THE Lingfield Derby and Oaks trials used to be regularly disregarded as credible stepping stones to Epsom but not anymore.
It was all change in 2019 when Anapurna and Anthony Van Dyck went on to record a classic double of sorts for the track more known for its all-weather surface.
The following year, the Derby Trial produced a hot favourite for Epsom in English King and last season, Adayar finished second in Surrey, before going one better in the one that matters most.
Well, that statement is up for debate. The breeding industry is seemingly slowly turning the tide away from the Derby, with the need for speed greater than ever. That end-game, the Derby resembling something like what the FA Cup is to football these days, is a bleak prospect because there is no greater race on the flat racing scene than the 12-furlong classic at Epsom.
Thankfully, two sizeable ships in Godolphin and Coolmore still steer towards Tattenham Corner and, after an enthralling Guineas that saw first blood go to the royal blue, the Derby and Oaks are the next big battles to be won.
Walk Of Stars is hot favourite at Lingfield today and Godolphin could do with getting a trial winner on the board after a pasting by team Ballydoyle at Chester this week. O’Brien took all three recognised trials, most notably the Chester Vase with Changingoftheguard, who proved much too good for Godolphin’s prime Derby contender New London.
Walk Of Stars bids to take that billing today and it’s most interesting that he does so at Lingfield. Actually the route he has taken so far is already interesting. Charlie Appleby’s colt won his maiden at Nottingham, just like Adayar, then he won the same conditions race at Newbury that Hurricane Lane won, and now he comes to Lingfield, just like Adayar again.
He is backed up by Natural World, while O’Brien sends over United Nations, who has already finished fourth in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom. Don’t rule out Lionel either - he was finishing fast behind Natural World at Newbury and should appreciate the step up to 12 furlongs today.
Sport is cyclical and while the Lingfield trials are hot now, they may not be in the coming years. With that said, the Derby Trial at Leopardstown, not run under the Derrinstown sponsorship for the first time since 1986, is surely due a Derby winner.
The race produced the Derby winner for three years in a row at the beginning of the millennium but none since, with Fame And Glory the one to go closest in 2009 when second to Sea The Stars.
Tomorrow’s Derby Trial has the potential to throw up a live contender. It’s interesting that Aidan O’Brien, going for his 15th win in the race, relies on just one runner in Stone Age - winless as a juvenile last year but Group 1 placed. He was an easy winner of a Navan maiden on his first start this term and looks a big player. However, French Claim could be an even bigger player for Paddy Twomey. He won a better race at Cork by a similar distance and gets a chance to prove his worth in the capital now.
Twomey has started his season in his usual efficient manner. The man doesn’t waste entry fees. Of his 20 runners this season, seven have won (35% strike rate), four have finished third and two in fourth. After sending out La Petite Coco to win a Group 2 last season, his goal is naturally now set at a Group 1 but he might just have a live classic chance as well with this Teme Valley-owned colt.
THE Irish Stallion Farms EBF Blue Wind Stakes (3.25) often throws up a smart filly for the season ahead and the in-form Joseph O’Brien may have the key to today’s renewal at Naas.
He has three of the seven declared in Albula, Tosen Lydia and Tranquil Lady, with the last-named the only one of the trio to hold an entry in the Oaks. Tranquil Lady has already had a run this season, having finished fourth to Concert Hall in the Listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan.
She was a little disappointing there, considering she was sent off favourite, but at a slight push yesterday, O’Brien still nominated her as potentially the best of his trio.
“We were hoping for more from Tranquil Lady at Navan but she still ran well,” he said. “We think she has developed again since that and we’d be hopeful she can progress from it.
“There are pros and cons to all three fillies but if I had to say, she might be the one. Albula is starting off and we think she’ll like this trip. It’s a good opportunity to get blacktype for her and the same for Tosen Lydia, who won nicely at this course already.
“It’s a big step up for her into stakes company but she is a nice filly and hopefully can progress again.”
Dermot Weld is without a winner in over a month but he has a good chance later on this card with Ezine and he has the potential favourite here in Eclat De Lumiere, a Moyglare filly who won her sole start at the Curragh last season.
She would be a significant winner, not only stopping the rot for her trainer, but by joining an illustrious list of Weld-trained fillies to win here that includes Tarnawa, Zhukova, Tarfasha and Princess Highway.