O'Brien looking to strike with first runner in Lingfield feature
Betway Winter Derby | G3 | 1m2f | ITV4/ATR
Given the weather forecast, this Group 3 highlight should certainly live up to its name and trainer Aidan O'Brien will be hoping Clear Skies can give him success with his first runner in the race.
Ryan Moore, who takes a rare ride in this first Group-race of the season – it's also the first of four non-turf Group races in Britain – is also out to land the prize for the first time on the recent Dundalk winner, who is owned by JP McManus.
From a host of original entries including big guns such as Deauville and Idaho, O'Brien relies on the all-weather experience of Clear Skies, who has racked up a remarkable five wins at Dundalk this winter.
A daughter of Sea The Stars, Clear Skies steps out of handicap company for the first time after a runaway success over a similar trip last month when she scooted home by five and a half lengths from Sharjah.
O'Brien said: "We've been happy with Clear Skies since that win. She's progressed with every run, winning five times on the Polytrack at Dundalk and we've had this race in mind for her. She's drawn one and, hopefully, that will help."
Also bidding to break his duck in the race is trainer John Gosden, who looks to have his best chance for many years with the improving Utmost, the mount of Robert Havlin.
The flashy chestnut made all from a low draw to outrun the classy Victory Bond in the Winter Derby Trial over course and distance three weeks ago and can be expected to reprise the same tactics from stall two this afternoon.
Havlin said: "Utmost is still relatively unexposed but seems to have improved the last twice he's run and felt in good shape when I rode him out yesterday. Obviously he has to step up again as it's a better race but he has a nice draw and we're hoping for another nice run."
Last year's winner Convey is out to become the first to win the race twice, but his participation was in some doubt until recently. Twelve months ago, the six-year-old overcame the widest draw of all from stall ten to beat Pinzolo.
Owned by Robert Ng, Convey then returned to Lingfield to follow up in the Easter Classic but has not been sighted since being outclassed in a Group 1 in Hong Kong in May.
Stoute said: "Convey had a foot abscess a couple of weeks ago which was a concern but he's progressed well since. He's in good shape and we expect him to run a big race."
Stoute also fields the classy Autocratic, who has had only one previous outing on the all-weather but was effective on turf last year, most notably when landing the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown in May.
The son of Dubawi was a bit disappointing after that but has had a good winter, although he has stall ten to overcome.
Chris Richardson, racing manager to owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: " The Winter Derby is not normally a race we'd have runners in, but Sir Michael is the trainer and was keen to target it from when Autocratic had a slight setback last year. It looks a good starting point. The horse tends to carry a bit of extra weight and is quite a burly chap, so there's a chance the race will bring him on."
What they say
John Ryan, trainer of Battle Of Marathon
He ran a great race to be third to Utmost in the trial there three weeks ago, especially as we were sceptical about how he'd handle Lingfield. He'll improve for that and looks to be each-way value in one of the most open-looking Winter Derbys for years.
Richard Fahey, trainer of Gabrial
He's been grand since Wolverhampton the other day when it was a non-event for him really as he got left at the start. There aren't many options and we felt he should take his chance. He's still got to prove he truly stays a mile and a quarter and will have to find a few pounds with some of them."
Clive Cox, trainer of Khalidi
He came to us last year but we were unable to run him owing to the ground being soft everywhere. He's not run on the all-weather but this looks a good starting point and he's already been down to the track for a look around. We're looking forward to getting him going.
David Elsworth trainer of Master The World
He's not a horse who has captured the public imagination but we go there with a degree of confidence as he has good form at the track. He had a poor draw last time and hasn't a great one again but we are expecting his usual good showing.
David Simcock, trainer of Mr Owen
He's consistent and has had a good winter on the synthetics, including when winning a Listed race at Deauville in December. That was over a mile so the main worry is if he gets the extra distance. The plan is to run him on finals day and this will tell us whether we go for the Mile or the Classic.
Archie Watson, trainer of Petite Jack
He's been in good form all winter and his last run when sixth to Utmost was just as good as he was carrying a penalty. He's in great form at home and it looks an open race.
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