Free race preview and betting tips for the Winter Derby, a Group 3 event at Lingfield at 3.50pm.
With the Cheltenham Festival over for another season, attention now turns to the Grand National and the upcoming Flat Season. Lingfield hosts the Group 3 Winter Derby on Saturday, a race which has attracted a high quality field of 14 runners. A host of horses who contested last year’s contest return, with the 2013 winner – Farraaj looking to make it back to back victories. Here’s a run through of the field and my selections.
Starting with last year’s contest, the Roger Varian trained Farraaj (5/1 Betfred) beat today's re-opposing trio of Robin Hoods Bay, Tinshu (50/1 bet365) and Premio Loco (14/1 BetVictor) and broke the track record in doing so. Sent off the 6/4 favourite, he tracked the early pace and swept around the outside of runners to claim victory by half a length. The race was undoubtedly a high quality event (five seconds faster than the standard time) and Farraaj’s experience on the track (unbeaten in two starts over C&D) undoubtedly helped him to hold off his rivals. After that run, he performed admirably in a Group 2 contest at Sandown over an inadequate 1m trip finishing 5th of eight. His prep run this season came in the USA where he was clearly outclassed in Group 1 company in unfamiliar surroundings. A return to Lingfield over 10 furlongs is a huge positive and he should be seen to best effect. Nevertheless, this year’s contest looks a more difficult proposition and he could well be vulnerable to some of the more progressive and unexposed types.
Of those who finished in behind Farraaj, Robin Hoods Bay (16/1 Coral) is particularly interesting as he looked to be doing his best work at the line. After travelling well throughout the race he found himself trapped in against the rail and just had to delay his run coming in to the home straight. When he was finally presented with a gap he duly obliged but couldn’t fully extend and found the winner too good. Since then, this horse has had a far more extensive campaign than Farrajj (contesting a further seven races) and has notched up some useful victories in handicap company. His latest start saw him contest the Winter Derby Trial, a Listed event over C&D, where he fell victim to Grandeur by two and a quarter lengths. Again, the horse found himself poorly positioned and did well to gain on the leader entering the final few strides. He is certainly better than that result and should put up a bold show, but considering he was already race fit he may well struggle to overturn the result with the winner.
GRANDEUR (6/4 William Hill), was having his first start of the British season and shaped encouragingly for what should be a promising campaign. He travelled supremely well in the Winter Derby Trial and duly picked up when asked to lengthen by Ryan Moore. He may well have not won by the greatest of margins but he looked like he would benefit from the run and seemed to race a little lazily in the final stages. Fitted with cheek-peices for the first time, connections will be hoping that this addition, coupled with his second season start over C&D, can focus his attention and he will improve. Highest rated in the field with an official rating of 117, Grandeur has performed credibly throughout his career (the highlight his less than a length second place finish to Mukhadram in last year’s Group 2 York Stakes). On ratings this horse is the standout entrant in the field and was subject of strong market support in the lead up to the race. Drawn widest in stall 14 is certainly a negative (and the market move against him in the last 48 hours certainly reflected this) but his jockey is one of the best in the world and I will be very surprised if Moore allows his stall position to ruin his chances. Justifiably a short priced market favourite, he could well be just too good for his rivals.
One of the more interesting contenders is the Godolphin owned WINDHOEK (7/1 Stan James). Formally trained by Mark Johnston this horse now finds himself in the care of Saeed bin Suroor and claimed an impressive victory on his first start for his new trainer. Running at Meydan in a competitive handicap, Windhoek refused to settle in the early part of the race and had to run widest of all in order to claim a narrow victory by a head in a bunch finish. The form of that race is yet to be franked, despite a number of the runners having raced again but nevertheless it would be a surprise if Windhoek didn't improve for the race. It is also notable that the horse has not run since and has seemingly been saved for this contest as opposed to a Tapeta campaign in Meydan. Only aged 4, and lightly raced, he certainly looks unexposed enough to improve from a mark of 105 and could well represent the each-way bet in the race.
Of the others, Anaconda (25/1 bet365) finished behind Grandeur on his first start of the season and should come on for the run. The lowest rated in the field off a mark of 92 – Rebellious Guest (16/1 Betfred), won well on his latest start on the A/W at Kempton some 17 days ago and looks open to improvement. Finally, Dick Doughtywylie (16/1 Coral) represents the formidable pairing of William Buick and John Gosden and will be looking to build on his final run over C&D where he beat Greatwood by half a length in December 2013.
In recent history this race has been kind to favourites (since 2007 each favourite has either won or finished second in this race) and that trend could well continue this year. GRANDEUR looks to be the class act in the race and if the combination of having had a run and the fitting of cheak-pieces produce their desired results he could be very difficult to beat. The main negative surrounding this horse is his draw in stall 14 but, if able to jump out well and sit in midfield, that shouldn't prove too much of a concern. Of the others, the each-way play in the race looks to be WINDHOEK. Unexposed on this surface, the fact that he has been laid out for this race is particularly noteworthy considering the opportunities available in Meydan. He could well pose the biggest threat to the favourite in a very competitive race.
GRANDEUR (WIN) (6/4 William Hill)
WINDHOEK (E/W) (7/1 Stan James)
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