Matt’s fancy in the Winter Derby

Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes previews Saturday’s racing action at Kempton, Sandown and Lingfield

Racing fans have the best of both worlds this weekend with some top class action, at home and abroad, across both codes.

At Lingfield, we have the Winter Derby – while in Saudi Arabia it’s the world’s richest horse race, the Saudi Cup. At Kempton and Sandown, the final few Cheltenham Festival clues are on offer with just two-and-a-half weeks till the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’.

 

2.05 Lingfield – FANCY MAN

The Winter Derby at Lingfield is one of the highlights of the all-weather season and was the principal race before the All-Weather Championships came along. This year’s renewal has star quality with a pair of Royal Ascot winners in Alenquer and last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic winner Lord North.

I’m not sure this track will suit Alenquer, who looked a strong stayer over 1m4f last year and makes his all-weather debut here, while the globetrotting star that is Lord North represents a stable that, going into Friday’s action, hadn’t saddled a winner from 19 runners so far this year. He did win his sole start on synthetics, but it was a match race when sent off 1/12f and we learnt little.

That leaves FANCY MAN, who impressed when winning the trial for this race three weeks back and beat Alenquer by three lengths at Haydock when they met as juveniles. Richard Hannon immediately suggested a trip to Qatar for big bucks, but he didn’t feature among the entries for that race last weekend so must have had a change of heart. He also said how they would love a tilt at Finals Day, but a middle east excursion would have scuppered that idea as he needed to run twice more to qualify.

It’s interesting then that they have decided to stay at home – a sign of confidence he can win this weekend to qualify outright for the Easter Classic on Good Friday. He rates the most solid proposition of the three favourites.

 

2.25 Sandown – MINELLA DRAMA

Brian Hughes makes the trip to Kempton for three rides on Saturday, the best of which and clearly the reason for his visit is MINELLA DRAMA in the Pendil Novices Chase.

After winning on chasing debut at Uttoxeter he went down by a head to War Lord, who has subsequently franked the form, before having excuses in Grade 1 company at Sandown when well beaten. He was a very impressive winner upped to this trip last time at Haydock when giving 6lbs and a near ten-length beating to the useful Hardy Du Seuil. He chased home My Drogo in top novice hurdle company at Aintree last season and can make it three form five over fences this weekend.

It was interesting reading Brian Hughes’ comments about riding in the north during Cheltenham week, and how he gets a buzz from every winner he rides. He would have had easier chances of winners at Newcastle this afternoon for Donald McCain, but instead heads south and that could prove significant.

Of his rivals, Pic D’Orhy despite being 7lb clear on figures – needs to bounce back from a poor run at Sandown, while Millers Bank has unseated the last twice and Goa Lil has 20lbs+ to find.

Hat-trick seeking Fantastic Lady, in receipt of 12lbs, could be the biggest threat.

Cheltenham Festival Betting Odds

3.00 Kempton – MORIKO DE VASSY

The Dovecote Novices Hurdle can be used as a springboard to the Supreme at the Festival, but winners have rarely challenged in recent years.

It will need an impressive performance to upset the top of the market, with punters hoping Shallwehaveonemore can throw his hat into the ring after a wide-margin victory when making all at Sandown three weeks ago. He was put in his place by Constitution Hill in the Tolworth though, and at around even money he must be taken on.

Aucunrisque is on a hat-trick after easy wins at Plumpton and Wincanton, representing the winning stable from 2020. He’ll be a popular alternative, as will Paul Nicholls’ Iceo who bolted up over track and trip over Christmas despite pulling too hard. He was again too keen next time out, when pulverised by Pied Piper on Trials Day at Cheltenham.

I will make an each-way case for MORIKO DE VASSY, who has won all three completed starts.

He beat dual hurdles winner Datsalrightgino on his only bumper start before looking very smart when winning on hurdles debut at Hereford by thirty lengths. He was giving Nicky Henderson’s subsequent Cheltenham runner-up Balco Coastal 7lbs and a real race when falling two out at Huntingdon. He would have been second at worst, and the third and fourth have both won since.

Last time out Doncaster he was again giving weight away and cruised into contention, travelling better than everything before a bad mistake at the last cost him a lot of momentum. However, he showed his class to get up by only a neck in the end. Double figure prices underestimate him in my opinion.

 

3.37 Kempton – GALAHAD QUEST

This is always a competitive three-mile handicap chase which has had many guises down the years. It’s produced a wide range of winners such as Nacarat and last year’s winner Clondaw Castle.

Christian Williams had three entered earlier in the week, the best of which I would say is Five Star Getaway whose from over course and distance at Christmas has been well-advertised by Fortescue subsequently.

I am siding with GALAHAD QUEST here though for Nick Williams and David Noonan.

He ran his best race for some time when second at Cheltenham on Trials Day behind the well-treated Torn And Frayed and is interesting upped to three miles for the first time. His last three completed runs were all in competitive Cheltenham handicaps, but a speedy three miles around Kempton could very well suit this six-year-old off just 10-9.

I was keeping an eye on his Cheltenham entries as he was in my mind for the Plate, but he was well-backed for this race in the week and still represents some value at around 8/1.

I was very keen on the well-handicapped Mister Malarkey on debut for Richard Bandey, but sadly wasn’t declared. Keep an eye on where he springs up next.

Today’s Horse Racing Odds