Grendisar ‘as good as he was’
The view from connections ahead of the big all-weather action at Lingfield on Saturday, with two horses going for hat-tricks.
Grendisar (right): Bids to win the Winter Derby Trial again.
Marco Botti is confident Grendisar remains at the peak of his powers ahead of his bid for a third successive victory in the Betway Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield.
The popular seven-year-old claimed this Listed prize in 2015 before being narrowly beaten by Tryster in the Winter Derby itself three weeks later.
He bettered that result during a fantastic all-weather campaign last season, winning the Winter Derby Trial, the Winter Derby and the Coral Easter Classic on Good Friday.
Grendisar has been beaten on his two starts so far this season over the course and distance, but Botti is optimistic his charge can claim an eighth victory at the track this weekend.
"It looks a tough race this year, but our horse is in good form and we're looking forward to running," said the Newmarket-based Italian.
"I'm not too worried about the form of his last two runs as the races weren't really run to suit him.
"Last year it took him a couple of runs to get up to speed and I definitely think he's as good as he was this time last year.
"There is a lot of money on offer now for the finals, so people are running better horses on the all-weather than they used to.
"It won't be easy, but Grendisar loves the track and has always shown his best form at Lingfield, so we have to be hopeful."
Grendisar faces seven rivals, including his recent conqueror Battalion.
Formerly trained by William Haggas, the gelded son of Authorized made a winning debut for Jamie Osborne in a conditions race at the Surrey track in November before striking gold in the Quebec Stakes.
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Osborne, who also saddles another former Haggas inmate in Our Channel, said: "Both horses are in the same ownership and we've decided to run the two of them.
"Both horses are in the Winter Derby and the Grand Prix at St Moritz the following day.
"There are no firm plans and we're pretty fluid at the moment, but I think the most likely scenario is Battalion will stay here and go for the Winter Derby and Our Channel will go up the mountain!
"I hope and think Battalion is good enough to compete in this race and the Winter Derby. If on Saturday he can't compete at this level and there's no reason to suggest he could turn the form around, then maybe he could go up the mountain, but we'll see.
"I don't want to sound overly confident, but a mile and a quarter at Lingfield clearly suits him better than anything else and I was surprised after his performance in the Quebec that the handicapper didn't raise him from his mark of 106."
The highest-rated runner is Sir Michael Stoute's Royal Ascot winner Arab Spring, who is two from two on an artificial surface and was last seen finishing fourth in a Group One in Italy.
Decorated Knight is a fascinating contender for Roger Charlton on what will be his first competitive appearance since winning a Group Three at Leopardstown last July.
Forceful Appeal, Mythical Madness and Solar Deity complete the line-up.
Listed honours up for grabs in six-furlong sprint
Eight runners are set to go to post for the Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Cleves Stakes, including the winner of the last two renewals, Rivellino.
However, Karl Burke's sprinter looks to have his work cut out to complete the hat-trick as the lowest-rated horse in the field.
Setting the standard is Charlie Appleby's Godolphin runner Pretend, who is unbeaten at the track and impressed on his return from a break at Kempton last month.
Dean Ivory is hopeful of a bold showing from Lancelot Du Lac, who was runner-up to Alben Star in the All-Weather Sprint Championships last March and won for the first time in 12 months in a Chelmsford handicap shortly after the turn of the year.
Ivory said: "Lancelot Du Lac is very well. He won very convincingly at Chelmsford, as we know. He had been off for a while before that, but I wouldn't say he needed the run.
"It looks a hard race and, as we know, you need a bit of luck in the run around Lingfield.
"I am aiming for Good Friday. The idea after this is to go for the Hever Stakes (Lingfield, February 25), which will be his third qualifying run, and then on to Finals Day.
"He could have another run somewhere as there is a nice gap between the Hever and the final. I will have to have a look as there are not too many races for a horse like him.
"We will let the horse tell us if he needs another outing."
The David Evans-trained Gracious John is another to consider in what looks an open affair.
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