With just 17 days to go until the Cheltenham Jump Racing Festival, this weekend represents one of the final opportunities for the world’s leading jumps trainers to put their prized assets through their paces at Kempton Park.
The Middlesex course will play host to no less than four Graded races on Saturday alone, however the biggest prize pool on offer can be found a little further afield up at Lingfield Park where ten flat hopefuls will compete for a share of £100,000.
15.20 @ Lingfield Park – Coral Winter Derby Stakes (1m 2f – Group 3)
In what is debatably the biggest domestic race of the all-weather calendar, the Coral Winter Derby brings together ten high-class runners for the 2016 renewal. The going will play a big part in how many of those ten actually make it to post.
Last year’s winning trainer leads the market with FESTIVE FAIR who arrives here having won three of his four races on the surface. His comeback run over course and distance at the beginning of February was highly encouraging. Although he went down by ½ length to Grendisar that day, he’s far less exposed than his rival. He has a far more beneficial draw, and is therefore expected to improve enough to reverse the placings.
John Gosden boasts a very impressive record at Lingfield and is represented here by Maverick Wave and Furia Cruzada. The booking of Robert Havlin on Furia Cruzada would suggest that he’s the most likely fancy from the two, however it’s difficult to ascertain quite how good he is based on some eye-catching Group One wins in Italy coupled with a 302 day break from competitive action.
It’s never with confidence that a Mark Johnston horse can be ignored. The form of Fire Fighting flatters to deceive. Three wins in his last five races is always great for confidence. The fact that he was facing horses rated well below 100 on official ratings tells you everything you need to know about his quality in this sphere. Much of the same comments can be made of Battalion, a horse who has run creditably this year but tends to get found out when making the step up to Class 1 level.
Of the rest, Complicit seems to have gone right off the racing boil since finishing just a length behind last year’s winner in the same race while Tullius returns to the all-weather for the first time in three years having been a surprise winner of the Group 2 York Stakes last summer.
PICK: FESTIVE FAIR