With the Guineas in the books for another year, we are now well into Derby trials season, with the latest pointers set to come from Lingfield on Saturday afternoon. The wonderful British springtime has necessitated a switch from turf to the all-weather track. That’s thrown a spanner or two into the works for some, but the meeting does still go ahead, with the Derby and Oaks trials taking centre stage.
Elsewhere on the TV menu, Ascot chips in with three quality handicaps, spearheaded by the hugely competitive Victoria Cup, whilst the Swinton Handicap Hurdle from Haydock provides the jumps entertainment. Here we run through each of the eight contests on offer and pick out our best bets in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips as we attempt to get the better of the oddsmakers once again.
1:30 Peroni Nastro Azzuro Handicap
Class 3, 1m4f
The William Haggas-trained Nathanael Green heads the betting in the opener, having posted a number of solid efforts last term. Nicely bred and hailing from such a powerful yard, he merits plenty of respect but does need to bounce back from a poor effort at Doncaster last time out. Second favourite Sir Rumi arrives in much better form following a smart win at Epsom and looks a more solid option to our eyes.
However, it is the Simon Woods runner, Savvy Knight who just gets the vote at what looks like a very generous price. This one gets in off the same mark as when a staying on fourth in the King George V Stakes over this course and distance at the Royal meeting. That run came on good to firm going and, given the manner in which he finished the race, the stiffer test provided by the likely slower surface may well be in his favour. With Harry Davies taking off a handy 3lb in the saddle, he’s fancied to get the day off to a flier.
1:50 Fitzdares Taking Bets Since 1882 Handicap
Class 5, 7f
We have some rather low-key action to get us underway at Lingfield, but a competitive contest nonetheless. Dylan Cunha has made a solid start in his debut season in the UK and is responsible for the favourite here in Gold Medal. This four-year-old has been living up to his name of late and arrives seeking a hat-trick. A 3lb hike may not be enough to stop him, but at the prices, we just prefer another.
In three all-weather starts over this 7f trip, Karl Burke’s Tothenines has hit the frame twice – looking a little unlucky in running on both occasions. Each of those placed efforts came off a mark of 80 in a Class 4 event, and he gets into this Class 5 affair off a mark of 74. As such, anything close to the level of form shown in his two previous placed outings should make him very tough to keep out of the frame. The current price of 10/1 looks nice to us but we don’t expect it to last.
2:05 Peroni Nastro Azzuro EBF Fillies’ Handicap
Class 2, 1m
We have an intriguing handicap over the straight mile up next, with a host of runners boasting untapped potential. Charlie Appleby’s Mountain Song seems likely to be popular, having finished in the first two on all four career starts but, with those efforts all coming on the all-weather, she needs to prove as effective on soft turf. Julia Augusta should cope with conditions, but conceding weight to a field of unexposed rivals may prove a tough task.
Mottisfant and Beccara Rose make some each-way appeal at double-figure prices, but overall the one for us is Timeless Melody from the yard of William Haggas. Formerly with Charlie Appleby, this strapping filly scored nicely in a heavy ground contest over 7f at Leicester on her debut for her new yard. Stepping up to a mile looks a smart move on the back of that, and an opening handicap mark of 80 looks perfectly fair. With the third, fourth, and seventh from that Leicester contest all winning next time out we fancy that race to produce another victor here.
2:25 Fitzdares Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes
Group 3, 7ff
The switch to the all-weather surface brings Queen Amiratu firmly into calculations here, with the mount of Wiliam Buick having won her three most recent starts on a synthetic surface. She seems likely to run a big race, but the suspicion is she may still be slightly outclassed in this field.
Lennox Stakes winner Sandrine brings the best form from last season to the table and surely won’t be too far away, but we just prefer the William Haggas-trained, Sacred. The mount of Ryan Moore finished 1¾l behind Sandrine in that Lennox Stakes event, but is 7lbs better off at the weights, and is a three-time winner over this distance at up to Group 2 level. This will be her first all-weather start, but on breeding, she should handle it well, with sire Exceed And Excel boasting a 14% strike rate on the all-weather compared to 11% on turf.
2:40 Peroni Nastro Azzuro Victoria Cup
Class 2, 7f
Twenty-three go to post for the big betting heat of the day, with a decent case to be made for any number of these. Defending champion Vafortino makes the shortlist for Kevin Philippart De Foy, having warmed up nicely with a second-place finish at Newmarket last time out. He’s 6lb higher in the handicap this time around, but shouldn’t be far away. Dual course and distance winner Fresh looks dangerous, getting in off the same mark as when successful here in September, whilst Ropey Guest is becoming well handicapped from towards the foot of the weights.
In a tricky affair, we will take a chance on the 2021 winner and 2022 third-placed finisher River Nymph. Those two previous efforts came off marks of 100 and 102, making his current rating of 101 seem perfectly reasonable. Catching the eye when overcoming trouble and running to finish fourth over this track and trip on his most recent start in October, he looks primed to run a big race at a nice each-way price.
3:00 Fitzdares Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes
The first of the day’s Classic Trials sees a field of nine promising fillies tackle the Oaks trip of 1m4f. Anything Aidan O’Brien sends over for one of these merits the utmost respect, and it is his Camelot filly, Be Happy, who duly heads the betting. However, her third-placed effort last time out in a French Group 3 was no more than a decent effort, and she looks a little short in the market.
Charlie Appleby’s Sunset Pool arrives seeking a hat-trick, but William Buick prefers the claims of Eternal Hope, which may prove a pointer in itself. Unlike Be Happy, the Godolphin duo at least have the positive of already having an all-weather win to their names.
Overall, it’s difficult to choose a standout contender from those towards the head of the market, and for that reason we prefer a small each-way punt at huge odds on Ghara. The Gosden team have taken this three times in the last six years, and it looks interesting that they rely solely on this relatively low-key daughter of Frankel. She has plenty to find on form, but must be showing something at home and was a big eye-catcher on her only previous all-weather start.
3:15 Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle
Class 1, 1m7½f
Harry Derham’s Brentford Hope heads the betting in the only jumps event on the TV card on the back of successive wins in Maiden and Novice events. Those victories were certainly easy on the eye, but he was beaten off a mark of 113 in his only previous handicap hurdle outing and is up to 123 for this assignment.
Teddy Blue and Takeiteasy look solid each-way options, but we suspect the one they all have to beat may be the Charles Byrnes-trained, Byker. This one will be making only his second start in handicaps, making him more open to improvement than most. Last sighted going down by just a neck in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a repeat of that level of form may well suffice here.
3:15 Fitzdares Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes
The Classic generation of colts round off the day’s action in this trial for the Epsom showpiece in three weeks. With Auguste Rodin underperforming so spectacularly in the 2000 Guineas, the Derby market now has a wide-open look to it, and a few of these will be hoping to thrust their hat into the ring.
There are plenty of likeable sorts in here, including Ndaawi, who has defied a rather unusual leg action to land two of his four starts to date, and the Royal runner Circle Of Fire, who goes for Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore. Inquiring Minds is a perfect one from one for the Gosdens – with that win coming on the all-weather – and would be our each-way choice in the race.
Overall though, it’s hard not to be drawn to the Godolphin runner, Military Order, who looks to boast the most appealing pedigree and the strongest form in the race. A full brother to 2021 Derby winner, Adayar, he beat two previous winners in effortless style at Newbury last time out and should be well suited by this step-up in trip. Of course, the market hasn’t missed that but 6/5 still looks solid enough in our opinion.