For some time, the accepted curtain raiser to the Flat season has been the Lincoln Handicap meeting at Doncaster, with the opening apprentice race allowing some callow youth to head the jockeys’ table for an hour or so, but these days, the globalisation of the sport has seen such a tradition brushed aside, and Town Moor has been trumped by Meydan, and even leafy Lingfield.
It’s at the latter track that many of the headline events in the UK will take place in the next days and weeks, with the Winter Derby offering a very tasty starter.
Jeremy Noseda’s Grandeur has been all the rage for this event since winning a trial over C&D last month from Modernstone and Anaconda, and will certainly be hard to beat if enjoying a clear passage. That’s far from certain, however, as he’s been handed a car-park berth, and those who backed him down to 11/8 favouritism before the draw was made will not welcome the news of stall 14 in a fourteen-runner field.
Last year’s winner Farraaj would have solid claims if back to his best, although he’s not been seen since finishing well down the field in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August. His win here in 2013 came without a prep run, so it would be no surprise to see him bounce back returned to domestic action, but he faces no easy task on balance.
Windhoek looks the most solid of those at the front of the betting for me, however, and he made a bright start for Saeed Bin Suroor when scoring at Meydan in January. He was most progressive early last year for Mark Johnston, winning a brace of valuable events at Newmarket in the spring, and again displayed a willing attitude to hold off Layali Al Andalus on his first start in the royal blue of Goldolphin.
Held up when scoring at Meydan, Windhoek has also shown tactical versatility in winning from the front, and he will surely be placed to advantage by the excellent Silvestre de Sousa however this race is run. There is also the distinct possibility of further improvement from the son of Cape Cross, for whom his reappearance represented a first start on an artificial surface, and just his tenth in all. Polytrack is a strict unknown, but it would be a major surprise if he didn’t handle it as well as he did Tapeta in the desert.
Of the outsiders, one of the more interesting ones is Mirsaale, who wasn’t disgraced in the Derby behind Ruler of The World on his penultimate start, and is just the sort to improve on his 3-y-o form having been given the chance to mature. His trainer, James Tate, continues to impress, and the yard’s horses have been going well, with just one of his last 17 runners out of the frame. This is still quite a daunting task for one so raw, but the odds compensate, and Mirsaale merits a second glance.
The Winter Derby is the fourth of a promising seven-race card at Lingfield tomorrow, March 22nd. It’s due off at 3.50pm and you can bet on the Winter Derby in our racing section now!