Walk Of Stars bids to cement his Epsom claims in the SBK Derby Trial at Lingfield on Saturday.
Following the surprise defeat of New London in the Chester Vase earlier in the week, Walk Of Stars appears to be trainer Charlie Appleby’s chief Derby contender.
Impressive at Nottingham in the autumn, the Dubawi colt doubled his tally when getting the better of stablemate Hafit at Newbury last month and will be a hot favourite to follow up this weekend.
Having seen his subsequent Derby and King George hero Adayar beaten into second at Lingfield 12 months ago, Appleby will be hoping Walk Of Stars can go one better under William Buick.
He told the Godolphin website: “We have been delighted with how Walk Of Stars has progressed so far and the run at Newbury has certainly brought him on.
“We were keen to take him here to gain more experience – he has done a lot of his racing on conventional tracks, so we wanted to challenge him a bit more.”
Appleby has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Natural World – a son of Frankel who won a Newbury maiden on his racecourse debut three weeks ago.
Natural World, who will be ridden by Jack Mitchell, does not hold a Derby entry but is in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Appleby added: “Natural World has definitely come forward mentally and physically since his debut, when he didn’t surprise us by winning.
“We thought that we would dip our toe at this level and see where we are for the future.
“They both head into this in great shape and the step up in trip is hopefully going to see further improvement.”
The last horse to complete the Lingfield-Epsom double was 2019 scorer Anthony Van Dyck, one of five previous winners for Aidan O’Brien.
This year the Ballydoyle handler relies on United Nations, who finished fourth behind the Appleby-trained Nahanni in last month’s Blue Riband Trial at Epsom.
“He had a couple of runs last year and his first run back at Epsom, it looked like he needed it,” said O’Brien, who dominated the trials at Chester this week.
“This is a step up in trip, but we’ve been very happy with him since Epsom.
“We always thought he stay further than 10 furlongs which is why he’s going for the Lingfield trial.”
The other two runners are David Menuisier’s Lionel and the Martyn Meade-trained Zechariah.
Lionel was only three-quarters of a length behind Natural World when third at Newbury, though Menuisier feels he would have fared better had he hit his stride quicker and not encountered traffic problems in running.
“He has come out of the race great, we felt he was beaten by the circumstances more than the opposition that day,” he said.
“Having missed the break, that wasn’t ideal, he made some headway but it was a bit too late.
“The horse would have learned a great deal that day and would have stripped fitter for it as well, we almost consider him to have won and are moving on by stepping up in class.”
Meanwhile Meade expects his dual winner Zechariah to improve on his comeback run when sixth in the Craven at Newmarket.
He said: “We didn’t have him completely revved up for the Craven and hopefully he’s a horse that will settle and a mile and a half will be better for him.
“He’s doing everything right and I think you can put the Craven to one side as that probably wasn’t the right race to run him in.
“He’s a big horse and hopefully he can settle round Lingfield and come and do the business where it matters – we live on these dreams!”