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Battalion goes to war in Winter Derby Trial

 Feb 2 2017

Unbeaten since moving to Jamie Osborne, Battalion can add Saturday’s Listed Winter Derby Trial before heading to the All-Weather Championships Finals Day.

Lingfield’s Winter Derby Trial is one of the key 1m2f (2000 metres) contests on the all-weather program with the race not only being a Fast-Track Qualifier for the All-Weather Championships Finals Day but also the winner receiving a place in the Easter Classic over the same track and distance in April.

There are 12 entries at the five-day stage which includes the brilliant all-weather star Grendisar who has won the last two renewals for trainer Marco Botti who himself has won this five times in the last seven years. Grendisar is hugely popular in the UK but he hasn’t been quite at his best in two starts this winter and it’s possible at the age of seven he is now past the peak of his powers. The seven-year-old finished third last start in the Listed Quebec Stakes behind Jamie Osborne’s Battalion who is racing in brilliant form. Also a seven-year-old, Battalion recently moved from William Haggas to Osborne and has since raced right up to his best in winning twice. He’s a hardened campaigner who possesses a quick turn of foot which is ideally suited to Lingfield and should be very competitive on Saturday. His trainer also continues in fine form having won with seven from 21 runners in the last two weeks.

Battalion’s main opposition looks to be Roger Charlton’s Decorated Knight and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Arab Spring. Decorated Knight remains a lightly-raced and talented five-year-old who will be making his all-weather debut and having his first run since winning the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown in July. That didn’t look a particularly strong Group 3 but the son of Galileo has shown his best form on better ground and with a turn of foot should be suited to this surface. However a first run on an all-weather surface always remains a question mark and Decorated Knight looks likely to be sent off at too short odds against hardened Lingfield campaigners.

Arab Spring is set to be partnered by Ryan Moore and although this is his first visit to Lingfield he is unbeaten in two starts on Kempton’s polytrack including the Group 3 September Stakes. That was over 1m4f but they went a slow pace and he was able to quicken well for a comfortable success. The seven-year-old had previously been out of his depth in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York and has since been highly-tried with two fine runs when just touched-off in a Group 3 at Ascot and fourth in a Group 1 in Italy. They were over two furlongs further than Saturday’s distance which probably just stretched his stamina and the drop back looks ideal.

The entry of Fearless Hunter adds further intrigue as the seven-year-old would be having his first run in the UK for Rune Haugen who only recently moved from Norway to Newmarket. Norwegian all-weather racing is on dirt so he needs to adapt to a different surface but brings Group 3 winning form from his native country.

The Winter Derby Trial looks certain to be a highly competitive renewal and the in-form Battalion is narrowly favoured with Arab Spring looking a big danger. Catch the Listed contest and all races from Lingfield live on Sky Racing 1 on Saturday night.

Richard Wade - Sky Racing

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