Last year’s winner Lord North headlines 22 entries for the G3 BetUK Winter Derby, with the all-weather highlight taking place to Southwell for the first time on Saturday, February 24.
Staged over a mile and a quarter at Lingfield Park since its inception in 1998, the switch to Southwell has coincided with the race distance increasing to 11 furlongs.
David Attwood, Southwell’s Clerk of the Course, said: “We do not have a 10-furlong start and, when we looked at whether we could introduce one, it was only about 20 yards from the start of the bend.
“It also would have meant coming on and off the track via the turf course, which was not viable, so the BHA kindly allowed us to change the race distance to a mile and three furlongs.
“It is exciting because the BetUK Winter Derby will be the first Group race run here at Southwell, while the same card also features the Listed BetUK Hever Sprint.
“We are really happy with the Winter Derby entries. Lord North is the big draw but there is a lot of quality throughout with the likes of Dubai Honour and The Foxes. To have support from France and Ireland is fantastic as well.”
Lord North, one of five entries for John & Thady Gosden, has not raced since the end of March, when he became the first horse to win three consecutive renewals of the G1 Dubai Turf.
John & Thady Gosden have other noteworthy contenders as the stable seeks a fifth BetUK Winter Derby victory in six years. Lion’s Pride and Middle Earth, who both enjoyed Listed success on their latest starts, are joined by 2021 Winter Derby winner Forest Of Dean and progressive handicapper Vaguely Royal.
Dubai Honour heads two contenders for William Haggas, with the six-year-old having recorded a G1 double in Australia last year. Stable-mate Mujtaba has been off the track since finishing second in the G2 Huxley Stakes at Chester’s May festival.
Andrew Balding’s trio includes G2 Dante Stakes victor The Foxes, who followed up his York success with a fifth in the G1 Derby and luckless second in the G1 Belmont Derby in July.
Eydon is an intriguing entry as he prepares to make his belated comeback. An impressive winner of the Listed Feilden Stakes in 2022, the five-year-old has not raced since finishing fourth in that season’s G1 2,000 Guineas on his final start for Roger Varian.
Balding said: “I am very happy with The Foxes. Our preferred option for him is the Saudi Cup meeting, but he is likely to run in the Winter Derby Trial at Southwell on January 25 as a prep. We will see how that goes and then make a decision on what to do next.
“Eydon has a very high level of form, although it has been some time since he was last on the track. He has had a few niggles, but we are really pleased with him at the moment and the Winter Derby is very much the plan. The intention is to go straight there without a run – we feel that is the right thing to do.
“Our other entry Teumessias Fox will stay in handicaps for the time being. He has ability and we felt it was worth giving him the option, just in case the race cuts up.”
Leading French handler Jean-Claude Rouget has entered Glaer, while David Marnane’s Dundalk specialist Freescape is the sole Irish-based representative.
Other talented entries include last year’s runner-up
(Roger Varian), Cambridgeshire hero
(Daniel & Claire Kubler) and Godolphin’s
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