ACCEPT THE INVITATION IN WOLVERHAMPTON FAST TRACK
Roger Varian, who won the Fillies’ Championship with Realtra in 2017, unleashes another live contender for the £150,000 distaff showpiece at Easter when INVITATIONAL re-appears at Wolverhampton on Friday.
The lightly-raced four-year-old is a worthy favourite in the 7f Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Fillies’ Conditions Stakes (3.10) – a Fast Track Qualifier for the £1 million Finals Day that has disappointingly attracted a field of just five.
She concedes a 3lb penalty for her Listed win over 7f on heavy ground at Fontainbleu in November, recorded just a month after out-running her odds in the same grade in the 6f Boadicea Stakes at Newmarket.
Invitational has done little wrong on the All-Weather, winning a Kempton novice a year ago and following up under a penalty from a tough starting position over this course and distance in April.
Two subsequent defeats on synthetics are excusable: she was wiped out at the start in a valuable handicap at Chelmsford before clearly struggling to see out 1m at Lingfield in August.
The former came back from a spell in the doldrums to beat Lucymai fairly and squarely around Lingfield before Christmas and has quality All-Weather form in the book, having finished third in the 3YO Final in 2018.
She has plenty to find with Invitational on these terms, but can at least confirm that Lingfield form with Lucymai. Dean Ivory’s team in uncharacteristically quiet but his seven-year-old – third in the 2018 Fillies’ and Mares’ Final – should again run her race.
SCOTTISH RAIDER READY TO PROGRESS AGAIN
Keith Dalgleish’s Scottish raider won with a fair amount in hand over the same 10f that day and can defy a 4lb rise against a similar level of opposition.
Campaigned in hotter Class 2 handicaps last year, he appeared to enjoy the step up in trip and could yet establish himself as a legitimate Winter Derby contender in a division that has so far lacked stars this season.
Mick Appleby’s team continues in great form so top weight Star Of Southwold should acquit himself well. He will probably make the running but doesn’t have anything in hand off this lofty mark so is likely to prove vulnerable to Universal Gleam’s powerful finish.
COX STAYER LOOKS IRRESISTIBLE
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clive Cox’s well regarded four-year-old GETCHAGETCHAGETCHAcontesting Group races this year so I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t get the job done in the Betway Casino Handicap (2.50) at Lingfield Park on Saturday.
He remains well treated off a mark of 101 after cutting down some useful stayers in another 1m4f Class 2 handicap at Wolverhampton a month ago. A 3lb rise looks lenient and a 3lb weight for age allowance further strengthens his claims against opponents who have no secrets.
A possible exception is David Simcock’s Kitaabaat, who impressed over 1m3f at Kempton Park in November and can be forgiven his defeat in a valuable series final there last time after finding himself too far back.
With no obvious front runner in the line-up, this could become tactical but no one is better qualified to adapt than Getchagetchagetcha’s jockey Adam Kirby, who has no peers when it comes to riding around Lingfield.
JOHNSTON CHARGE CAN STAKE MARATHON CLAIM
Mark Johnston, who saddled his 250th winner of 2019 last week, has his sights set on the Marathon Final on Good Friday with the classy MILDENBERGER who gets my vote in the 32Red Handicap (6.40) at Kempton Park on Saturday.
This five-year-old – classy enough to be placed in the Jockey Club Stakes and the Yorkshire Cup last year – must give a lot of weight to some useful rivals on only his second start in a handicap, but looks up to the task.
He ran a good race in Newcastle’s 2m Fast Track Qualifier last month, staying on strongly behind top notch opponents Raymond Tooth and Funny Kid, and will be better suited by the stronger end-to-end gallop that appears likely here.
Astromachia, re-appearing under one of the best front-running riders in the business in the excellent Joe Fanning, is the obvious pace angle but was worn down by Rainbow Dreamer over course and distance last time.
Alan King’s seven-year-old took his tally on the All-Weather to two that day and can confirm that form but will have to dig deeper to defy a 5lb rise and win in this hotter contest.
Bottom weight Pianissimo – a course and distance winner - will have his supporters and rightly so. He has won both starts for Anthony Carson since being bought out of John Gosden’s powerful yard, scoring in this grade off a 6lb lower mark last month.
This will be a good test of his potential but Mildenberger can prove too smart for them all at this level.
3.10 WOLVERHAMPTON, FRIDAY
12.10 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY
2.50 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY
6.40 KEMPTON PARK, SATURDAY
Mike Murphy must have been thrilled with the comeback performance of this gelding, who has clearly endured more than his fair share of problems but put another lengthy lay-off behind him to be second in a 5f handicap at Southwell on New Year’s Day. Racing over 5f and on Fibresand for the first time, he showed natural speed from the off to beat two course specialists. His mark shouldn’t suffer too much and a return to Southwell can see him gain an overdue success – soundness permitting.
Amy Murphy’s colt didn’t get the best of trips at Chelmsford City on debut but showed himself in a much better light in a 7f novice stakes at Lingfield Park on New Year’s Eve, sticking on well to finish a clear second to a smart newcomer, Ajax Tavern. He was unfortunate to bump into one there but can clearly gain compensation soon.
Tony Carroll’s gelding did remarkably well to be beaten only half a length on his handicap debut at Lingfield Park over the holiday, considering how wide he was forced to race in a 6f sprint. A maiden winner for Kieran Cotter in Ireland last year, he was far from disgraced on his stable debut in a Fast Track Qualifier won by subsequent Qatar winner Maystar and is one to keep on side in a 3YO handicap in the coming weeks.
Richard Fahey’s Cheveley Park filly made a pleasing debut in a 6f fillies’ novice stakes at Wolverhampton on 27th December. She showed signs of greenness at the start and had to endure a wide trip as a result, but plugged on gamely to be fourth. She is a half-sister to smart sprinter Duke Of Firenze out of Coronation Stakes heroine Nannina and on this evidence is up to winning a similar novice race soon.