Sam Hoskins, racing manager to owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, reports dual Group Two winner Tullius (Andrew Balding/Jimmy Fortune) to be in top condition ahead of tomorrow’s Group Three Coral Winter Derby (3.20pm) at Lingfield Park.
The £100,000 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.
The eight-year-old, who is trained by Andrew Balding at Kingsclere, is making his first appearance of 2016.
The highlight of his 2015 campaign was victory in the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes over an extended 10 furlongs on turf at York, while the horse was also successful at the same level impressively in the bet365 Mile at Sandown Park in 2014.
Three of Tullius’ four runs as a juvenile came on the Polytrack at Lingfield Park, winning twice when trained by Peter Winkworth.
Tullius has had one All-Weather outing since joining Balding after Winkworth retired in late 2011, finishing seventh of 10 in a mile Listed race at Kempton Park on November 20, 2013.
He won his first three races for Balding – a Newmarket handicap and Listed contests at Windsor and York – in 2012 and went on to take the Group Three Sovereign Stakes over a mile at Salisbury in August of the same year.
Tullius fractured a leg and was sidelined for 14 months, but ran better than ever in 2014, chasing home Olympic Glory in the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and finishing fourth in two more top-level races, the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot.
The son of Le Vie Dei Colori stepped up to 10 furlongs in 2015 and did best later in the year with his York success followed by a seventh and sixth in Group One events. Top-rated on official ratings for the Coral Winter Derby, he is priced at 6/1 by the sponsor.
Hoskins said today: “I saw Tullius this morning and he looks really well.
“He does have a five pound penalty to carry tomorrow for his win at York last year but has been flying at home.
“The horse runs well fresh and is in A1 nick, so he can hopefully run a nice race tomorrow. The question marks are that he is having his first run on the All-Weather for a while and is carrying a penalty.
“He has a nice draw in stall two. He should run well and, while it will be a hell of a performance if he can win, we would be delighted if he was to finish in the first four.
“Obviously, the Winter Derby is a big prize in itself and is also a Fast-Track Qualifier for the Coral Easter Classic, which he would be definitely be aimed at if he won tomorrow. If he doesn’t win tomorrow, we would probably look at a Group Three race in France for him.
“His last run on All-Weather was at Kempton at the end of his five-year-old career. He didn’t run great that day but won twice as a two-year-old at Lingfield Park and the surface should be fine for him.”
Nine runners are set to line up in the Coral Winter Derby (Battalion has been declared a non-runner since yesterday’s final declaration stage). Godolphin’s Festive Fare (Charlie Appleby/Andrea Atzeni) is the 9/4 favourite with Coral, just ahead of Grendisar (Marco Botti/Adam Kirby) at 11/4. The pair fought out the finish to Listed coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial over the course and distance on February 6, when Grendisar prevailed by half a length.
A fascinating contender is Furia Cruzada (John Gosden/Robert Havlin, 6/1), a three-time Group One winner in South America who is making her British debut.
Coral Winter Derby, Coral bet: 9/4 Festive Fare, 11/4 Grendisar, 6/1 Furia Cruzada, Tullius, 10/1 Energia Davos, Fire Fighting, 12/1 Maverick Wave, 20/1 Complicit, 40 Battle Of Marathon
Tomorrow’s six-race card at Lingfield Park opens with another Fast-Track Qualifier, the £45,000 Listed Unibet Hever Sprint Stakes (1.45pm). 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.