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Horse-by-horse guide to this weekend’s BetUK Winter Derby at Southwell | Racing News


Senior Form Analyst for At The Races Jamie Lynch previews the red-hot renewal of the first Winter Derby to be staged at Southwell, live on Sky Sports Racing on Saturday.

It’s the Winter Derby but not as we know it! The title is the same but the trip, the track and therefore the test is very different, highlighted by the fact the Winter Derby at Lingfield more often than not took less than 2m 2s to complete; Saturday’s race at Southwell will be 2m 20s at the least.

Rather than the end game it once was, the Winter Derby is multi-functional these days and sometimes a mere means to an international end, but the upshot is an uptick in quality and, with a runner rating average of 107.6, this year’s renewal is one of the very best in the race’s 26-year history. Let’s look at the field in depth.

Claymore

Jockey: Hollie Doyle | Trainer: Jane Chapple-Hyam

Royal Ascot winner in 2022 but that has so far proved an unrepeatable high, an altitude he hasn’t flown at since, including in the course-and-distance trial last month when overtaken by all his rivals despite dictating.

He teams up with Hollie Doyle for the first time and would be getting weight off everything if this was a handicap. It’s hard to see how he can win the main event when he came up so short in the trial.

Claymore beats Reach For The Moon to win the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot
Image:
Claymore partners with Hollie Doyle for the race

Eydon

K Stott | A M Balding

Not seen since the spring of 2022 where his class was shown by his performance in the Guineas on just his fourth start when, over a trip shorter than he’s bred for (and that he won at in the Feilden), he was beaten only by Coroebus, Native Trail and Luxembourg in a 15-strong field.

The Winter Derby will give us a considerable clue about Eydon’s talent as he returns from 665 days on the sidelines, for a different yard (transferred from Roger Varian). He’s the most intriguing horse in the line-up, because he’s the hardest to read. It would be no surprise if he blew out after all the troubles and time off, but equally there’s still the slim scope for him proving to be of Group 1 standard.

Forest Of Dean in winning action at Goodwood
Image:
Forest Of Dean will face stablemate Lord North

Forest Of Dean

K T O’Neill | J & T Gosden

Everything is right with the world when Forest Of Dean rocks up for the Winter Derby, this his fourth straight appearance, and he even won it in 2021.

He showed he’s still got something to offer, just behind Tyrrhenian Sea, when the pair were second and third in the Churchill on his first start since Finals Day in April, but it would be a surprise to me and a stain on the rest if he snared a second Winter Derby at this stage of his career.

Lord North is eyeing back-to-back Winter Derby wins
Image:
Lord North is currently leading the betting for the Winter Derby

Lord North

R Havlin | J & T Gosden

It’s the three ‘A’s with Lord North: age, agenda and ability. His ability is the easiest element to deal with because he’s the best horse in the race by far, but the same was true in the last two editions. He was sharp and successful in 2023 but rusty in 2022 when absent for 11 months beforehand.

He has been kept in training not to win a Winter Derby but a fourth Dubai Turf, and at his age, now eight, it’s improbable and even illogical that he’ll be at 100 per cent for this, on top of the fact that the race switching to Southwell (and 11f) is more of a hindrance than a help to a horse who only once before has tried beyond 10f when a fading fourth in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Tyrrhenian Sea

J Mitchell | R Varian

His last quarter mile in the Churchill (when second) was an eye-popping 21.52 secs, and he was speedier still in winning the Quebec with a scorching split of 21.33 secs, telling the tale of his particular power, a power particularly well served by Lingfield.

He has never won on turf but did win three times at Newcastle at the start of his career, what sticks in my mind most is his odds-on defeat in the Easter Classic there when trading at 33-1-on in-running but succumbing at the end of the long straight. He has movie star looks, and Lingfield star speed, but I doubt he has Southwell-style stamina.

Military Order

D Tudhope | C Appleby

Brother to Adayar and went off as short as 9-2 to emulate him in last year’s Derby but was all at sea around Epsom and seemingly took a long time to get over it, though over it he now is, based on his brighter display in the Winter Derby Trial around here when moving menacingly but finishing failingly, his lack of match practice evident in the most combative part of the race.

What he did for 90 per cent of the trial fostered the feeling that the best of him is still to come, and the race relocating is music to his ears given his size and stride, even acknowledging that he won the Lingfield Derby Trial on the All-Weather circuit. He has been a while coming, but this is his time.

JAMIE LYNCH’S VERDICT

Southwell’s first Group race, the switch changing the dimensions of the Winter Derby quite dramatically, perhaps to the detriment of some of the heavy-hitters like Lord North and Tyrrhenian Sea, but not MILITARY ORDER who shaped like the best horse in the trial and still has a strong sense of unfinished business, a case for saying he should be favourite given the delicate doubts around the others.

Watch the Winter Derby from Southwell live on Sky Sports Racing

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