Dear My Friend looks to build on an impressive comeback in the mile BetMGM Tandridge Stakes (2.37pm), the first of two Listed contests at Lingfield Park on Sunday, February 4.
The former Derby contender overcame interference to record a two-length victory in a mile handicap at Newcastle’s AWC Trials Day, his first appearance since undergoing wind surgery and a gelding operation.
Dear My Friend is already a Listed winner on the all-weather, having landed the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle on his first start of 2023.
Trainer Charlie Johnston said: “Dear My Friend was very impressive on New Year’s Day and this race has been the target since.
“We were not surprised by what he did at Newcastle as his work in the lead up had been very good and we felt we had him back to his best.
“The question mark now is whether he can replicate that form away from Newcastle, which is where his best two runs have been.
“It is going to be a different test in a small field around Lingfield but, on his performance at Newcastle, I think he looks the one to beat.”
The lineup also features Diderot (James Ferguson), who landed a 10-furlong handicap at the course on Good Friday and made a winning return in a mile event at Chelmsford in mid-December.
Bopedro makes his first appearance for David O’Meara since the autumn, when he finished third in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket and fourth in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day.
William Haggas’ Nine Tenths tackles a mile for the first time on the back of two progressive efforts over seven furlongs. The Kodiac filly scored impressively at Wolverhampton before going down by less than a length on AWC Trials Day, when giving the winner Shades Of Summer 20lb.
Course and distance winner Maysan (Ian Williams) completes the field.
Leading all-weather sprinters Annaf (Mick Appleby)and Diligent Harry (Clive Cox) meet again in the Listed BetUK Kachy Stakes (3.12pm) over six furlongs.
Annaf prevailed by a neck when the duo clashed in the race 12 months ago before Diligent Harry reversed the form in the Sprint final on Good Friday.
Both horses return from a break, with Annaf shouldering a 5lb penalty for his success in the G3 Bengough Stakes at Ascot in October.
Clive Cox told Sky Sports Racing: “I am really pleased with Diligent Harry – he has done really well over the winter and his preparation has been very pleasing indeed.
“He started his season in this race last year, finishing second to Annaf, and hopefully it can lead on to another good season.
“It is always handy when Ryan Moore can step in. It will be the first time he has ridden him, but that holds no concerns and we are pleased to have him.
"A change of strategy is probably afoot after this, bearing in mind that the Sprint final is now a handicap. We will be guided by his seasonal return, but it will be tough for him in a handicap with his rating.”
Diligent Harry is not to the only former all-weather Sprint champion in the field, with David O’Meara saddling 2021 scorer Summerghand.
A strong lineup also includes Irish challenger Coachello (Gordon Elliott), who secured Listed honours in Dubai last year and won a pair of class two handicaps in the UK before Christmas.
James Fanshawe’s Willem Twee has a 3lb penalty as he looks to follow up his win in the Listed BetUK Golden Rose Stakes over the course and distance in November.
The X O, who was second in the G3 Pavilion Stakes on his penultimate start, and Wolverhampton scorer Clearpoint complete the field for John Ryan and Charlie Fellowes respectively.
Sunday also sees a valuable evening fixture at Newcastle under the lights, with Intervention (Mick Appleby) and The Caltonian (Linda Perratt) heading a maximum field of 14 for the Boost Your Acca At BetMGM Handicap at 7.00pm.