Digging for a future star among 12 unraced three-year-olds in the Wood Ditton

Just when you started to wonder whether the bet365 Wood Ditton Stakes (2.25) had lost its ability to make racing fans dream, the 2023 edition of this historic contest for unraced three-year-olds produced a wonderful April surprise in Passenger, who went on to run in the Dante and the Derby, a sequence of events much more common back in the 1960s and 70s. 

Arguably Miller's Mate – who like Passenger was trained by Sir Michael Stoute – was the last Wood Ditton winner to be taken seriously for the Derby (only for injury to strike in the 1985 Chester Vase), although future Group 1 winners Harbinger, Medicean and Shantou have all been placed more recently. 

Those searching for clues might consider trainer records in the race. Of those represented this year, John and Thady Gosden (Lead Artist and Earl Of Rochester) have won twice in the last three seasons, while William Haggas (Gilded Water) and Roger Varian (Sanat) have both struck in the last decade. 

There are some expensive purchases on show, led by Padesha, who as a half-brother to Group 2-placed Sparkling Beauty cost Amo Racing €300,000 at Arqana. He holds entries in the Dante, Irish 2,000 Guineas and both Derbys. 

Also well sold was Sanat, who made 220,000gns at Tattersalls Book 1, while Dancing Away was a 160,000gns buy at the same sale, and is a half-sister to Group 3 winner Kenway. 

Owner-breeder Robin Geffen will be hoping for good things from well-bred Dubawi colt Earl Of Rochester, who is the first runner out of Prix Allez France and Lancashire Oaks heroine Black Princess.

For a full rundown of the breeding angles in the 2024 Wood Ditton – including a well-related royal runner – check out the Racing Post Bloodstock Marking Your Card column.

What they say
John Gosden, joint-trainer of Lead Artist
It looks an ideal race to start him off in as they're all unraced. He's a horse we like but he'll be learning on the job.

Dominic Ffrench Davis, trainer of Padesha
Sparkling Beauty was a nice filly and her brother, Padesha, is a lovely horse. He would have made his debut at two but he sprained a hock and the swelling took a few weeks to go down so we decided to finish him for the season. He's done well over the winter and having done all his preparation in Ireland he's been back with us a couple of months and we're very happy with his progress. We have some fancy entries for him but we and he will learn a lot more. He tends to be a little bit behind the bridle at home but I imagine he might just come alive at the races, as he has that typical laid-back temperament that a lot of the Wootton Bassetts have.

Richard Hannon, trainer of Time To Rule
He’s by Time Test, out of a Galileo mare, from the family of Kingmambo, so he’s certainly bred to be winning races, but I’m not sure he’s sharp enough to win first time out and I expect him to come on for the experience.