There are three Fast-Qualifiers this week for the All-Weather Championships, headlined by the £100,000 Group Three Betway Winter Derby (3.15pm, 11 confirmations) at Lingfield Park on Saturday, February 25.
The Betway Winter Derby, staged over 10 furlongs on Polytrack, is a major race in its own right as well as being a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 14.
The horses going forward for the Betway Winter Derby include last year’s winner Grendisar (Marco Botti, 6/1 with Betway), who went on to annex the 2016 Easter Classic. He is winless in three starts so far this winter but running better each time.
Heading the ratings on a BHA mark of 120 and sponsor Betway’s 6/4 favourite is Mutakayyef (William Haggas). Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, the six-year-old has yet to run on the All-Weather but landed the G2 Summer Mile on turf at Ascot in 2016 and finished third in G1 company on his last two starts of 2016, in the Juddmonte International at York and Canada’s Woodbine Mile, his most recent start on September 17. He had a racecourse gallop at Chelmsford City last week.
Several of the five-day confirmations lined up in the Betway Winter Derby Trial over the course and distance on February 4, with Battalion (Jamie Osborne, 11/2) faring best when finishing third. Grendisar was fourth in the same race with Mythical Madness (David O’Meara, 22/1) taking fifth and Solar Deity (Jane Chapple-Hyam, 40/1) sixth.
Convey (Sir Michael Stoute, 11/2), who won on his only All-Weather start so far when making an impressive winning debut at Kempton Park back in October, 2014, is a Listed winner on turf and the five-year-old could make his first appearance since being gelded.
Pinzolo (Ismail Mohammed, 14/1) is also a Listed scorer on turf and could drop back in trip following two wins over 12 furlongs at Lingfield Park this winter.
You’re Fired (Karl Burke, 25/1) was second in a Fast-Track Qualifier for the Sun Bets All-Weather Mile, the Listed Hyde Stakes at Kempton Park on November 16, and won a valuable mile handicap at Haydock Park in 2016. The six-year-old was last seen out when sixth in a mile conditions race at Lingfield Park on January 7.
Burke said today: “You’re Fired is an intended runner in the Betway Winter Derby. He will be stepping up in trip but we are going to give it a go.
“He definitely stays nine furlongs and, although I am not sure Lingfield plays to his strengths, hopefully the step up in trip should help temper that.
“He didn’t handle Lingfield last time when they quickened up entering the straight, although he was drawn wide that day and had a lot of daylight. We should be able to take our time more over a mile and a quarter, which should be to his liking.
“It is a bit of an experiment but if it does work and he runs well, it also qualifies him for Good Friday as it will be his third run. The plan is then to go to the Lincoln at Doncaster and, depending how he goes on Saturday, we will look at Good Friday.”
Absolute Blast (Archie Watson, 12/1) could make her first start for Archie Watson, having won two handicaps for Iain Jardine, while the five-day confirmations are completed by Gawdawpalin (Sylvester Kirk, 100/1), who recorded the biggest success of his career when taking a 10-furlong handicap on Derby Day at Epsom last year.
Betway Winter Derby, Betway odds: 6/4 Mutakayyef; 11/2 Convey, Battalion; 6/1 Grendisar; 12/1 Absolute Blast; 14/1 Pinzolo; 22/1 Mythical Madness, 25/1 You’re Fired; 33/1 Zhui Feng; 40/1 Solar Deity; 100/1 Gawdawpalin
The second Fast-Track Qualifier taking place at Lingfield Park on Saturday is the £45,000 Betway Hever Sprint Stakes (2.05pm, 13 entries) over five furlongs. The winner of this contest will gain an automatic and free place in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships over a furlong further on Good Friday.
Heading the entries is Lancelot Du Lac (Dean Ivory), who is seeking a second consecutive Listed success at Lingfield Park having taken the six-furlong Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Cleves Stakes on February 4.
Also engaged is Godolphin’s 2015 All-Weather Sprint Champion Pretend (Charlie Appleby) and Ride Like The Wind (Kevin Ryan), a G3 winner in France for former trainer Freddy Head.
Five runners go to post in the £19,000 32Red Conditions Stakes (7.45pm) at Kempton Park on Wednesday, February 22. The winner of the two-mile Polytrack contest is guaranteed a free start in the £150,000 Betway Marathon over the same distance and surface at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 14.
Top-rated in Wednesday’s contest is Sandro Botticelli (John Ryan/Adam Kirby), a Listed winner on turf at Sandown Park in 2016 and fourth on his first start of 2017 in a Fast-Track Qualifier at Wolverhampton on January 16.
Another horse to have already been placed in a Fast-Track Qualifier is First Mohican (Alan King/Hollie Doyle), who was second to Godolphin’s winning story at Newcastle on December 21. The nine-year-old is also a very useful performer on turf, having finished runner-up in the 2016 Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
An interesting contender is Vettori Rules (Gay Kelleway), a winner over 10 furlongs in Italy who shaped well on his British debut at Wolverhampton on February 13 while the useful dual-purpose mare Intense Tango (Karl Burke/Clifford Lee) was last seen out when fourth behind Vroum Vroum Mag in a G2 hurdle at Doncaster on January 28.
Burke continued: “Intense Tango is in good form and looks great. She is stepping up to two miles which should suit her. There are not many runners and we will give it a go.
“Again, if she runs well, this will be a qualifying run for Good Friday.”
Completing the line-up is five-time All-Weather scorer Winterlude (Jennie Candlish/Joe Fanning), also a winner over hurdles.