Lancelot Du Lac has developed into a real all-weather specialist with his last seven starts on a synthetic surface yielding six wins and one second and he looks to have a major chance of continuing that run of impressive form in Saturday’s Betway Hever Sprint Stakes at Lingfield. The Listed contest represents a drop back to the minimum distance of 1000 metres but it’s arguable that the seven-year-old is even better over it than he is at 1200 metres. The betting market will have this as a match between Lancelot Du Lac and Pretend after they finished first and fifth earlier in the month in the Listed Cleves Stakes over 1200 metres at this track. Charlie Appleby’s Pretend is a high-class sprinter and nothing went right last time having failed to settle and never getting room inside the final couple of furlongs, so he will almost certainly be sent off favourite. However while Pretend did win Saturday’s contest two seasons ago he is undoubtedly better over a furlong further and he will need better luck in running. Races at Lingfield can be messy and that plays into the uncomplicated Lancelot Du Lac’s favour, as he tends to settle nicely on the pace. Saturday’s winner gains an automatic and free place over 1200 metres in the the All-Weather Sprint Championships on April 14 and I still really like Pretend for that big day but feel he could be vulnerable on Saturday once again to Lancelot Du Lac.
Tony Carrol’s Boom The Groom also hit the line strongly when third behind Lancelot Du Lac in the Cleves Stakes but didn’t get luck in running subsequently in a class 2 handicap at Wolverhampton over 1000 metres and it’s possible that the six-year-old needs the extra trip nowadays. This distance however is ideal for the progressive Verne Castle who has now won five of his last six starts all over the trip on an all-weather surface. In the process the Andrew Balding-trained four-year-old has been raised 23 pounds by the handicapper and now takes the considerable step up from class 4 handicap company. Verne Castle is highly-rated by his trainer but he does need to improve another 19 pounds to match Pretend and that looks a tough ask.
The one dark horse on Saturday is Ride Like The Wind who will be having his first run for Kevin Ryan since moving over from France. The five-year-old has only once raced on an all-weather surface and is better suited by further but does boast some very good turf form in winning a Group 3 and having been tried at Group 1 level two seasons ago in the 2000 Guineas and the Prix de la Foret. Saturday is a watching brief but he’s an intriguing horse moving forwards.
Live on Sky Racing 1, Saturday is one of the big all-weather meetings of the UK winter and is the final stepping stone for many before All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday.