Winter Derby Preview, Trends, Tips
The flat turf season is just around the corner and, to get us all in the mood, the all weather season is ratcheting up to what should be a cracking finale this year. We've got the new All Weather Championships on Good Friday, April 18th, which looks set to be every bit as good as the sponsors had hoped.
But, before that - this afternoon in fact, we have the coral.co.uk Winter Derby, a Group 3 with eleven of the fourteen runners rated 100+. That's the most ever for this race, beating the record of ten set in 2010, and it points to a general elevation in the depth of the best all-weather races this season, most likely as a consequence of the big pots up for grabs on April 18th.
To today, and let's take a look at the trends for the Winter Derby.
Winter Derby Trends
First run in 1998, when the excellent Running Stag claimed the spoils, there have been sixteen renewals of the Winter Derby.
Only two of the 53 horses drawn higher than eleven have managed to win. The 7/4 favourite, Grandeur, will have to be very good to win from the widest slot of all, fourteen. Twelve of the sixteen winners were drawn seven or lower (75% of the winners from 52% of the runners).
Nine winners also won last time out, from 63 runners (56% winners from 30% runners), and thirteen winners (81%) were in the top four last time, from 143 runners (68%).
Twelve of the sixteen winners had already run at Lingfield, and ten of them (62%) had at least one course win to their name, from 55% of the runners. All bar 1999 winner Supreme Sound had at least run on an all weather surface. Mirsaale has a wide draw and no experience of all-weather, so would be a trends buster.
Horses have won from all ages between four and eight, and from all rest periods.
All of the last ten winners with an official rating were rated at least 104, with the average being 107.3.
So we're probably looking for a reasonably drawn horse, with experience on the all-weather - and preferably a local run/win, aged four to eight, and rated above 104. That gives a trends shortlist of one: Windhoek.
Winter Derby Form Preview
The favourite for the race, and winner of the Winter Derby Trial four weeks ago, is Grandeur at 7/4. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, he's a dual Grade 2 winner in the States, and that trial win was his only run at Lingfield. The problem with Grandeur is that he has a terrible draw in stall fourteen of fourteen. Historically this has been extremely hard to overcome, though Sri Diamond did prevail from the car park in 2006, in a finish of heads and short heads (one and a half lengths covered the first seven home that day).
This is a deeper race than Sri Diamond's, and he was an 8/1 shot which offers more forgiveness from a value perspective than 7/4. Grandeur has the best form in the race, but conditions are not ideal, and he is a readily opposable favourite.
Farraaj won the race last year, so clearly has what it takes, but it's a much hotter heat this time around. Indeed, last term, Farraaj was the second highest rated horse on 108, with just the nine-year-old Premio Loco rated higher, on 111. This time, Farraaj has 105 and there are five horses with the same or a higher rating.
The break is not an issue, as he won first time up last year, and the trainer has him in great form. That said, he did have a November prep over course and distance before being 'roughed off' for the year last term. On balance, he's a little short at 11/2 bidding to be the first ever multiple winner of the race.
Windhoek has already established himself as the trends pick, and he has solid form credentials too. Formerly trained by Mark Johnston, he's now in the care of Saeed bin Suroor, who Racing Post have quoted as saying, "He's improved a great deal since he came out to Dubai and he looks a better horse as a four-year-old.This is the right distance for him and he handled an artificial surface out in Dubai. I hope that he can run very well."
Given that he is only a pound higher than his turf form for Johnston, and the trainer believes he has improved "a great deal", he definitely holds some appeal. Moreover, that last day Dubai win was over this ten furlong distance, where he didn't settle especially well and was taken wide in his run. All things considered, he could be capable of significantly better form with a less troubled passage on just his second non-turf start, and 13/2 looks very fair if he takes to the polytrack as well as he did the tapeta in Meydan.
There isn't a heap of pace in this year's Winter Derby, and it might be that Premio Loco takes them along from his inside draw. Anaconda and Farraaj are both drawn wider, but may make a beeline for the inside in a bid to overcome that starting stall handicap. Given that there doesn't look to be too much pace on their inside, that's possible.
And it's even possible that Windhoek could be front rank himself. There are plenty of hold up horses - the likes of Aussie Reigns, Chil The Kite, Rebellious Guest and Robin Hood's Bay (runner up last year) - who may be inconvenienced by a less than flat out gallop, and the search for an each way value play rests on finding a well drawn prominent racer who might get 'first run' on some of the closers.
Tinshu, at a massive price, has been within two lengths of the winner in four of his last five runs, all over course and distance, and despite being poorly drawn on a couple of occasions. Though he has something to find with Robin Hoods Bay on a couple of those runs, he's much better drawn and might stalk the pace. If he does, he could nick a place at 66/1 (16/1 the place).
Tom Dascombe's Anaconda may have to snake (groan) a route to the rail and, while the draw might constrict him (double groan), he's been a fine serpent to connections (triple groan) and goes very well here. If he can get to the rail, 20/1 might give a run for the beer and chip money.
Winter Derby Tips
There is one horse in here that has a solid trends profile, very good form, an upward ability range, and a good draw. As such, Windhoek looks a very strong play in a race full of if's and but's. And if you open a Betbright account, you can back it completely risk-free, £20 staked offers a chance to win £120, or money back if it loses.
Although Grandeur is the best horse in the race, he has plenty to overcome, and will be a player in such as the Breeders Cup Classic if he can get the job done from the car park against the best class field ever assembled in the Winter Derby. Similar comments apply to Farraaj, who has much more to contend with than when winning a weaker renewal last year.
Of the big prices, I think Robin Hoods Bay could run into the frame again, though may encounter traffic issues again; Anaconda could be dangerous if able to steal an easy lead; and Tinshu is over-priced for a place if ridden prominently by Spencer this afternoon (he can be held up too).
A fascinating race, and one in which I'm backing Windhoek to win and Tinshu for a place.
Best Winter Derby Bet: Windhoek 6/1 Betbright (£20 risk free bet for new customers)
Best Winter Derby Place Only Bet: Tinshu 16/1 bet365