 1958 completing the Dante-Derby double, bookmakers reacted to the Aidan O'Brien-trained Cape Blanco's taking success by initially installing him as the second-favourite for the blue riband on June 5, before speculation of his well-being surfaced.
Ladbrokes went 5-1 from 12s and Coral 4-1 from 14, with St Nicholas Abbey shortening to 5-2 and 2-1 respectively at the head of the market.
St Nicholas Abbey, the dazzling Racing Post Trophy winner, may have failed to fire in the 2000 Guineas, but even stable jockey Johnny Murtagh was staying loyal after steering Cape Blanco to victory.
Cape Blanco was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile and the 9-2 chance emerged as the convincing trial winner purists have craved as he pulled three and a quarter lengths clear of Workforce to provide O'Brien with his fourth Dante win - and his first in Britain this year after 15 consecutive losers.
However, Cape Blanco, who is just 7-2 with totesport, was the subject of negative rumours after the race and drifted out to 8-1 on Betfair.
But he was reported to be "fine" by O'Brien's travelling head lad, Pat Keating, with connections suggesting he had aggravated a heel injury picked up on Sunday.
When asked about the horse being stiff, Coolmore's Kevin Buckley said: "Apparently walking away after the race he was but he has walked back to the stables OK and I hear he is fine.
"Presumably he has knocked the nick from the weekend, if at all, but he has walked back fine."
Murtagh was delighted with the win and declared "crisis over" but St Nicholas Abbey remained at the front of his mind.
"He (Cape Blanco) has got what it takes, but if the St Nicholas Abbey who ran at Doncaster turns up at Epsom then the rest are playing for places," said Murtagh.
"Cape Blanco is unbeaten in four starts and is a very good horse. He is up there in the top four three-year-olds at Ballydoyle.
"You all know what I think about St Nicholas Abbey, but this guy has been there and done it in a very good trial and he is genuine and tough.
"I can't be 100% sure but I do think he will stay. The Dante is a good trial for the Derby and let's hope that can continue.
"While I am not sure about a mile and a half he will handle anything that Epsom will present."
Paul Smith, son of Cape Blanco's part-owner Derrick Smith, added: "That was a real trial and we've always thought he was a good horse.
"We hoped he'd run well and he's now a serious contender (for the Derby).
"He seemed to stay well so we'll have to see what happens."
Workforce, a once-raced Goodwood maiden winner, made his seasonal reappearance and Sir Michael Stoute's inexperienced colt looks sure to improve on his second-place finish.
Stoute said: "The bit went through his mouth turning into the straight which wouldn't have helped him at all.
"He's only had the one race and is just a big baby.
"I'm sure he'll be better with some cut in the ground."
Coordinated Cut kicked for home down the home straight but the recent Newmarket winner was headed a furlong out and Jamie Spencer's mount weakened back to third.
His trainer Michael Bell said: "He's run a very good race and the small field wouldn't have suited him.
"Jamie had to force the pace early in the straight.
"It's too early to say where we'll go next, but my gut feeling would be the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, but that is not set in stone."
The disappointment of the race was undoubtedly Godolphin's Chabal who looked a world apart form the horse who won the Sandown Classic Trial last month, finishing 16 lengths adrift of Coordinated Cut in fourth.
Jockey Frankie Dettori said: "I can't put my finger on it. He was beaten four (furlongs) out. A good horse like that can't be that far wrong.
"They are animals and you never know what they actually feel or if something hurt.
"We are going to take him home and have a look at him. It's very disappointing as we thought we had a Derby horse. It was too bad to be true."