The Group Three Coral Winter Derby (3.20pm, 14 confirmations) is the highlight of what should prove an informative card at Lingfield Park this Saturday, February 27.
Run over 10 furlongs, the £100,000 contest is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic over the same course and distance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, March 25.
Godolphin could be three-handed in Coral Winter Derby with Festive Fare (pictured)(Charlie Appleby, 3/1 favourite with Coral), plus the John Gosden-trained pair of Maverick Wave (16/1) and Tempus Temporis (33/1) all going forward.
Festive Fare went down by half a length to Grendisar (Marco Botti, 7/2) in the Listed coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on February 6, a race in which Watersmeet (Mark Johnston, 20/1) finished fifth and Complicit (Paul Cole, 20/1) sixth.
Grendisar has won five times on the Polytrack surface at Lingfield Park and also run some excellent races in defeat, most notably when the three-quarter length runner-up in last year’s Coral Winter Derby and when third in the 2015 Coral Easter Classic.
Newmarket-based Botti commented: “It is all systems go for Grendisar ahead of the Coral Winter Derby.
“I am very happy with him. He worked at the weekend and it was a very encouraging piece of work. He seems in great form.
“We are looking forward to Saturday. He really loves Lingfield.”
John Gosden has also left in Furia Cruzada (8/1), a three-time Group One winner in South America who has yet to start in Britain, while Mark Johnston could also be represented by Fire Fighting (14/1), a Listed winner on the Polytrack surfaces at Kempton Park and Dundalk.
William Haggas has two interesting contenders with Battalion (7/1), a dual Listed scorer, and Our Channel (14/1), who returned to form when taking a 10-furlong handicap at Chelmsford City in January in impressive fashion.
Other interesting contenders include Energia Davos (Jane Chapple-Hyam, 16/1), successful in the Group Three Darley Stakes at Newmarket last season, and Tullius (Andrew Balding, 8/1), a dual Group Two winner on turf.
Coral Winter Derby, Coral bet: 3/1 Festive Fare; 7/2 Grendisar; 7/1 Battalion; 8/1 Furia Cruzada, Tullius; 14/1 Fire Fighting, Our Channel; 16/1 Energia Davos, Maverick Wave; 20/1 Calling Out, Complicit, Watersmeet; 33/1 Tempus Temporis; 50/1 Battle Of Marathon.
Dave Stevens, Head of PR at Coral, commented: “The one-two from the Coral Winter Derby Trial dominate the betting for Saturday’s race, and although Grendisar came out on top that day, we narrowly favour Festive Fare to gain his revenge and give Godolphin back-to-back Derby wins following Tryster’s victory 12 months ago.”
Saturday’s card opens with another Fast-Track Qualifier, the £45,000 Unibet Hever Sprint Stakes (1.45pm, 17 entries). The winner of the five-furlong contest is guaranteed a place in the £150,000 Unibet All-Weather Sprint over a furlong further on Good Friday.
Among the entries are German raider Gamgoom (Mario Hofer), who has twice finished runner-up this season, including in the Listed Unibet Cleves Stakes over six furlongs at Lingfield Park on February 6. There are also three potential starters from Ireland – Abstraction (Natalia Lupini), Russian Soul (Michael Halford) and Chiclet (Tracey Collins).
There is also a Fast-Track Qualifier at Kempton Park on Wednesday, February 24. The £19,000 32Red Conditions Stakes (6.40pm, five runners) is staged over a mile and is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Ladbrokes Mile on Good Friday.
An intriguing contest looks guaranteed with the field containing Captain Cat (pictured above)(Roger Charlton/Jamie Spencer), winner of the inaugural Ladbrokes Mile in 2014 and a close fourth on his latest outing behind Grendisar in the Listed coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial.
Sloane Avenue (Jeremy Noseda/Jim Crowley) is set to make his seasonal reappearance. The five-year-old horse, successful over the course and distance in the Listed Hyde Stakes in 2014, was last seen out when runner-up in the Group Two Godolphin Mile at Meydan, Dubai, in March, 2015.
Sirius Prospect (Dean Ivory/Robert Winston) is also a Listed winner over the course and distance, having taken the Hyde Stakes in 2013, while Solar Deity (Marco Botti/Andrea Atzeni) is a seven-time scorer on the All-Weather.
Solar Deity, who was a close fifth in last season’s Coral Easter Classic, drops down to a mile for the first time this season. The seven-year-old comfortably landed an extended nine-furlong conditions race on Tapeta at Wolverhampton on January 25 before finishing a staying-on fourth under top-weight in a handicap over the same course and distance on February 15.
Marco Botti continued: “It is a small field at Kempton Park on Wednesday and, as Solar Deity is so high in the handicap, there are very few options for him.
“It looks a tough task, but at the same time Solar Deity is very consistent and we thought it was worth taking a chance with him.
“He ran 10 days ago and ran another good race. He ideally wants another furlong but in a small field I think he might just get away with it.”
Justice Well (David Elsworth/Tom Queally) completes the line-up.