Irish challenger Clear Skies faces nine rivals as she bids to become the first filly or mare to win the £100,000 G3 Betway Winter Derby at Lingfield Park this Saturday, February 24.
The 10-furlong Polytrack contest is one of the highlights of the All-Weather Championships and 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, March 30.
Carrying the familiar colours of J P McManus, Clear Skies (Ryan Moore) has won five of her last six starts, all on the Polytrack at Dundalk, and looked as good as ever when taking an extended 10-furlong handicap by five and a half lengths on January 28.
The five-year-old, who is the 100/30 favourite with Betway, is only trainer Aidan O’Brien’s second runner at a British All-Weather track. His first, Castle Gandolfo, captured the Listed International Trial at Lingfield Park on April 6, 2002.
Convey (Sir Michael Stoute/Joe Fanning, 13/2 with Betway) completed the Betway Winter Derby-Betway Easter Classic double in good style last year, after which he was crowned All-Weather Horse of the Year. There has yet to be a two-time winner of the Betway Winter Derby.
Sir Michael Stoute’s other runner Autocratic (Richard Kingscote, 7/2) scored at this level on turf in 2017 when taking the G3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park in May, although he has stall 10 to overcome.
Champion trainer John Gosden is chasing his first Betway Winter Derby success with Utmost (Rab Havlin, 4/1), who made all to win the Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial over the course and distance on February 3.
Khalidi (Adam Kirby, 11/2), formerly trained by Gosden, is set to have his first start for Lambourn trainer Clive Cox, having not raced since finishing second in the G3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
The son of High Chaparral captured two Listed prizes in the first half of last season before taking second in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. He has yet to race on the All-Weather.
Mr Owen (David Simcock/Jamie Spencer, 14/1) has not been out of the frame in three All-Weather starts this winter and captured the Listed Prix Luthier at Deauville, France, in December. He finished second in conditions race over an extended mile at Wolverhampton on February 5, in which Gabrial (Richard Fahey/Paul Hanagan, 25/1) was third after missing the start.
Gabrial had a productive campaign on turf in 2017, finishing second in both the G2 Sandown Mile and G3 Diomed Stakes.
Trainer Richard Fahey said today: “Gabrial has been grand since Wolverhampton. It was a non-event for him really as he got left at the start.
“There are not many options and we felt he should take his chance. He has still got to prove he truly stays a mile and a quarter and will have to find a few pounds with some of them.
“The tight mile and a quarter at Lingfield could suit if all goes well for him. But he has been placed in Group Ones during his life and doesn’t owe anybody anything.”
Master The World (David Elsworth/Sean Levey, 9/1) impressed when landing the Listed Betway Churchill Stakes over course and distance in November, but was not at that level on his latest start when seventh behind Petite Jack (Archie Watson/Luke Morris, 10/1) in the Listed Betway Quebec Stakes at Lingfield Park on December 23.
The runners are completed by Battle Of Marathon (John Ryan/Josephine Gordon, 50/1) who took third behind Utmost last time out.
Betway Winter Derby – Betway prices: 100/30 Clear Skies; 7/2 Autocratic; 4/1 Utmost; 13/2 Convey, Khalidi; 9/1 Master The World; 10/1 Petite Jack; 14/1 Mr Owen; 25/1 Gabrial; 50/1 Battle Of Marathon.
Lingfield Park’s seven-race programme also features the £45,000 Listed Betway Hever Sprint Stakes (2.05pm) over five furlongs, in which the 110-rated Gracious John (David Evans/Fran Berry) heads eight runners.