Wissahickon continued his domination of the middle-distance category of this season’s All-Weather Championships with an impressive victory in the £100,000 G3 Betway Winter Derby (3.15pm) on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on Saturday 23rd February.
The four-year-old Tapit colt gained a third straight win over 10 furlongs at Lingfield Park when very readily beating Court House by three and a quarter lengths, adding to his Listed successes in the Betway Quebec Stakes and Betway Winter Derby Trial.
Wissahickon (1/4 favourite), trained by John Gosden in Newmarket, was held in fourth of the seven runners by Frankie Dettori behind stable companion Court House (14/1, William Buick), Big Country (10/1, Michael Appleby/Luke Morris) and early leader Hathal (8/1, Jamie Osborne/Adam Kirby).
He quickened around runners turning for home and went to the front from Court House entering the straight before forging clear to score easily in a fast time of 2m 1.28s. Court House kept on for second ahead of 40/1 outsider Pactolus (Stuart Williams/Callum Rodriguez), who ran on from the rear to snatch third from Big Country, another three and a half lengths back.
It was a second Fast-Track Qualifier victory for Wissahickon, who had already guaranteed his free place in the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance on Good Friday, 19th April, by winning the Betway Winter Derby Trial on 2nd February.
Gosden, recording a first Betway Winter Derby win, said: “Normally, we don’t run that many on the All-Weather but, after Wissahickon won the Cambridgeshire, Mr Strawbridge (owner/breeder George Strawbridge) was keen to stay here and go for
the Winter Derby, and the plan has come off.
“Obviously, there is big race here on Good Friday and we will see whether we freshen him up and wait for that, which would be the logical thing to do.
“There is some talk about World Cup Night out in Dubai, but I will have to speak to Frankie, who always has a very strong opinion!
“We might look at the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, if there was an invitation to run in the race. I think he is a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half horse – the mother stayed and he switches off in his races now, while quick, summer ground would be his game.
“We rode him wrong once on the July Course, but every other time Rab (Havlin) or Frankie have ridden him and he is a horse with a great turn of foot.
“He enjoys good to firm turf and the surface here, being by Tapit, and is out of a really good mare No Matter What, one of Mr Strawbridge’s best mares who has produced endless black type horses. I am sure he is watching from America and is absolutely thrilled.
“I think there is a chance that Wissahickon could be racing in America next year or the back end of this season as there are a couple of nice races for him. I don’t know whether he would be suited to dirt racing, which is a little different to this surface.
“He could well be going over there but, right now, I think Mr Strawbridge would like to come over and see him race here again.
“He used to be a typical Tapit – always on it, wanting to go, go, go and type of horse that probably didn’t want to listen or knew the word relax. But he has learned to switch off now and is a pretty chilled customer with a good turn of foot.
“Court House, who stays well and has won over a mile and a half here, so that was short enough for him and he has run a lovely race. We will also have a look at Good Friday for him.”
Frankie Dettori commented: “Wissahickon is getting better with every run and I am delighted with the way he relaxes now.
“He did exactly what he did last time – he ran to his rating and is a horse who is getting better and better with confidence.
“He plays with his mouth going down. It probably looks worse than it is and, now that I know him, I let him play with his head and eventually he comes back to you.
“I guess I was half asleep last time – I was trying to go for an inside rail run – but I kept it simple today, had a nice and smooth run, and won well.
“John is half toying with the idea that Wissahickon might go out to Dubai.”
Elsewhere on Lingfield Park’s Saturday’s card, the well-backed Gorgeous Noora (2/1) paid a compliment to current £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championship favourite Kachy when swooping late to take the £45,000 Listed Betway Hever Sprint (2.05pm) over five furlongs.
The five-year-old mare, runner-up to Tom Dascombe’s stable star in the Listed six-furlong £45,000 Listed Betway Cleves Stakes at the same course on 2nd February, quickened strongly from the rear under Hollie Doyle to collar Royal Birth (10/1, Stuart Williams/Sean Levey) well inside the final furlong for a three quarters of a length success in 56.92s, just 0.25s outside the course record.
A return to Lingfield Park on Good Friday beckons for Gorgeous Noora, who joined Archie Watson following the retirement of Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani at the end of 2018 and is set to be covered by Zoustar.
Watson is also set to be represented in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championship by Corinthia Knight (5/1, Edward Greatrex), who returned to form to finish third, a length and a quarter behind Royal Birth.
