Surfing The Sand

    The stayers take centre stage this weekend when Newcastle hosts a Fast Track Qualifier for Good Friday’s £150,000 Marathon Final. All-Weather expert Simon Mapletoft looks at the key contenders for the 2m feature and spotlights fancies in two good handicaps at Gosforth Park and Wolverhampton.
  • Friday 15 December 2017
  • Blog


MOUNTAIN BELL can take another step towards emulating the achievements of stable companion Moonrise Landing by guaranteeing her place in Good Friday’s Marathon Final with victory in Newcastle’s eagerly anticipated Fast Track Qualifier on Saturday.

Ralph Beckett’s four-year-old has plenty going for her in the Betway Conditions Stakes (1.15) - a stepping stone to the All-Weather stayers’ showpiece won by Peter Savill’s filly in 2016.

Owned by Qatar Racing, Mountain Bell overcame a year’s lay-off to finish a creditable fourth in the Group 3 St Simon Stakes at Newbury in October and probably improved on that by filling a similar position behind Red Verdon in the Listed Wild Flower Stakes over 1m4f last time.

She promises to appreciate this step up to the extended 2m on a fair, galloping track and is favoured by the weights despite being one of the highest rated runners in the line-up.

The booking of the in-form Josephine Gordon - successful in last weekend’s Fast Track Qualifier for Hugo Palmer - is another plus in a race that remains strong despite the absence of Godolphin’s notable entry, the 115-rated Frontiersman.

Mick Appleby’s owner Craig Buckingham splashed out 45,000gns for Cape Cova at the Autumn Sales and this 102-rated gelding looks an ideal sort for a Marathon campaign. He won a good handicap over the St Leger trip at Doncaster last year for John Gosden and could easily be open to progress over this trip for a capable yard this winter.

An uncharacteristic problem with the stalls put paid to Watersmeet‘s chances at Wolverhampton last weekend but this pace-setting grey rarely runs a bad race and must be also respected after finishing second to Winning Story in last season’s Marathon Final. Indeed, he passed a mandatory stalls test at Lingfield in midweek to be eligible for this.

Another worthy of a mention is David Bridgwater’s Cohesion, who almost stole that Wolverhampton handicap last weekend and could relish this greater test of stamina, having finished just behind Watersmeet on Good Friday this year.


BRITTANIC was being spoken of as a potential Guineas horse after racking up back-to-back victories on the Newcastle Tapeta last winter and looks an interesting contender in the Handicap (4.05) back at the North East track on Saturday.

He missed the whole of the summer through a setback but proved he retains plenty of sparkle when staying on from a hopeless position in a 7f conditions race at Lingfield last month.

Though tackling the same trip here, the long straight and the stiff finish will be much more to his liking and David Simcock’s colt can put up a bold show now re-united with Tom Eaves – in the plate for both wins last term.

While Brittanic remains open to improvement, Qaffaal is undeniably well treated if you take into account the 7lb claim of Mick Easterby’s apprentice Harrison Shaw. Qaffaal caught my eye staying on from a wide position over an inadequate 7f at Chelmsford last month and has already proven his effectiveness on this track.


FAST TRACK can repeat January’s course and distance win at Wolverhampton by taking the Betway Sprint Handicap (7.15) on Saturday night.

David Barron’s speedball finished strongly to get within a neck of winner Union Rose over an inadequate 5f at Dunstall Park last time, despite stumbling out of the stalls.

A return to 6f, his optimum trip, is clearly in his favour and the six-year-old can get the better of the revitalized veteran Tropics, who was well backed at Newcastle last month only to bump into the potentially smart Glenamoy Lad, but needs to prove himself around this much sharper track.



John Gosden is unleashing a whole raft of well bred youngsters on the sand this winter and this Holy Roman Emperor colt went down in my notepad after staying on with purpose in an 8.5f novice stakes at Wolverhampton last weekend. Slowly away and understandably green, he worked his way into contention out wide off the home turn and ran on well to be third without ever posing a threat to dominant winner Mr Reckless. There is surely better to come.


This Stuart Williams-trained colt travelled sweetly from the back of the field to finish second to John Gosden’s nursery winner Bold Reason at Newcastle last week – by far his best effort in six starts so far. Quietly backed, he is weighted to win a similar race off 68 despite a 3lb rise and is bred to appreciate a step up in trip in due course, being out of a dam who won at just short of 1m6f.


Stuart Williams’s filly out-ran her odds of 33-1 to finish a staying on third in a 6f novice stakes at Chelmsford City last week. She mounted a sustained effort on only her third career start, despite being forced wide off the home bend. Given an opening mark of just 63, the daughter of Lethal Force looks the type to capitalise for her shrewd stable once she steps into low-grade handicaps.


Julie Camacho’s four-year-old has never won in eight attempts on the All-Weather but his latest performance in a 7f handicap at Newcastle on 6th December suggested that his fortunes are about to change. He overcame a difficult passage to chase down the bang in form Equiano Springs under Paul Mulrennan – an improvement on his previous effort behind that rival over the same course and distance. Nudged up just 1lb from Saturday, the gelding – a winner at Doncaster in the summer - looks primed to go one better.

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