For all the entertainment that an evening at the extravagantly floodlit Kempton Park provides on the outskirts of London a charming Wednesday evening, very rarely - traditionally - does it produce a horse with the exceptional quality to progress onwards towards Group class company. Things are changing; Hot on the heels of Elusive Kate breaking her maiden at at the track in June 2011, Kempton Park can now reap the rewards of yet another talented filly just four months after her maiden success at the track.
Wednesday 25th April 2012; With my arms resting on the enclosure barrier and my eyes firmly affixed on fourteen runners dashing past the two furlong cutaway towards the winning post, I firmly expected a well-bred daughter of Dansili by the name of Dank to readily dispose of her rivals for a visually impressive victory on a quiet evening. Heading into the final furlong that day, this stunning three year old filly trained by Sir Michael Stoute struggled to make an impression in catching a Godolphin debutant in the shadows of the post for a neck defeat. She had won, but my hopes of her becoming the next star from the Sir Michael Stoute barn looked to be unlikely.
Fast forward four months and under a perfectly timed ride in the hands of Richard Hughes, Dank had acquired her first Group victory in the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes at Sandown Park. Held towards the rear of the field, Dank began to make eyecatching progress under the recognisable double-handed grip of Hughes towards the two furlong pole. With the Sandown Park hill drawing ever closer, Hughes angled his filly out to the wide outside of the field and began to make smooth progress towards the head of affairs. With many of her rivals struggling to tow in the softly inherited lead of William Buick on Gathering, Dank ground towards the front and began to push on seemingly for a cosy success. However, old rival Lady's First, under Paul Hanagan, began to push up towards the lead inside the final furlong, momentarily stealing the lead from her rival before Hughes and his charge fought back for a neck distance success at the wire.
Lady's First had kept Dank at bay last time out in a Listed contest at Haydock Park over a round mile, but Richard Hughes was categorical in his opinion that the filly finds things happening all too quick at a mile. "She's stuck with her favourite distance. She's somewhere between a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter" said Hughes, who was proved right with this victory in the nine-furlong Group 3 Atalanta Stakes. The rivalry between Lady's First and Dank is just two contests old, yet this is a match up that brings out the best in both the fillies. Richard Fahey's filly had impressed at Royal Ascot when an unlucky third-placed finisher behind the excelling Duntle. A head second-placed finish behind Falls of Lora at Sandown Park in July followed as did a sixth placed finish in a Listed contest at the undulating Pontefract racecourse. An intriguing rivalry in the lower levels of Group company, it is not the wildest of presumptions that both horses could push each other to continual improvement, eventually resulting in a Group 1 match up.A race won before by the likes of Theysken's Theory and Stawberrydaquiri, the Atalanta Stakes is traditionally a haven for progressive three year old fillies who are progressing through the ranks towards a crack at top level company. Whilst Dank still needs to progress further before emulating the attempts of the likes of those fillies, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that this Kempton Park graduate could yet propel through an open division. Sir Michael Stoute is unsure of the next stop for his three year old filly, Dank, yet an end of season tilt at the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes [October 13] could look to be an ideal opportunity for that inaugural crack at Group 1 company at a time where many of the division's other top fillies will be aiming towards the British Champions Day Filly & Mare Stakes at Ascot [October 20].