Nice Style can step up again
This afternoon's Winter Derby over a mile and a quarter at Lingfield is a far cry from the glamour of the day's other televised Flat action at Meydan, but the 13-runner Group Three is, nonetheless, interesting from a betting perspective.
On official ratings, the weights appear to be tilted in favour of a few 100-plus rated horses, with little in the way of an improving youngster that might be on the up. Dansili Dancer, Nideeb and Pachattack are the three that come out best.
Of those three, Pachattack makes the most appeal, as she progressed well throughout last term and is nicely in. Gerard Butler's five-year-old won two Listed events in succession during the summer, before capping an autumn spell in Canada with an easy triumph on the Polytrack at Woodbine in November.
At today's weights, Pachattack is favourably in, as she receives 3lb from all bar one, yet she is the third highest rated off 106. That said, she has never won first time up, and this is a competitive race in which to be attempting to do so now.
Nice Style, however, is preferred for the win. A four-time winner for Ger Lyons in 2008, the Desert Style gelding has clearly had his problems, as he made just one start, when second in a maiden hurdle for David Pipe, during the following two years.
On his reappearance for Jeremy Gask over 10 furlongs at Kempton in November, Nice Style ran promisingly to be third. Next time at Wolverhampton, he failed to see out a mile and a half when taking fifth, but left that behind him when reverting to 10 furlongs to score over today's course and distance off a mark of 94 in January.
The second home that day has since come out and won a conditions race, while it's also of note that Nice Style has now won twice and been placed twice on his only four Polytrack outings.
Off an official rating of 97 now, he will have to step up again to mix it with the higher-rated trio, but it is possible that there is more to come from him, given that his lay-off stalled his previous progress as a three-year-old.
Naturally, the fact that he has a run under his belt, which none of the leading fancies do, will stand to him, so 13/2 looks decent value.
Over in Meydan, 9/2 shot Cape Blanco has a chance of landing a third Group One of his career. Last year's Irish Derby and Champion Stakes hero was out of his depth in the Prix de L'Arc in October, but the Dubai World Cup is an inferior contest, and the favourite Twice Over is cursed with a wide draw in 12 for a second year in a row.
Cape Blanco will break from stall four, which must be a positive when you see that the first four home last year came from stalls five, seven, one and four. This will be no easy assignment first time out for Jamie Spencer's mount, but Cape Blanco has a 100pc record on his seasonal debuts, and Aidan O'Brien's horses are running well.
The highlight of the jumps programme is the mares' novice hurdle at Newbury. A highly competitive field of 18 is set to do battle for the winner's prize of £21,000.
Nicky Henderson dominates the line-up with no less than four representatives, Barry Geraghty opting for Line Freedom. That one was the only horse to give the smart Sparky May a race before falling at the last over course and distance in November, but in two starts since she has unseated at long odds-on and been beaten into second.
Semi Colon, under Tony McCoy, may be a more solid option. Having won a bumper in November, the Robin Des Champs six-year-old was twice beaten on slow ground over flights, before winning nicely on good going at Exeter recently. With conditions in her favour again, she could take a bit of beating off just 10st 7lb.
In the equivalent chase, Asturienne might just shade it from Geraghty's Henderson-trained mount Kerada. The latter has been hugely impressive in winning three from three over fences, but Asturienne is now a stone better off than when she went down by six lengths to Kerada on her fencing debut.
Best bet: Semi Colon