Last Saturday Lingfield put on one of the best All Weather cards of the season with the highlight being the Channel Four televised Winter Derby trial where the Mari Botti trained Grendisar became the highest rated horse yet to qualify for the Middle Distance championship on Good Friday (3rd April)
Grendisar, who finished runner up in the very first AW Championship Finals race last season from a rating of 95, remains an improving sort and is well worth following over the coming few weeks with the £200,000 Easter Classic on Good Friday his main aim.
The Marti Botti trained five year old started his winning run from a lowly rating of 66 two years ago at Lingfield, and was winning from a career high handicap mark of 108 on Saturday. It was the fourth time in six years that Botti has won this race.
One of the reasons why he has kept winning is that his style of running – coming from behind and then idling when hitting the front – means he has been able to stay one step ahead of the assessor.
Martin Harley gets on extremely well with the Invincible Spirit gelding and Grendisar will be among the favourites when he comes back to the Surrey track for the Winter Derby itself on 14th March, before a crack at the middle distance title at the All Weather Championships day on April 3rd. He is the highest rated horse yet to qualify for that final.
Another winning horse to take the eye was the Ryan Moore ridden Nigel’s Destiny who took the one mile race on the card. He was winning from a rating of 83 here, but travelled with any amount of ease in the slip stream of the two leaders until Moore brought him to their outside coming into the straight.
Moore managed to force the four year old colt’s head in front right on the line, and the Jeremy Noseda trained horse looks like he could be another who can keep one step ahead of the handicapper. This was his first run for 66 days and he may well come on for the run and a step up in distance can also bring more improvement, as being by Giant’s Causeway, there’s no reason why he can’t improve for a step up in trip
The Unibet sponsored Cleves Stakes, a listed race over 6 furlongs was won by Rivellino, who went one better than last year, and who will now go for the £150,000 Unibet All Weather Sprint Championship Final on 3rd April. He won on Saturday from a rating of 104 and seems well suited with a fast run race and could be a threat come finals day.
The two divisions of the five furlong Daily Price Boosts At Unibet Handicap were won in remarkably similar ways by horses both rated 79.
The first division saw Brother Tiger take his third win at the course. Andrea Atzeni was keen to make all the running having rousted his mount along from the gates from a favourable stall one draw to do so.
Then half an hour later, Pat Cosgrove did similarly with Clearing from stall one – he made all to complete his fourth career win – all coming at Lingfield where he is yet to finish out of the top three.
Despite flashing his tail (which he has now done three times when winning) he always seemed likely to do enough, despite the pack closing on him at the end. He is most certainly worth following in the next few weeks, as granted a favourable draw he is one horse that is proving difficult to pass once he gets his head in front at Lingfield.
Baddilini caused a shock in the 7 furlong event on the card, with connections favouring a crack on turf at Royal Ascot – where the 6 furlong Wokingham Stakes was muted post-race. One horse who finished in behind Baddilini that caught my eye was the first time blinkered Brigliadoro trained by Phil McBride. The four year old was still last at the distance but fairly flew – passing nine horses inside 220 yards – and if able to reproduce this form from a little nearer the pace and in blinkers for a second time could be worth following. He went off at 12/1 and with Luke Morris aboard again I would be looking to back this horse at fair odds in competitive fast run handicap over seven or even eight furlongs in the next few weeks at Lingfield.
Best bet: Crucible in the 4pm Unibet Offer Daily Jockey/Trainer Specials Maiden Stakes.
This once raced four-year-old has been kept in training despite finishing last of nine in his only outing as three year old.
He now drops down in trip to the 5 furlongs and 212 yards (just short of 6 furlongs) distance having raced over 7 furlongs that day and the word is that he has finally matured and may be capable of running a big race here against some moderate types. I’ll take a chance on him at big odds each way – sponsors Unibet go around 15/2 on the Joe Fanning ridden horse.