LINGFIELD'S Bet Direct-sponsored Winter Derby is a relatively new addition to the all-weather calendar, but it has not been slow to attract some top-notch performers, lured no doubt by the £55,000 purse on offer.

A couple of established class acts turn out for this afternoon's showpiece, notably Compton Bolter and Hail The Chief, plus a brace of young pretenders in the shape of the fast-improving three-year-olds, Moyne Pleasure and Nose The Trade.

Add to this the consistent handicapper Resplendent Star, last week's runaway Lincoln Trial winner, Invader, and the ingredients are all in the melting pot for a thrilling race.

The Official Ratings suggest Compton Bolter (3.55) has a distinct edge over his opponents, so even though it looks like he could start a short-priced favourite, he has to be the one on all punters' short-lists.

Gerard Butler's colt finished a meritorious sixth in last season's 2000 Guineas, as well as scoring at Newbury, and latterly over track and trip when he shook off the attentions of Crimson Tide seemingly still in cruise gear.

The only slight worry about the selection is his lack of a recent outing, but Butler's stable are clearly in great heart, having enjoyed a double at the track yesterday.

The plan is to run Compton Bolter in next weekend's Dubai's Sheema Classic, provided all goes well today.

For the each-way "thieves", I recommend a small investment on Cardiff Arms, a useful sort on the level, who must be pretty straight having had a spin over hurdles in December.

The jumping prize money isn't bad either at the popular Surrey venue with the preceding Lingfield Gold Cup Handicap Hurdle worth in total £20,000.

Two of the 13-runner line-up are poised on five-timers, Guard Duty and Regal Holly (3.25).

Heavy ground conditions will suit both the in-form duo, with preference marginally for the latter, who recorded a particularly fast time when outgunning a decent field in a bog at Ascot on her most recent outing.

Don't expect to see the ultimate hold-up horse, Reach The Clouds (4.25), featuring prominently in the early stages of the two-mile Sapphire Handicap Chase.

John Upson's charge tends to idle if he hits the front too soon, so jockey Bernie Gratten will have to bide his time if he is to unleash the nine-year-old at the appropriate moment.

Thankfully Tonoco (2.40) adds considerable sparkle to an otherwise run-of-the-mill National Hunt card at Market Rasen.

Sue Smith's rangy eight-year-old crushed some heady reputations when opening his account over fences at Carlisle in February.

One of the notable scalps claimed was Ballinclay King, reckoned by Ferdy Murphy to be genuine Championship material. Mind you, Tonoco's previous form over hurdles entitles him to challenge for major novices' honours over the bigger obstacles. Only injury has stopped him during the past couple of seasons.

The Leprechaun Handicap Hurdle provides Red Ark (3.10) with an ideal opportunity to make a winning return to hurdles.

The eight-year-old has been running with great credit over fences this season, so much so his mark in that sphere at one time reached 135.

Back over timber, Red Ark finds himself far better treated at just 112. And taking the figures at face value, Norman Mason's gelding should technically win this relatively weak event with his head in his chest.

Robin Dickin's patience with Sissinghurst Flyer (4.45) paid handsome dividends at Leicester where the bold-jumping mare won with a ton in hand.

Training problems meant she had to spend the year 2000 recuperating, and Dickin has sensibly brought her to the boil nice and slowly this term.

Having prevailed at Ludlow, Wincanton, Wetherby and Hereford the year before last, it's easy to understand the confidence behind Sissinghurst Flyer's follow-up attempt in the Irish Rover Handicap.

l Yesterday's Southwell nap selection, Count Calyspo, obliged at odds of 9-2 for supporters of Janus.

l A field of 13 is set to go to post for the world's richest race next Saturday. The line-up for the $15.25m Emirates-sponsored Dubai World Cup was finalised yesterday with the withdrawal of sole British challenger Endless Hall.

Luca Cumani's charge is instead set to switch to the Dubai Sheema Classic on the same Nad Al Sheba card.

Cumani is eying the move as his five-year-old has done all his racing on turf, while the World Cup is staged on dirt.

The trainer told the local Gulf News newspaper: ''I know he likes the grass here, because he trains well on it. He's trained well on dirt as well, but it's difficult training and racing on a new surface. So the safest bet is to go for the turf race.''

The 13 runners for the World Cup will include three Godolphin representatives, namely Best Of The Bests, Ekraar and Broche