Group One performer Mutakayyef is the star name among 10 declared runners for the £100,000 Group Three Betway Winter Derby (3.15pm) at Lingfield Park on Saturday, February 25.
The 10-furlong Polytrack is one of four Group races staged on the All-Weather in Britain and is 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.
Mutakayyef (William Haggas/Jim Crowley) is the 5/4 favourite with sponsor Betway after an excellent 2016 campaign on turf. The six-year-old, off the track since mid-September, captured the G2 Summer Mile at Ascot in July before finishing third in both the G1 Juddmonte International at York and Canada’s G1 Woodbine Mile.
Convey (Sir Michael Stoute/Andrea Atzeni, 6/1 with Betway) also brings good turf form to the table, having finished second in a pair of seven-furlong G3 contests last year. The five-year-old is stepping beyond a mile and carrying the colours of Robert Ng for the first time.
Grendisar (Marco Botti/Adam Kirby, 9/2) won the Betway Winter Derby impressively in 2016 before going on to lift the Easter Classic, victories which ensured he was crowned 2016 All-Weather Horse of The Year.
The seven-year-old has been slightly below that level in three starts this winter and was last seen out finishing fourth, beaten a length and half by Decorated Knight, in the Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on February 4.
Battalion (Jamie Osborne/George Baker, 5/1) was one place ahead of Grendisar in the Betway Winter Derby Trial. Formerly trained by William Haggas, he won his first two starts impressively for new connections this winter, including a smooth display in the Listed Betway Quebec Stakes over the course and distance on December 17.
Trainer Archie Watson is having his first Group runner with new recruit Absolute Blast (Oisin Murphy, 12/1). The progressive five-year-old mare, who contested the 2015 G1 Prix de Diane when trained in France, saw her official rating (100) rise 28lbs in four starts for previous handler Iain Jardine.
She won fillies’ handicaps impressively at Wolverhampton and Kempton Park before finishing a close second, after forfeiting many lengths at the start, in a valuable handicap at Wolverhampton on January 31.
Upper Lambourn-based Watson said today: “Absolute Blast is a nice filly. She has been very progressive this winter and I think she deserves to take her chance.
“It looks a high-class renewal. You have got last year’s winner Grendisar and obviously Mutakayyef who is a very solid Group Two come Group One horse. It is probably as strong a Winter Derby as we have seen recently.”
The line-up for the Betway Winter Derby also includes multiple course scorer Pinzolo (Ismail Mohammed/Tom Marquand, 14/1) and You’re Fired (Karl Burke/Dougie Costello, 25/1), who took second in a mile Listed Fast-Track Qualifier at Kempton Park in November.
Betway Winter Derby – Betway prices: 5/4 Mutakayyef; 9/2 Grendisar; 5/1 Battalion; 6/1 Convey; 12/1 Absolute Blast; 14/1 Pinzolo; 25/1 Mythical Madness, You’re Fired, Zhui Feng; 40/1 Solar Diety
Saturday’s seven-race card at Lingfield Park also features the £45,000 Listed Betway Hever Sprint Stakes (2.05pm). The five-furlong contest is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships over six furlongs on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 14.
The declarations are headed by 2015 All-Weather Sprint Championships hero Pretend (Charlie Appleby/Adam Kirby) and Lancelot Du Lac (Dean Ivory/Robert Winston), who captured the Listed Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Cleves Stakes over six furlongs at the course earlier this month.
Ride Like The Wind (Jamie Spencer), a G3 winner in France, is making his debut for Kevin Ryan after selling for 75,000 euros at Arqana in October.
Betway Hever Sprint Stakes – Betway prices: 13/8 Pretend; 15/8 Lancelot Du Lac; 8/1 Boom The Groom, 8/1 Verne Castle; 10/1 Buying Trouble, Ride Like The Wind; 20/1 Royal Birth; 25/1 Bowson Fred; 28/1 Sign Of Kodiac