There is some fascinating action at Kempton Park over the jumps as they now stage an eight-race card incorporating the rearranged Kingwell Hurdle from Wincanton, while at Newcastle it’s Eider Chase day in testing conditions.
Both of these meetings provide us with a bet apiece, but it’s at Lingfield on the flat where we could see a genuinely top-class performance (or two) as the Winter Derby takes place and features two four-year-olds aiming for the very top this season.
2.05 Lingfield (Hever Sprint Stakes – Listed Race) – HAREEM QUEEN
The selection hasn’t gone on the Polytrack before and comes into this having taken a five-runner handicap at Southwell, however she is a real typical four-year-old improver and a look at her profile suggests she is just getting quicker and quicker which is ideal for this track.
She could potentially burn them off then for Karl Burke, and so is advised at small stakes given her overnight price of around 7/1 looks to underestimate her a tad. Best of the rest are Good Effort and the other potential improver Furious who is a little harder to judge.
2.25 Kempton (Kingwell Hurdle – Grade 2) – SONG FOR SOMEONE
I went for this chap last week when the race was originally scheduled for Wincanton, and despite the change in venue I see no reason to change my mind now and so he is the choice to score.
Tom Symonds’ five-year-old is a real improver who has been arguably running over unsuitably longer trips to this point, but his speed at this distance could be the deciding factor and he remains good value in the market given the presence primarily of second-best Ch’tibello for the Skeltons.
The returning Elgin is a fascinating contender for Alan King although he may just need the race, although his presence in the field has done the job of keeping the overnight price on our horse reasonable at around the 3/1 mark.
3.15 Lingfield (Winter Derby – Group 3) – DUBAI WARRIOR
The basic question most punters will be asking here is; who did it better? Both odds-on favourite Bangkok and the selection have beaten yardstick Court House easily on their way to this Group 3 race but there’s more to take into consideration than that.
Court House had to play second-fiddle to another stablemate last year of course, but was a solid second in this race and shouldn’t be discounted once again for each-way purposes at a forecast 14/1, albeit bookmakers will only be paying out on two places.
Andrew Balding’s Bangkok, a son of Australia, undoubtedly has some high-class form having won the Classic Trial last year before running in the Derby and finising second to Japan in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, and he could yet be a Group 1 horse in the making as he matures.
However, in what is a real treat for Lingfield, Dubai Warrior could simply be even better than him and of course he is a horse who himself was left in the Derby by John Gosden last year before he took an injury.
He’s progressed nicely since getting back out onto the track, isn’t far behind Bangkok on ratings anyway and definitely has more potential for further improvement than his rival which is the crucial factor. The last positive is that he shows more speed than Andrew Balding’s runner, something as mentioned before that could be crucial on this surface.
Look out for Dubai Warrior being entered into the top races over the spring if he wins this, with Group 1’s surely already being considered.
3.55 Newcastle (Handicap Hurdle) – MINELLA CHARMER
With heavy ground, strong winds and that difficult finish up the hill Newcastle is not going to be a place for the feint of heart on Saturday afternoon, nor will it be one for fancy-looking entries from far away stables.
Those from in and around the area know exactly what it takes to win around here in such conditions, and while borders trainer Sandy Thomson will be tough to be beat here with his McGowan’s Pass, it’s the Cumbrian entrant Minella Charmer that gets the vote.
James Moffatt has moved to book Brian Hughes for this nine-year-old, who looks as though he’s been wisely laid out for the contest having been given a couple of months off.
He has won around Newcastle in similar conditions to this less than a year ago (under Hughes) and got the job done nicely on his return at Haydock back in December, so all in all has very few negatives to speak of.
McGowan’s Pass is next on the list, but I can’t help thinking that the handicapper kind of has him in his grasp now and so he’ll have it all to do if one is better treated, which I think the selection very probably is.