Surfing The Sand

Our All-Weather expert Simon Mapletoft will be at Newcastle for Sky Sports Racing on Tuesday to report on a cracking card featuring two Fast Track Qualifiers, previewed here in his latest Surfing The Sand Blog.

  • Monday 11 January
  • Blog
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‘COUNT’ ON CURTIS IN MILE FINAL FAST TRACK

COUNT OF AMAZONIA can help to propel Marco Botti back into the big time on the All-Weather with victory in the Bombardier Conditions Stakes (5.30) at Newcastle on Tuesday - a Fast Track Qualifier for the Mile Final at Lingfield Park on Good Friday.

The Italian dominated the Championships in 2016 with Winter Derby and Easter Classic hero Grendisar and Mile Champion Grey Mirage. Now he is setting his sights on more Good Friday glory with Count Of Amazonia, who can maintain his rapid progress on synthetics.

The four-year-old has won both starts since being snapped up by owner Kulbir Sohi from Richard Hannon for 18,000 gns at the August Sales last year and looks ready for this step up in class.

He beat subsequent winner Newbolt over 1m at Chelmsford City on his stable debut in a first-time tongue-tie in November and produced a scintillating display to repeat the feat in Class 2 company before Christmas off a 5lb higher mark.

The son of Lope De Vega has been raised another 9lb for that performance to a mark of 99 but this stiff track should play to the strengths of a horse who clearly has the scope to establish himself as a three-digit performer with champion Ben Curtis in the saddle.

This will be a true test of Count Of Amazonia’s progress, however, as he is 11lb wrong with top-rated Vintager on official figures and has a similar amount to find with the smart mare Ummalnar.

Vintager, a former Godolphin runner, is the class horse in the line-up, having won a Group 2 in Germany and a Group 3 in France for Charlie Appleby before missing a year.

He made the perfect start for Simon and Ed Crisford, dominating a conditions race on Polytrack at Chantilly in early December, but the six-year-old faces a tougher task than he did in France.

Ummalnar, representing the excellent William Haggas, also has more to do than when she outclassed a modest Listed field in a Fillies and Mares qualifier at Dundalk in November.

Sparely raced for a six-year-old, she has won four of her eight career starts and has to be respected, but I have a suspicion she may be slightly flattered by the 11lb rise that has elevated her mark to 109.

Bless Him struggled somewhat in Pattern company last year after a productive season in handicaps in 2019, while Born To Be Alive needs to significantly build on his second in a Wolverhampton handicap at Christmas - his first start since July 2018.

ANOTHER BIG CHANCE FOR CURTIS IN SPRINT QUALIFIER

Stuart Williams may hold the key to the 5f Betway Conditions Stakes (5.00) at Newcastle on Tuesday - another Fast Track Qualifier for the Sprint Final at Lingfield Park on Good Friday.

The Newmarket handler sends the admirable veteran Royal Birth back to Gosforth Park on the back of successive wins in Lingfield handicaps and a close second to the smart Good Effort in this race last year.

He is also represented by the talented TAWNY PORT, who is potent on his day and could prove a better value option in a slightly disappointing renewal.

He pulled away his chance in a much hotter conditions race at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day but is better judged on his close third in an ultra-competitive 6f handicap at Kempton Park in December.

Dropping back to the minimum trip shouldn’t pose a problem on this stiff track - especially with the Tapeta likely to ride on the slow side - and I expect to see him finishing strongly under Ben Curtis.

Tawny Port is 3lb wrong with revitalised veteran Venturous - a gelding Curtis won on over the same course and distance a year ago - but has the credentials to overcame that in such an open qualifier.

David Barron’s top-rated contender has twice beaten Exalted Angel in his last three starts, scoring at Newcastle and Wolverhampton, and is at least weighted to confirm the form with Karl Burke’s leading fancy on these better terms.

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Surfing The Sand

Newcastle 17:00, 12 January 2021

Newcastle 17:30, 12 January 2021

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