Derby festival

Derby on the agenda for Dante runner-up White Birch after 'super run' at York

The Foxes (starred cap): won the Dante Stakes at York
White Birch (left): finished a close second in the DanteCredit: Edward Whitaker

Connections of White Birch are preparing to roll the dice in the Betfred Derby with their Dante runner-up and think the mile-and-a-half trip could be just what he wants.

The John Murphy-trained son of Ulysses has made impressive strides in his four starts and produced a fine effort at York, storming home on the outside under Shane Foley but just failing to reel in The Foxes, going down by only a neck.

His Dante performance can be marked up given he raced away from the action for much of the straight on ground that was on the firm side, having landed the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on his return on heavy ground after bolting up in his maiden on the all-weather at Dundalk last November.

White Birch is a general 14-1 for the Epsom Classic on June 3, and assistant trainer George Murphy said: "It was a super run [at York]. We were very pleased with him. You don't get ground as quick as what it was in the Dante over here [in Ireland] too often, but he seemed to have no issue with it. He seems to be very versatile."

Oisin Murphy and Andrew Balding with connections after The Foxes win in the Dante
The Foxes: narrow winner of the DanteCredit: Edward Whitaker

Murphy feels the 16-day gap between York and Epsom is quite tight, but the grey has come out of his last assignment in fine form, and provided all goes well in the interim, he will likely bid for Classic glory.

He said: "It's a very quick turnaround from York to Epsom so the plan is to go there if everything is all right and so far everything seems to be, but it's just a case of taking it day by day and seeing how well he is. He would have to be very well to back up that quick in a race of that class, but so far everything looks good."

The Derby trip of a mile and a half looks tailor-made for White Birch, given he was really accelerating once he got into full flow over a furlong and a half shorter in the Dante, and Murphy added: "I always had it in the back of my mind that maybe a mile and a half would be tough for him with his pedigree, but he seemed like he was nearly looking for a mile and a half at York."

With Foley likely to partner Jessica Harrington's 12-1 shot Sprewell at Epsom, connections have yet to decide on who will take the mount on White Birch should he line up in the Derby.

"We have no decision made on the jockey if he does head to Epsom," said Murphy. "We will have to speak to the owners and decide over the next few days who will ride him if he does go."

Betfred Derby (Epsom, June 3)

Ladbrokes: 3 Military Order, 9-2 Auguste Rodin, 11-2 Arrest, Passenger, 10 Sprewell, The Foxes, 12 White Birch, 14 Dubai Mile, 16 Waipiro, 25 bar

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Conor FennellyReporter
Published on 23 May 2023Last updated 18:53, 23 May 2023