Group Three victors Grendisar, Arab Spring, Decorated Knight and Fearless Hunter feature among 12 entries for the £45,000 Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on Saturday 4th February.
The 10-furlong contest is a Fast-Track Qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day, with the winner receiving a free and automatic place in the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance on Good Friday, 14th April.
Last season’s Easter Classic winner Grendisar (Marco Botti) is going for a hat-trick of victories in the Betway Winter Derby Trial after scoring in 2015 & 2016.
The seven-year-old has been beaten on both his appearances during this season’s All-Weather Championships, most recently when taking third behind Battalion (Jamie Osborne) in the Listed Betway Quebec Stakes, also over 10 furlongs at Lingfield Park, on 17th December.
Arab Spring (Sir Michael Stoute) beat subsequent G1 victor Pether’s Moon in the 2015 G3 John Porter Stakes at Newbury and is unbeaten in two starts on the All-Weather, including an impressive display on Polytrack in the 12-furlong G3 September Stakes at Kempton Park in September 2016.
Decorated Knight (Roger Charlton) is set to make his first outing since being the comfortable winner of the G3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown, Ireland, in July. The five-year-old has yet to race on an All-Weather surface but warmed up for Saturday’s race with a racecourse gallop at Kempton Park on 17th January.
Seven-year-old Fearless Hunter could make his UK debut for Rune Haugen, who relocated from Norway to Newmarket at the start of December.
The son of Alhaarth has been successful on turf and dirt at Ovrevoll racecourse, including when landing the nine-furlong G3 Marit Sveaas Minnelop on turf in August, 2015.
Haugen reported: “Hopefully, Fearless Hunter will run in the Betway Winter Derby Trial. He has a couple of handicap options coming up but I want to get a run into him.
“It has been a while since his last run at Ovrevoll in August, but he picked up an injury out in Meydan earlier in the year and needed that run. He came over with me to England in December and has been doing some proper work.
“He has won a few races on the dirt in Norway, which is a different surface to the All-Weather, although he has been working nicely on the Polytrack in Newmarket. He loves fast ground on the turf, so I don’t think the surface will matter.
“Fearless Hunter did amazingly well during the 2015 season, winning a Group Three and a Listed race, so we know that he is a proper horse.
“He will need the run slightly, but I think a mile and a quarter around Lingfield Park will be a very good distance for him.”
Other Betway Winter Derby Trial contenders include Wolverhampton handicap winners Mythical Madness (David O’Meara) and Forceful Appeal (Simon Dow), plus Turkish G2 runner-up Our Channel (Jamie Osborne).
Dual course and distance scorer Van Huysen (Dominic Ffrench Davis), Listed winner Solar Deity (Jane Chapple-Hyam), Italian import Vettori Rules (Gay Kelleway) and four-year-old filly Alinstante (Sir Mark Prescott) complete the entries.
A seven-race card on Saturday also features the six-furlong £45,000 Listed Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Cleves Stakes, which has also attracted 12 entries including Godolphin’s 2015 All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes winner Pretend (Charlie Appleby).
His rivals could include Gracious John (David Evans), who was placed at G2 level on turf last season, G1 Falmouth Stakes fifth Ashadihan (Kevin Ryan), and last year’s 2015 All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes runner-up Lancelot Du Lac (Dean Ivory).