Last year’s winner Convey is one of 14 five-day confirmations for the £100,000 G3 Betway Winter Derby (3.15pm), the highlight of an excellent seven-race card at Lingfield Park this Saturday, February 24.
The 10-furlong Polytrack contest is 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.
Convey (Sir Michael Stoute, 13/2 with Betway) landed both races last year in good style, after which he was crowned All-Weather Horse of the Year, and is bidding to become the first two-time winner of the Betway Winter Derby.
Stoute is also represented by Cheveley Park Stud’s highly-regarded homebred Autocratic (100/30). The five-year-old looked a horse on the up when annexing the G3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park in May, but did not replicate that form in two subsequent starts in 2017.
Cheveley Park Stud’s managing director Chris Richardson said today: “Autocratic has done well and Sir Michael has been happy with him. I watched him work on Saturday and he went well.
“Unfortunately, he had a slight injury in training last year which meant we had to draw stumps after his run at Windsor in August.
“The Betway Winter Derby is not normally a race we would have runners in, but Sir Michael is the trainer and was keen to target it from when Autocratic had the slight setback – it looks a good starting point.
“The horse tends to carry a bit of extra weight and is quite a burly chap, so there is a chance the race will bring him on.”
Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien is on course to have just his second All-Weather runner in the UK courtesy of prolific mare Clear Skies, who is the 11/4 favourite with Betway. O’Brien’s only previous runner, Castle Gandolfo, captured the Listed International Trial at Lingfield Park on April 6, 2002.
Five-year-old Clear Skies 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.
Britain’s champion Flat trainer John Gosden relies on George Strawbridge’s homebred Utmost (6/1), who made all to win the Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial over the course and distance earlier this month.
Khalidi (11/2) 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 when trained by John Gosden. 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.
Other contenders going forward include course and distance Listed scorer Master The World (David Elsworth, 10/1) and lightly-raced four-year-old Star Archer (Hugo Palmer, 14/1), who is two from two so far this winter, with both successes coming over an extended nine furlongs on Tapeta at Wolverhampton.
Betway Winter Derby – Betway prices: 11/4 Clear Skies;100/30 Autocratic; 11/2 Khalidi; 6/1 Utmost; 13/2 Convey; 10/1 Master The World; 12/1 Mr Owen; 14/1 Star Archer; 16/1 Petite Jack; 20/1 Goring; 25/1 Gabrial, Mount Tahan; 33/1 Abe Lincoln; 40/1 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) tops the 10 entries.