The Lambourn trainer commented: “I was very fortunate to be sent Gorgeous Noora by David Howden and David Redvers and she is a very talented filly.
“As soon as she came to us, we thought that sprinting was the angle to take. I think David thought that seven furlongs might have been the way, but I think she has shown today that five is well within her capabilities.
“Hollie said that she may even be improving as a sprinter and that she felt a lot better today than she did against Kachy.
“She has her black type now, which is the most important thing, and I think we will probably come back for the Final over six furlongs. If I can convince the owners to get her covered as late as possible, I would love to see her in a race like the King’s Stand Stakes or Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1s at Royal Ascot in the middle of June).
“She was obviously a talented filly before she came to us and the only reason she was for sale was Luca Cumani giving up training. I am sure she would have improved with age because she is a big, strong filly.
“We keep the speed in our sprinters – they don’t go up the hill like the stayers do at home but stay on the flat – and we keep them fresh and well. I think she has thrived on it.
“It was a much better run from Corinthia Knight. He headbutted the front of the stalls and over-anticipated the start in the Cleves, but I was pleased with him today.
“I thought he came to win his race on the wrong area of the track, but that is where you have to race when you are drawn one. He has challenged away from the others, who have come up the middle, but he has run a very solid race.
“He won the Three-Year-Old Final last year and that course and distance seems to suit, so we will come back for Finals Day with him too, although we may all be running for a place behind Kachy.”
Hollie Doyle added: “I was a bit doubtful about dropping back to five furlongs, but we know that Gorgeous Noora has a lot of natural ability. She jumped well, but couldn’t go the early gallop so she picked the bridle up mid-race and took into it lovely.
“She is beautifully bred and will probably go off to stud at some point, but she has got the job done today.
“She is a lovely, tough mare who is going the right way and I think she is improving with every run. She is very small, but very stocky – she’s just a typical sprinter.”
Oh This Is Us (2/1 favourite, Tom Marquand) was twice placed at G2 level on turf for Richard Hannon last year and the six-year-old also has his sights on Good Friday after a cosy success under top-weight in the mile £19,000 Follow Sun Racing On Twitter Handicap (3.50pm).
Tom Ward, assistant trainer to Richard Hannon, remarked: “Oh This Is Us was initially set to go out to Qatar, but we changed plans a while ago and will aim him at the Mile Championship on Good Friday.
“Today was his second race this season and we will give him one more run. He has a couple of options and the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton (9th March) is one of them, which will hopefully get him qualified.”
Winning jockey Tom Marquand said: “I adore Oh This Is Us, who has been pivotal throughout my career.
“I first won on him as a 3l claimer and he has come out every year since. It wasn’t the biggest of races today, but he just keeps on pulling it out of the bag.
“There weren’t any slouches in the field and he has done it off 9st 12lb against horses proven at this level.”
About the All-Weather Championships
Season six of the All-Weather Championships runs from Tuesday 23rd October 2018 and culminates with All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday, 19th April 2019, at Lingfield Park.
The seven races on All-Weather Championships Finals Day are worth a total of £1 million.
The six championship categories are:
- £150,000 Three-Year-Olds sponsored by Ladbrokes – 6f Final
- £150,000 Fillies & Mares sponsored by Ladbrokes – 7f Final
- £150,000 Mile sponsored by Sun Racing – 1m Final
- £150,000 Sprint sponsored by Betway – 6f Final
- £150,000 Marathon sponsored by Betway – 2m Final
- £200,000 Middle Distance sponsored Betway – 10f Final
There are two ways for horses to qualify for one of the finals on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield Park:
- A horse can win a ‘Fast Track Qualifier’ race which will ensure a FREE and GUARANTEED place in the corresponding final on Good Friday. There are four Fast Track Qualifiers in each of the six Championship Categories hosted at racecourses in Great Britain, Ireland and France. If a filly wins any of the Fast-Track Qualifier races for either the Sprint or the Mile categories, the filly will be qualified for the final of that specific category, or for the Fillies and Mares Final.
- A horse must run a minimum of three times on the All-Weather surfaces in Great Britain, Ireland and France; or twice on the All-Weather surfaces in Great Britain, Ireland, France and once on dirt in Dubai during the qualifying period between 23rd October 2018 and the six-day entry stage for the finals (Saturday, 13th April 2019) and then be rated high enough to ‘make the cut’ in a final by order of its BHA Rating.