VETERAN TRAINER CAN MAKE LONG JOURNEY PAY
Veteran trainer Mick Easterby, who has enjoyed his best year in decades with over 60 winners, can end 2016 in style when his progressive QAFFAAL heads to Lingfield Park for the Sunbets Bet £10 Get £20 Free Handicap (2.05) over 1m on Saturday.
Yorkshire-based Easterby rarely sends runners to the Surrey track – 2007 Winter Derby winner Gentleman’s Deal was his first visit - but will be expecting another big show from his five-year-old, who came close to completing a four-timer over this trip at Chelmsford last time.
Qaffaal only just failed to beat the similarly progressive Chester Street (now unbeaten in three starts on sand) in another Class 2 handicap earlier this month and can gain compensation off just a 3lb higher mark.
David Easterby, assistant to his father, tells me: “Qaffaal’s five now but just hasn’t stopped improving on the All-Weather. He might have been a bit unlucky at Chelmsford as he was caught wide. The winner enjoyed a better trip but only beat us a nose.
“He’s won at Newcastle and Chelmsford this winter and is uncomplicated so we’re very hopeful he can translate his form to Lingfield. I can’t see why not. He’s got the best 3lb claimer in the country on his back in Nathan Evans and we couldn’t be happier with him at home.”
Qaffaal’s wide draw in stall nine shouldn’t prove a hindrance. He’s a confirmed hold-up performer who should have every opportunity to cruise through his gears on the run for home. Evans, like his trainer, doesn’t visit Lingfield that often but got a good tune out of the pace-setting Bosham there a few weeks ago.
The main danger could be the veteran Alfred Hutchinson, who has looked as good as ever at his favourite track this winter. David O’Meara’s eight-year-old took a 7f handicap at Lingfield last time but is arguably at his best over 1m. However, he needs a career best and is posted wider than ideal in stall 11 for a horse who prefers to stalk the pace.
My Target, who beat Alfred Hutchinson over course and distance in November, needs to put a couple of lack-lustre efforts behind him (including when well adrift of Qaffaal) to confirm the form, but Mr Bossy Boots should acquit himself well if his staying on third over 7f at Lingfield on his debut for Amanda Perrett is anything to go by.
SCENERY LOOKS A REAL NATURAL
Godolphin’s well-bred filly NATURAL SCENERY gets another chance to prove herself a smart staying prospect when she steps back up in distance in the 1m4f Betway Middle Distance Handicap (2.40) at Lingfield Park on Saturday.
The daughter of Dubawi looked exciting when smashing the 1m4f track record at Wolverhampton on her All-Weather debut in October but was beaten by the shorter trip, rather than an 8lb rise, when re-appearing at the Surrey venue last time.
Despite showing such speed at Dunstall Park, Saeed Bin Suroor’s filly found the 10f much too sharp and was predictably running on at the end when a close second to subsequent winner Van Huysen. What’s more, she looked ill at ease in first-time cheekpieces, which are left off this weekend.
Out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, Natural Scenery is a half-sister to another 1m4f All-Weather winner and also to smart 2m performer Bordoni. Given that pedigree, it’s not out of the question that she may yet find the Marathon Final distance of 2m within her reach – a prospect that might prove tempting to connections if she can defy her latest mark of 91.
Among her opponents is Marco Botti’s Burcan, who disappointed when tackling 1m4f for the first time at Wolverhampton last month. He had produced an eye-catching performance to win over 10f at Chelmsford previously.
Luke Morris, who rode Burcan at Wolverhampton, wasn’t convinced it was the stamina test that beat him that day so, with that theory in mind, is worth another crack at the trip on this easy track. That said, I still expect to see Natural Scenery finishing off her race the stronger.
TIME FOR MAPPIN TO STRIKE AGAIN
MAPPIN TIME can take advantage of a tempting mark at potentially rewarding odds in the 5f Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Handicap (1.45) at Southwell on Sunday.
Tim Easterby’s sprinter has been running well in defeat this winter, including when finishing with a rattle to be fifth to Dynamo Walt in a hot 5f race at Newcastle earlier this month.
A dual winner on Fibresand, he proved himself just as capable over the straight trip when staying on strongly to be second in a similar race over course and distance just over a year ago. He returns to the Nottinghamshire track off an 8lb lower mark and can capitalise in a race that should be run to suit him.
Another who could be over-priced is Bryan Smart’s Meadway, who is unbeaten in three starts over course and distance including when beating Mappin Time last year, but has looked out of sorts. He was well behind Easterby’s horse at Newcastle and is 4lb worse off with my selection.
PHILBA TO MAKE IT FIVE ON FIBRESAND
Course form is usually a big advantage around Southwell so Mick Appleby’s Fibresand specialist PHILBA looks the safest option in the sunbets.co.uk Top Price On All Favourites Handicap (2.20) over 7f at the Nottinghamshire venue on Sunday.
Four times successful over course and distance, Philba beat several of this weekend’s rivals when finishing second to potentially smart stable companion Mithqaal and remains competitive off just a 1lb higher mark. He is also ideally berthed in stall three under regular pilot Ali Rawlinson.
Holiday Magic couldn’t come into the race in better form following back-to-back victories at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford but his lack of experience on the surface poses a greater question than his latest 6lb rise. He does have a prominent run style, too, so a wide draw in stall 11 isn’t ideal.
George Margarson’s Shyron has a similarly impressive strike rate on sand but is another who has never raced on this surface before. He bounced back to form when second at his favoured Lingfield earlier this month but his tendency to start slowly could prove a big problem around here.
LINGFIELD SATURDAY SELECTIONS
2.05 QAFFAAL (Nap)
2.40 NATURAL SCENERY
SOUTHWELL SUNDAY SELECTIONS
1.45 MAPPIN TIME (ew)