Doncaster next Saturday is going to come as an almighty culture shock for those still locked in a Cheltenham mindset, but at least they get the chance to clean up some rusty tools at Lingfield today. The climax of the all-weather season – a relative concept, it must be granted – completes another week that has reflected handsomely on Channel 4's commitment to the sport. Their crew will be as exhausted as everyone else, but that is unlikely to stop Derek Thompson treating the Bet Direct Winter Derby as a giddy new pinnacle of human experience.
It certainly presents a different kind of challenge, and some will find it a refreshing one, too. For the race can be neatly reduced to the following dilemma: the two horses with the best chance are also the two with the worst draw.
Zaham made giant strides through his first season, starting off on the all-weather, winning at Royal Ascot, and placed in three Group races. His stable has been in prolific form and strictly he sets the standard. But Silver Pivotal remains less exposed, her career having been interrupted after just four starts by injury. She resurfaced in January to win a handicap over course and distance in decisive fashion, and seems guaranteed to make the necessary improvement.
The snag is that eight of the last 10 winners of this race have started within the five stalls nearest the rail; the comfort, that Sri Diamond was ridden to success two years ago, from stall 14, by Jamie Spencer. He partners Silver Pivotal (next best 3.15) and his combination of drive and daring can get the job done.
Spencer can also win the first of the televised races on Atlantic Story (2.10), who found further improvement dropped to this trip here last time. The two Listed races can fall to Tasdeer (2.40), who had promised to live up to a fine pedigree before running a shocker on his final start, and Conquest (3.50), admittedly a fairly craven beast but perhaps the type to catch first time out with a strong pace sure to suit.
Those who cannot bear to adjust their sights to the Flat can console themselves with the John Smith's Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter. The fact that Tony McCoy rides Dante Hall, instead of his employer's other runner, probably has more to do with their relative weights than anything else – but will hardly impair the price against VEDELLE (nap 3.30). A thorough stayer, he gets his biggest test of stamina so far (albeit rain would help) and represents a stable in much better form than when he disappointed at Haydock last time. Second to the classy Mossbank as a novice, he looks on a nice mark tried in cheekpieces.
Channel 4 also pays a brief visit to Wetherby, where Sprosser (2.25) can confirm that his rating does no justice to the excellent start he has made over fences, not least against much more exposed rivals.
Nap: Vedelle(Uttoxeter 3.30)
NB: Silver Pivotal (Lingfield 3.15)