Trials tend to have a mixed record when it comes to offering up clues for the actual race itself, with some proving to be more helpful than others. Whilst Lingfield's Winter Derby Trial may initially fail to convince on that front - only Grendisar in 2016 went on to win the Winter Derby in the last ten renewals - Saturday's Winter Derby looks like it could turn out to be a mirror image of the trial from a pace perspective.
Who is likely to set the pace?
Timeform's Early Position Map predicted a lack of early pace in the trial three weeks ago, something which the winner Utmost took full advantage of - making all under Robert Havlin, who according to our Jockey Dashboard rides horses from the front/prominently more frequently than your average jockey.
Havlin partners up with Utmost once more on Saturday, and, with very little early pace expected, Utmost is likely to attempt to repeat the trick and attempt take advantage once more. He looks to have a strong chance of doing exactly that, but has 6 lb to find with the best of these on weight-adjusted ratings.
Battle Of Marathon is one of just two who reoppose Utmost here, and very much seemed to excel himself three weeks ago, finishing third at a huge price. The six-year-old came from further back than ideal and it could be a similar story here. Petite Jack, meanwhile, finished sixth, unable to quicken from a good position behind the leader.
Who are the leading contenders?
Gabrial is a familiar name in the fold and continues to be kept busy at the grand old age of nine, but his tendency to start slowly is a concern here, having been well held when on the back foot from the start in a conditions race at Wolverhampton last time out. Mr Owen was in front of him that night, finding it just too tough to concede 3 lb to a smart sort, and he can once again give his running here. Master The World is very competitive at this level on a going day, and would have claims if bouncing back from a below-par run in a listed race here in December.
Khalidi competed at the highest level as a three-year-old last season, and whilst his supplementary entry for the Epsom Derby proved a little too optimistic, he ran to a smart level when placing at both Royal Ascot and Goodwood and would have claims if fully tuned up on reappearance. The returning Autocratic made his Group-level breakthrough in last year's Brigadier Gerard at Sandown, though would need to fare better than his subsequent two starts at Haydock and Windsor.
Can Convey win back-to-back renewals?
Last year's Winter Derby winner Convey is another who returns from an absence, not seen since running below form in the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin last May. That was perhaps a little too hot for him though, and he had been in the form of his life prior to that - bettering his Winter Derby win in the Easter Classic on Good Friday. He won this race last year on the back of a lengthy break, and has to be respected in his bid to win back-to-back renewals.
The field is completed by the highly progressive Clear Skies, who has done nothing but progress at Dundalk this winter, racking up five wins in her last six starts. Aidan O'Brien is more widely known for his exploits in the Epsom Derby, but this race could well have been the plan for Clear Skies for a while.
The five-year-old could only hit the frame when stepped up to two miles in December, but she bounced back a month later with her best effort yet, producing a smart performance to forge clear with plenty in hand in a 1m2f handicap. She tops our weight-adjusted ratings and looks ready for the step up in class.
What is the best bet in the Winter Derby?
Utmost made all when winning the trial here three weeks ago, and should make a bold bid to repeat the trick here. However, in Clear Skies he meets a highly progressive rival, who should be well positioned under Ryan Moore - she is fancied to take this step up in class in her stride. Last year's winner Convey and Khalidi are respected.
Clear Skies to win Saturday's Winter Derby at Lingfield at 3/1