The Winter Derby heralds the start of another Category One season with six heats at Hove this evening. Check out Darrell Williams' views and best bets.
"Sonic Spur who enjoyed little luck when beaten favourite in the Oaks final is a strong choice in heat three (20:21) with Chris Akers bitch likely to improve for the benefit of a sighter last week"
Having clashed in a dress-rehearsal for this competition last week Antigua Romeo and King Sheeran have now been drawn together in a thrilling opening heat (19:49). Mark Wallis' first named made all when coming out on top in that clash but with King Sheeran having found trouble in tasting his first defeat after a run of six victories there is no guarantee the form will be upheld. While it's a race possibly left alone given the close form comparisons between the pair Liz McNair's charge had previously run unbeaten through the Olympic here over the slightly longer 515m trip and while only tentative that's enough to sway my decision.
Sonic can go boom
Sonic Spur who enjoyed little luck when beaten favourite in the Oaks final however is a strong choice in heat three (20:21) with Chris Akers bitch likely to improve for the benefit of a sighter last week. An impressive winner at Nottingham on her latest start, arguably a personal best run, she can take the scalp of progressive Killeacle Gus who may not be ideally suited to the inside draw. With plenty of upside to her form therefore, a small ante-post wager with Sportsbook is also suggested.
Dolly looks a hot jolly
Queen Dolly, an improving sort judged on her Central Park form, looks another potential scorer for the McNairs and can step up on last week's trial to claim a competitive but winnable final heat (21:08) where Sidaz Jet, not quite at his peak after a lengthy absence, and Winetavern Curly who is far more effective when drawn stripes can be opposed.
Litter-brother King Louis could make it another excellent night for the McNairs by taking the scalp of classy Make No Apologie in heat five (20:53). A recent verdict over his sister at Central Park confirms he is improving quickly and while his rival was an impressive winner of a puppy event here in the autumn he may not quite be in that form at the moment.
Lennon can bag another hit
And it's yet another McNair charge, King Lennon, also an Olympic finalist that gets the nod in a weak looking second heat (20:06) given his scope to step up again after notching up a CD success on his first run of the year last week.
With Jakes Magic having not quite lived up to expectations in two recent runs over the track and trip, Drahbeg Dash is fancied to snaffle the fourth heat (20:38) for Gerry Ballentine. Withdrawn ahead of the Olympic semi-final after a first-round success his spin round last week is further evidence of his liking for the circuit.
King Sheeran to win 19:49 1*
King Lennon to win 20:06 1*
Sonic Spur to win 20:21 2*
Drahbeg Dash to win 20:38 1*
King Louis to win 20:53 1*
Queen Dolly to win 21:08 2*
Sonic Spur ante-post to win 1*