In her exclusive blog, Sky Sports Racing ambassador Hollie Doyle analyses seven rides at Lingfield on Saturday, including Archie Watson’s Al Zaraqaan in the Winter Derby.
Doyle also looks forward to an exciting ride on a Good Friday contender for All-Weather Finals Day at Newcastle on Tuesday.
Al Zaraqaan can show more in Winter Derby
My Betway Winter Derby ride Al Zaraqaan has a point to prove in a stellar renewal at Lingfield Park on Saturday (2.05) but has the credentials to run well at a big price.
I expected more from Archie Watson’s gelding in the Listed Winter Derby Trial there last time when he finished only fourth behind the re-opposing Fancy Man and King Of The South after dominating a Fast Track Qualifier at Newcastle.
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We were left alone in front in the trial and travelled well enough through the race but looking back I may have gone too steady.
The race turned into a sprint, which just didn’t suit him. I’ll be positive again on Saturday from my draw in stall one. He’s the sort of horse who needs to be ridden forward but I don’t expect to get an uncontested lead this time.
Even so, I’m hoping a stronger tempo will make us tougher to pass. There’s not a great deal between Al Zaraqaan, Fancy Man, King Of The South and Forest Of Dean in terms of ratings and profile but it’s a sign of the times that we’re taking on horses of the calibre of Lord North and Alenquer.
If Lord North runs anywhere near his rating of 123 he’ll obviously be very difficult to beat but he has been off for almost a year following a setback and won’t be fully tuned up for this re-appearance.
If he does under-perform it could be a very open race.
Sands my best ride on a busy afternoon
I have seven rides to look forward to at Lingfield but my best chance has to be Al Zaraqaan’s stable companion Imperial Sands in the MansionBet Proud Partners Of The AWC Handicap (2.40).
He’s turned over a new leaf after having a wind operation and being gelded and took his form to a new level when he won over the same mile last month.
The handicappers only put him up 3lb for that impressive front-running performance and a win in this will put him right in the frame for a crack at the Mile Final at Newcastle on Good Friday.
Imperial Sands seemed to lose his confidence last year and, being a colt back then, tended to get himself wound up. Now he walks around the yard like he knows he’s very good and it’s lovely to see that confidence in him.
Dixon trailblazer could prove hard to catch
I’m also looking forward to Scott Dixon’s trailblazing speedball One Night Stand in the Listed Betway Hever Sprint Stakes (1.30).
This gelding has been electric in winning two Class Two handicaps at the Surrey track and had them all at it in the Listed Kachy’s Stakes there last time, finishing only two lengths behind the winner in fifth.
Though he drops back a furlong to the minimum trip, he has the gate speed to get across from his draw in stall five and get them all on the stretch.
It’s a step up in class but his natural speed and his ability to really scrape the paint around those sharp turns makes the pursuit of Black Type worthwhile.
Alborkan fairly treated for flat return
The pace won’t be quite as hot in the Read Katie Walsh On Betway Insiders Handicap (1.00) when I get back on Amy Murphy’s nice stayer Alborkan.
He’s done his winning in the face of more demanding tests but this turning two-mile trip is ideal for a horse who returns to the track after wind surgery.
He’s fit from hurdling so hopefully we can go one better than when I finished a close second on him behind an in-form rival at Newcastle last season.
Unexposed Belle an interesting contender
Marco Botti’s filly Bluenose Belle is open to improvement as she moves out of novice grade (4.55). She won her maiden at Newcastle so faces a very different test on this handicap debut over the same trip.
The daughter of Noble Mission, who runs in the sky blue silks of Middleham Park Racing, is relatively unexposed and sets out off a workable looking mark of 76.
More experience will be key to Archie’s Churchill colt Prime Objective, who is very much a work in progress. He was too green to do himself justice on debut but we’ll be looking for progress.
I don’t know much about Richard Hughes’s newcomer Chief White Face in the maiden (3.45) but Jaber Abdullah’s gelding is bred for this trip and his trainer can be relied upon to have him well prepared for his racecourse debut.
Mehmento can pass Good Friday trial
I’ll almost certainly be heading to Newcastle on Tuesday to ride Archie’s Mehmento in a conditions race – a dress rehearsal for Good Friday’s Sprint Final there.
Hambleton Racing’s four-year-old has excelled over seven furlongs, winning on Fibresand and Tapeta at Southwell, and was classy enough to win a Listed race over that trip at Epsom last summer.
The son of Mehmas has the speed to cope with a drop in distance, however, particularly on a track as stiff as this one, and the long straight will help him work his way into the race.
It promises to be a good test of his Finals Day credentials with battle-hardened sprinters like Judicial and Venturous looking likely to turn up.
Passport ready for Qatar winner Outbox
I’ll have to keep my passport handy this year for Archie’s gallant stayer Outbox, who gave me some thrill when winning a local Group 1 in Qatar last weekend and earning over £400,000 for his owners Hambleton Racing in the process.
A Listed winner at Newmarket last summer, he’s been a fantastic flagbearer for his proud owners who are now looking forward to a globetrotting year which could include a trip to The States.
Hambleton also have their Group One star Glen Shiel to look forward to, of course. He’s back in work now at Archie’s and looks magnificent following a winter break.
I’m not certain what his first assignment will be but I can’t wait to get back on him.