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Passion returns for the Middleton mission in York |  Race news

Aidan O’Brien’s Passion kicks off his season in Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Fillies’ Stakes on day two of Dante’s reunion in York.

The filly Galileo, who competed in a series of group competitions last season, retired from her one-mile and two-and-a-half-stadium trip on Thursday before potentially returning to longer distances.

O’Brien reports that the four-year-old is in good shape for her seasonal comeback.

“She’s been very consistent over the past year and looks in good shape, but she’s just ready to start,” he said.

“She is versatile when it comes to travel, but I imagine that as the season goes on, she will come back. A mile and a half is probably his best trip.

“She has to start somewhere, and it felt like the right race to her.”

Roger Varian’s Cabaletta also returns after spending much of its three-year campaign running 1.5-mile and one-mile distances and six stages.

“She’s in great shape and has trained really well,” said the Newmarket coach.

“She’s a filly that stays a mile and a half. But she’s not short of pace, and her races over 10 stages at the age of three were very good.

“I think it’s a great race to start her season – and I would expect it to perform well.”

Jessica Harrington is represented by Silence Please, who is heading to England for the first time after finishing last season with a second 1.5 mile race at Leopardstown.

“She is going for her first race of the year – we are very happy with her at home, and there is an opportunity for her there,” said Harrington.

“She won the trip before – she won a Listed race on that trip, and the terrain will be fine if it stays good.”

Sir Michael Stoute’s Queen Power leads the market, having been narrowly beaten in the Group Two Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket in his first race of the year, with Ralph Beckett’s Chamade and Mark Johnston’s Freyja also entering.

Nigel Tinkler’s Acklam Express is a top fantasy for British stallions EBF Westow Stakes, a five-stage Listed race.

The three-year-old spent the start of the year in Dubai, where he campaigned in a group competition trio in Meydan.

Placed in all of those races in the Middle East, the gelding son of Mehmas capped his excursion with an excellent third in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint, a race in which he came home just three-quarters of a length behind the winner.

Tinkler reports that the Acklam Express is in good shape, although any further softening of the ground wouldn’t be welcome despite the horse winning the Listed Julia Graves Roses Stakes on soft Knavesmire turf last season.

“He’s been absolutely fine – he’s had a few easy weeks and now he’s in perfect shape,” Tinkler said.

“I think he will run well – he is very good on his own.

“The less it rains, the better for us. It looks good on soft ground on the course anyway, but we don’t want rain.

“He is doing very well and we are very happy.”

Also on the list is Atalis Bay of Marco Botti, who won on his seasonal return to Nottingham in early April.

Botti considers that the foal has matured during the winter, although he also hopes that there will be no more rain.

“He’s in good shape – we were happy with the way he ran in Nottingham after a break,” he said.

“He won well. He seems to have filled in the winter and he looks stronger this year.

“Having said that, last year he didn’t run his best races on soft ground so hopefully the ground won’t be too soft.

“Otherwise it’s a step up in the class – and there are two beautiful horses out there that are rated fairly well. But this looks like his best trip, and we can’t wait to race him.”

Acklam Express and Winter Power are the two that Botti is most wary of, but his charge has beaten Muker and Burning Cash in Nottingham.

He added: “Obviously the favorite (Acklam Express) is a real horse.

“He’s rated 110, and the common favorite (Winter Power) is also highly rated. The others are probably similar types of horses, so he could run well as long as the ground isn’t too soft.”

Winter Power signed last season with two Listed Harry Rosebery Stakes wins at Ayr and Group Three Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket and made their seasonal comeback, while First Company finished third and fifth behind the filly in those races respectively.

Dexter Belle lines up after winning his first start of the season at a rookie event at Pontefract in April, with Richard Fahey Internationaldream and Geoff Oldroyd’s Never Say Never fielding nine.

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