Cai Shen can give the Hannons another Winter Derby success

TOMORROW’S Blue Square Winter Derby (3.25pm) at Lingfield Park is the richest race of the all-weather season and Chris Wall’s Premio Loco is the 7/2 favourite with Coral. He is the highest rated in the field, but he has to carry a 5lb penalty and has yet to win over 1m2f.

In fairness to the eight-year-old, he was only beaten a nose by Richard Hannon’s Scintillo in this race in 2009, but he can’t be improving at his age and I’m happy to take him on. Hannon’s CAI SHEN has been a major market mover this week and that is a big enough hint for me to suggest backing him at 5/1 with Coral.

The four-year-old is yet to race on the all-weather, but he works on it at home and he has some really solid form from last year. This race has clearly been the plan and although his draw in stall 13 is far from ideal, Jamie Spencer is the ideal pilot to execute a perfectly timed hold-up ride. It doesn’t look the strongest of renewals and I’d be very surprised if Cai Shen didn’t finish in the first three.

Junoob has shown incredible improvement over the past few months, but this is a big step up, while I’m not sure if Circumvent, Riggins or Myplacelater are quite good enough. However, don’t rule out William Haggas’ Sooraah, who has the assistance of Ryan Moore and won a decent handicap at Meydan last month.

It could be a good day for the Hannon stable as GUSTO must surely go very close in the 2.25pm. He finished last season with a bang and I expect him to see off Bannock, Gatepost and stablemate Crown Dependency.

The Hever Sprint Stakes (2.55pm) is a top quality Listed sprint and it would be great if the old boy Borderlescott could start his season with a bang. However, he may need a couple of runs to blow the cobwebs away and the two I like are Noble Storm and MEDICEAN MAN. Both go well fresh, but the latter has winning form on Polytrack and Paul Hanagan is an eye-catching booking.

GEORGE GURU has been mightily consistent this winter and he was really unlucky behind Forceful Appeal over course and distance earlier this month. He came with a late rattle that day and hopefully he will get a stronger pace to aim at in the 4.00pm.

The jumps action takes a back seat now until Aintree, but there are a couple of decent races at Newbury tomorrow afternoon. IKORODU ROAD held on grimly to beat Grand National fancy Junior in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last time and he tends to run his best races on flat tracks. Charlie Poste was in the saddle that day and the duo are fancied to notch up another win in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase (3.40pm).

You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile.

POINTERS...

GUSTO 2.25pm Lingfield (tomorrow)
MEDICEAN MAN e/w 2.55pm Lingfield (tomorrow)
CAI SHEN 3.25pm Lingfield (tomorrow)
IKORODU ROAD 3.40pm Newbury (tomorrow)
GEORGE GURU 4.00pm Lingfield (tomorrow)