Lingfield set for winter warmer

Saturday 20th January, 3:10pm

Oh So Grand  @ 9/4
Twirling @ 7/2
Miss Bluebelle @ 5/1
Storymaker @ 6/1
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*prices correct at time of writing. 

The £100,000 Winter Oaks (Lingfield, 3-10) is the one-and-a-quarter-mile handicap at the  centre of the flat racing during the innovative Winter Million, created as a January festival in 2022. It should be the middle day of three, with jumping either side, but the freeze claimed the opening programme; however fingers are crossed for Sunday when the highlight is the much-anticipated return of L’Homme Presse in the Fitzdares-sponsored Fleur De Lys Chase.

Simon and Ed Crisford held the key to this race last time, and with Oh So Grand and Twirling running for them probably do so again. Oh So Grand was tremendous for them in 2023, winning four including the course and distance trial for this when storming by Queen Regent in the style of one that ought to be able to defy a four-pound weight rise.

Twirling, owned by Michael Tabor’s wife Doreen, has never ventured beyond a mile before, but the formbook and the stud book provide enough evidence to think she might well thrive over the extra distance, and Ryan Moore is on board on his first day this year back in Britain. Miss Bluebelle has a quick turnaround after returning from a break with a facile success at Wolverhampton last weekend, but this is much tougher.

Queen Regent is better off at the weights with Oh So Grand and wears cheekpieces for the first time. Behind The Scenes has been plying her trade in Listed races overseas and is likely to benefit from this distance increase. Storymaker has been a revelation since a tongue tie was added to her headgear, winning four races on the bounce though at a less competitive grade. Eleanor Cross is clearly unexposed, and Dayzee has some decent form including a Salisbury win in June.

Ryan Moore returns with a total of four mounts and will no doubt be subject of many Yankees or Lucky Fifteens. Away from Twirling, two are trained by Andrew Balding, for whom he has a fifteen percent strike rate, while the third is for Richard Hannon and they hit the target together about one time in seven.

After recent successes, handicap debutant Fire Demon (Balding, 12-50) and Talis Evolvere (Hannon, 2-00) both look the part. Jockey Callum Shepherd has been enjoying a fine start to 2024 on and off the track – his thoughtful intervention about Sunday night racing received acclaim even from those who didn’t agree – and the Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Orange N Blue (1-25), which shaped up pretty well over shorter at Lingfield in December and was probably a little on the luckless side last time, may well add to his tally.

At Wolverhampton (7-30), Optician (by Expert Eye) isn’t the first horse to go forward for a move from a big stable to the smaller operation of trainer Sean Lycett, as he recently demonstrated over the course and the distance, and a follow-up is on the cards.

Oh So Grand in the Winter Oaks – that was very taking last time.

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