A field of 10 is set to go to post in the £100,000 Coral Winter Derby (3.20pm) at Lingfield Park this Saturday, February 27.
The 10-furlong Polytrack contest is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic over the same distance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, March 25.
Godolphin’s Festive Fare (Charlie Appleby/Andrea Atzeni) heads the market at 11/4 with Coral. The four-year-old, a close fourth to the mighty Golden Horn in a Listed race at Newmarket last season, was the half-length runner-up to Grendisar (pictured)(Marco Botti/Adam Kirby) in the Listed coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial over 10 furlongs at Lingfield Park on February 6. Grendisar, Coral’s 11/4 second favourite, was runner-up in last year’s Coral Winter Derby and also finished third in the 2015 Coral Easter Classic.
Battalion (William Haggas/Pat Cosgrave, 6/1) is dual course and distance winner, including in the 2014 Listed Coral Churchill Stakes, while a fascinating contender is the filly Furia Cruzada (John Gosden/Robert Havlin, 7/1), a three-time Group One winner in South America who will be making her British debut.
Tullius (Andrew Balding/Jimmy Fortune, 7/1) boasts the best turf form of the runners, having won twice at Group Two level, but has not run on Polytrack since 2013.
Energia Davos (Jane Chapple-Hyam/George Baker, 12/1) landed the Group Three Darley Stakes over nine furlongs on turf at Newmarket last season. He has competed over the same course and distance as the Winter Derby on his latest two outings, finishing second to Battalion in a conditions stakes and fourth to Don’t Be in the Listed Coral Quebec Stakes.
Fire Fighting (Mark Johnston/Paul Mulrennan) recorded a first Listed victory last time out over two furlongs further at Kempton Park. Maverick Wave (John Gosden/Robert Tart, 14/1), Complicit (Paul Cole/Luke Morris, 20/1) and Battle Of Marathon (John Ryan/Martin Harley, 40/1) also take part.
“There was very little between the two market leaders in the Coral Winter Derby Trial, and that is reflected in the betting for Saturday’s race, although we do just favour Festive Fare to gain his revenge over Grendisar,” said Coral’s David Stevens.
Coral Winter Derby, Coral bet: 11/4 Festive Fare, 3/1 Grendisar, 6/1 Battalion, 7/1 Furia Cruzada, Tullius, 12/1 Energia Davos, Fire Fighting, 14/1 Maverick Wave, 20/1 Complicit, 40 Battle Of Marathon
Saturday’s card at Lingfield Park opens with another Fast-Track Qualifier, the £45,000 Listed Unibet Hever Sprint Stakes (1.45pm, 17 entries). The winner of the five-furlong contest on Polytrack is guaranteed a place in the £150,000 Unibet All-Weather Sprint over a furlong further at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, March 25.
A maximum field of 10 takes part, headed by Muthmir (William Haggas/Pat Cosgrave) who finished a close third in the Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2015 before getting the better of Take Cover (David Griffiths/Andrea Atzeni), Move In Time (David O’Meara/David Nolan) and Line Of Reason (Paul Midgley/Paul Mulrennan) in the Group Two King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
There is strong overseas representation, with Irish and German-trained contenders engaged. The challengers from Ireland are Russian Soul (Michael Halford/Conor Hoban), a dual Group Three winner, and Abstraction (Natalia Lupini/Gary Carroll).
Abstraction has twice finished second to Sir Maximillian in Listed company, most recently on the Polytrack surface at Dundalk in October, 2014. He was restricted to just one outing in 2015 and owner-trainer Natalia Lupini is eager to see her charge return to the track.
Lupini, who is based at Scarva in Northern Ireland, commented: “Abstraction had a few little problems after he ran last year and it has just taken him a while to get back to the track.
“He is in good form and we are hoping he can run a nice race. I am sure he will probably need the run and hopefully he will improve for it.
“He has twice finished second Sir Maximillian in Listed company which has turned out to be good form with that horse winning in Dubai last week. That was encouraging to see and hopefully my horse can still run up to that level.
“He has won at Dundalk and likes the Polytrack surface. We have been working him at Dundalk and he handles it very well. There will be no problems at all with the surface for him on Saturday.”
German raider Gamgoom (Mario Hofer/Martin Harley) is set to make his third appearance in the UK, having finished runner-up on his last starts, most recently going down by a neck in the six-furlong Listed Unibet Cleves Stakes at Lingfield Park on February 6.
Also declared to run are Lightscameraction (Gay Kelleway/Luke Morris) and Alben Star (Richard Fahey/Tony Hamilton), both past winners on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, plus Boom The Groom (Tony Carroll/William Carson), successful in a competitive five-furlong Tapeta handicap at Wolverhampton on February 22.
Saturday’s six-race card at Lingfield Park runs from 1.45pm to 4.30pm.