SOME may criticise the all-weather, but it is doubtful whether owner Nigel Shields is among them.

His Sergeant York landed the Winter Derby at Lingfield on Saturday in superb style, hitting the track from the moment the gates opened and keeping tight to his number one slot on the rail, a 25-1 winner (33-1 early prices).

David Barron's charge was noted the previous week being hampered by a bump at Wolverhampton and northern sharp eyes will have remembered and backed this long-priced success.

Pity Kevin Darley, due to ride the winner, who injured a wrist in a Newmarket gallops fall that morning, but Richard Hughes made a gallant substitute.

Shields said his winner, who cost him just £12,000 from a Newmarket claiming race (where the runners can be bought by sealed bid), may now go to race in America. The owner has Blakeset, formerly with David Barron, there with Michael Dickinson, the ex-Yorkshire trainer, and Rouge, a recent winner with Pat Malone at Turfway.

Charge followed the same day with the last on the Lingfield card for the owner and again there on Monday, part of a treble, Night City going in at Lingfield and Ron's Pet at Southwell. Karl Burke, who has hit a purple patch of late, trains the first two and Barron the last.

Burke's young jockey Neil Callan was also successful for George Moore on Arc, while Ann Duffield won with Burning Truth, young Lee Enstone up.

Patrick Haslam's China Castle notched a career total of £106,000 in prize money. Of his 21 wins, 20 have been on the all-weather. David Nicholls had a first win for ten weeks with Sue Me, while Alan Swinbank had a first win since gaining a training licence in his own right at Melsonby.

One of those well beaten on Saturday by Sergeant York, Compton Bolter, is to run tomorrow in Dubai, where Darley, who thankfully is recovered, will ride Tim Easterby's Pipalong.

Also running there is Nigel Tinkler's Sugarfoot, but sadly David Nicholls' great sprinter Tayseer will be missing. He had to be put down on Wednesday after breaking a pastern during exercise.

A long way from the high life in the desert, but welcome winners abroad nonetheless, have been had in Mijas, Spain, recently by owner David Faulkner of Brafferton.

He and his wife Betty spend about three months a year out there and last November he bought two at Doncaster sales - Just Bremner, a gelding formerly with the Easterbys, and Paradis Yanshuo, a filly from Eric Alston's yard.

He sent them to Peter Hayley, who hails originally from South Kilvington and who trains in Spain. Both have won since Christmas and the filly has also taken a second and a third. The gelding has taken two thirds as well, leaving Faulkner sixth in the owners' table at the track, having won more than a million pesetas.

His first winner was at Stockton 32 years ago, but last season he had no UK winner and said he was a bit fed up with British racing. In Spain, although it is a dirt track, the best race is worth £120,000 (30m pesetas) and others at least £3-£4,000.

Whether on the golden sands of Dubai, the rolling turf of Doncaster now the flat season has started, the Equitrack of Lingfield or the dirt of Mijas, a winner is a winner.

Catterick's first flat meeting is still on for Wednesday, but now the revised Cheltenham Festival looks shaky again, as foot-and-mouth cases have been diagnosed nearer to the course. Racing authorities are making contingency plans to re-route some of the races to Aintree.

The Queen has joined the debate over racing during the farming crisis, asking officials to think carefully, but trainer Ferdy Murphy, who was persuaded to resume running, had a winner this week as Hindiana visited Huntingdon. Norman Mason had two good winners from his Crook base, as did his neighbour Howard Johnson with the enigmatic My Shenandoah.

The Week's Winners

Key: The flat season having opened today as we go to press, all previous results on turf this week were National Hunt (jumps), except for all-weather flat racing (AW). f = furlong (8f = 1mile); chs = steeplechase; hdl = hurdles race; NHf = National Hunt flat race (bumper). Hb = homebred by owner.

Thursday last week. - Huntingdon: (hdl) Red Striker (trained by Norman Mason, at Crook; owned by permit holder himself), ridden by Richard Guest; (hdl) Hindiana (Ferdy Murphy, West Witton; Paul Green), Dean Gallagher.

Wolverhampton AW: (9f) Arc (George Moore, Middleham; Mrs A Roddis), Neil Callan; Burning Truth (Ann Duffield, Constable Burton; Middleham Park Racing IV), Lee Enstone.

Friday. - Lingfield (mixed card): (7fAW) Stormy Voyage (Karl Burke, Coverham; Mrs Elaine M Burke), Darren Williams.

Saturday. - Lingfield (mixed meeting): (10f AW) Sergeant York (David Barron, Maunby; Nigel Shields), Richard Hughes; (6f AW) Charge (Karl Burke; Nigel Sheilds), Neil Callan.

Market Rasen: (hdl) Ulusaba (Norman Mason), Richard Guest; My Shenandoah (Howard Johnson, Crook; Gordon Brown/Bert Wilson), Adie Smith

Monday. - Lingfield AW: (6f) Charge (Karl Burke; Nigel Shields), JD Smith; (10f) Night City (Karl Burke; Nigel Shields), Paul Doe.

Southwell AW: (7f) Ron's Pet (David Barron; Nigel Shields), Neil Callan.

Tuesday. - No DST winners Fontwell, Warwick.

Wednesday. - Southwell AW: (12f) China Castle (Patrick Haslam, Middleham; Middleham Park I & Others), Dean McKeown; (16f) Batoutoftheblue (Alan Swinbank, Melsonby; Mrs I Gibson), Fergal Lynch; (5f) Sue Me (David Nicholls, Sessay; T G Meynell), Tony Hamilton