By Duane Fonseca
Andrew Balding found himself a live Derby prospect after The Foxes shifted his focus back to racing and eventually finished the laboured winner of the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York Thursday.
The line came in time for the Oisin Murphy driven Churchill colt, winner of the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket last September, as White Birch made a burst forward to challenge his dominance along the standside rail in the final furlong. But John Joseph Murphy’s White Birch was only good enough to take second, a neck behind under Shane Foley.
Oisin Murphy executed the ride with perfection, leaving it late, with The Foxes providing a bit of a scare with his drift from left to right. Still he seemed to have done enough to hold off White Birch. Aidan O’Brien’s Continuous was a further length and a quarter back in third under Ryan Moore.
Balding said: “He did a bit of meandering across the track. He’s a very good horse, it looked a deep Dante today.
“He’s very professional, he was the most beautiful yearling and he’s been a star to train so far.
“You’d have to think Epsom is the next step as long as you take the usual caveats into account, it comes close enough for example, but if he comes out of it well I think we’d have to give it a go.
“The way he’s hit the line there he’d give himself every chance of getting the trip, it didn’t look like he was stopping at the end there to me.
“I think the main thing is he’d give himself every chance of staying because of his demeanour.”