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16 February 2024

The first-ever running of the Group 3 BetUK Winter Derby at Southwell Racecourse next weekend promises to be one of the strongest renewals in the race’s illustrious 26-year history.

The winter’s most prestigious Flat race is the biggest ever to be staged at the Nottinghamshire track, which was upgraded to a Tapeta surface in 2021 and is widely considered one of the best of its kind in the world.

Held at Lingfield Park since its inception in 1998, the middle-distance showpiece has attracted entries for horses with a global profile and will be screened live on ITV and Sky Sports Racing at 3.20 on Saturday, 24th February.

The star attraction is international performer Lord North, who will fly out to the Middle East next month in a bid to win the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year. Trained in Newmarket by John and Thady Gosden, the eight-year-old has already won over £6 million in prize money and attempts to follow up his win in the Winter Derby 12 months ago.

He is likely to be joined by stable companions Lion’s Pride and Forest Of Dean in the 11-furlong feature, which has previously been run over a mile and a quarter. The former progressed to win the Listed Floodlit Stakes at Kempton Park in November on only his fifth career start while his senior stable companion was a Winter Derby winner himself in 2021.

Lord North, however, isn’t the only star among the entries to have achieved worldwide acclaim. William Haggas’s Dubai Honour has himself amassed over £3 million in claiming top-level races in France and Australia.

One of the best All-Weather performers in recent seasons has been Roger Varian’s steel grey Tyrrhenian Sea, who finished second in the £200,000 Easter Classic in 2022 before winning the Listed Quebec Stakes at Lingfield in December and is another strong contender. 

Godolphin’s one-time Epsom Derby fancy Military Order, who was second in the Winter Derby Trial last month, will hopefully take his chance along with Cambridgeshire winner Astro King and Qipco 2,000 Guineas fourth Eydon, who will have his first start for Andrew Balding.

The Kingsclere trainer also has last year’s Dante Stakes hero The Foxes in the race, but he’s more likely to head to Saudi Arabia for the valuable Neom Cup, leaving promising Kempton winner Teumessias Fox to represent owners King Power alongside Eydon.

Mark Clayton, executive director at Southwell, says: “This is the biggest race ever to take place at our racecourse so it’s really exciting to be making history. The quality of the entry shows how highly regarded our new Tapeta track is among the top owners and trainers.”

The Winter Derby has been the jewel in the crown of All-Weather racing since Running Stag won the inaugural race in 1998 for Philip Mitchell, father of top jockey Jack Mitchell. Since then the names of top horses like Tranquil Tiger, Grendisar and Alenquer have had their names etched on the trophy.

John Gosden is the most successful trainer in its history. He’s won the race four times in the last five years with Wissahickon, Dubai Warrior, Forest Of Dean and, of course, Lord North.

The Winter Derby will be complemented by the Listed Hever Sprint Stakes, which also switches from Lingfield where it was first run in 2003. The five-furlong dash has strong links with Southwell’s resident trainer Scott Dixon, whose father Paul’s No Time won it 20 years ago for Frankie Dettori.

In 2022, Scott trained One Night Stand to victory in the hands of Hollie Doyle and aims to supplement that notable success with the family’s course specialist Fine Wine when the Hever gets the action underway at 2.45 on Saturday.


16th February 2024

By Simon Mapletoft

Southwell Racecourse

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