WINTER DERBY HERO HAS CHURCHILL AT HIS MERCY
Winter Derby hero DUBAI WARRIOR appears to have scared off all but four rivals in the first big Middle Distance clash of the season, the Betway Churchill Stakes (3.05) at Lingfield Park on Saturday – a Fast Track Qualifier for Finals Day that has attracted a disappointing turn-out for the second year in succession.
The five-runner field is the smallest in eight renewals since the launch of the All-Weather Championships. Last year another Gosden in-mate Crossed Baton defeated only five rivals in a race that attracted between nine and 14 runners in previous seasons. In a year of curtailed opportunities, it prompts the question: where is the 10f talent?
Rated 114, Dubai Warrior would have been a red-hot favourite for last season’s Easter Classic had the Covid-19 pandemic not forced the season into a premature end. He was much too good for his opponents in the Winter Derby, surprisingly making every yard of the running and coping well with the sharp nature of the track for such a big, imposing horse.
Tactics may have to be adjusted on Saturday with the front-running Palavecino and Golden Lips in the line-up but he certainly doesn’t need to lead, as he showed when stalking the pace in last season’s Listed Quebec Stakes over course and distance.
Dubai Warrior is so far clear on official figures that he will have to seriously under-perform to be beaten. Palavecino, with 9lb to find on Saturday, stuck to his task admirably in another Listed contest at Kempton Park last time despite being no match for the classy winner Loxley and proved his aptitude for this track by winning a course and distance handicap back in February.
Sinjaari looked a Group performer in the making when powering home on his first start since last autumn in the John Smith’s Cup at York in July but didn’t make it back to the track until struggling in the Cambridgeshire. Stepping onto the All-Weather for the first time, he suddenly has plenty to prove.
The only filly in the line-up, Golden Lips also makes her debut on synthetics and is likely to find this 10f test too sharp after being campaigned over further all year.
More interesting is Sir Michael Stoute’s Satono Japan, who will be making only his third career start after winning on debut over 7f at Kempton Park last year and then finishing a well held third in a Wolverhampton novice last month. Beautifully bred, he is open to considerable improvement but is rated 27lb inferior to Dubai Warrior yet received only 3lb on these terms.
JOVIAL TO GET SIR MICHAEL SMILING IN LISTED SPRINT
In stark contrast to Lingfield’s Middle Distance feature, Saturday’s Listed Betway Golden Rose Stakes (3.40) has attracted a strong line-up including sprinting heavyweights Judicialand Good Effort who are both out to stake a claim for a place in Good Friday’s Final.
However, I’m keen on the chances of Sir Michael Stoute’s three-year-old filly JOVIAL, who looks an appealing alternative to the market leaders in an enthralling Fast Track Qualifier. She has something to find off her official mark of 100, but is open to improvement, has winning form over course and distance and receives 10lb from Judicial and 5lb from Good Effort. What’s more, she has the best of the draw in stall two.
Jovial has won two of her three starts on synthetics, taking a fillies’ novice at Newcastle last autumn before scoring at Lingfield on her handicap debut back in June. She has since been placed twice in Listed company on turf, including the Boadicea Stakes at Newmarket last month.
A filly with gate speed and a proven ability to travel into Lingfield’s sharp home bend, she can take full advantage of her inside stall in a race that should be run at a frenetic pace.
Judicial posted what was arguably the performance of the season in last year’s renewal, streaking home from the rear from a similarly wide draw, and has been freshened up for this. Successful in the Group 3 Chipchase at Newcastle in the summer, the eight-year-old looks sure to go well but might not find the pace-setters coming back to him quite so tamely this time.
Good Effort rounded off a productive All-Weather season himself when taking a Fast Track Qualifier at Newcastle en route to winning the Listed Cleves Stakes over course and distance, and returned from a lengthy lay-off to boss a 5f handicap at Lingfield earlier this month.
Charlie Appleby’s On The Warpath was steadily progressive last year but hasn’t been seen in public since struggling in Group 3 company at Newmarket in June and faces the sharpest test of his career, dropping back to this turning 6f.
An each-way player, though, has to be the in-form Keith Dalgleish’s runner Soldier’s Minute, who chased home Good Effort in the Cleves Stakes and was third in this behind Judicial last season. He tuned up with a smart display in a Kempton Park handicap and is nicely berthed in stall five.
BEST DREAM-ING OF GOOD FRIDAY GLORY
John Best can stake an early claim for the Mile Final on Good Friday when PLANTADREAM re-appears in the Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Handicap (12.45) at Lingfield Park on Saturday.
This lightly raced five-year-old has won two of his three All-Weather starts, the latest by a wide margin over course and distance in June, and returns to the Polytrack after winning at Ascot and going close at Goodwood in September.
Open to improvement in this sphere off his mark of 95, he is closely matched with Young Fire on their recent clash at York and beat the out-of-form Silent Attack at Goodwood so can come out on top in the hands of James Doyle.
PEARLS THE JEWEL IN LISTED RACE CROWN
Last year’s winner Surrounding heads the weights in Ireland’s only Fast Track Qualifier of the winter, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Cooley Fillies & Mares Stakes (5.30) at Dundalk on Friday.
Mick Halford’s mare carries a penalty for her Listed win at Leopardstown in October and returns to the All-Weather for the first time since landing this race just over 12 months ago.
Never out of the frame in seven starts here, the three-time course winner must go well but could prove vulnerable to Paddy Twomey’s lightly raced French import PEARLS GALORE, who won her first two starts on turf after leaving Freddy Head and went close in a fillies’ Group 3 at Gowran Park in September.
Rated 7lb superior to Surrounding, yet 5lb better off on these terms, this well-bred daughter of Invincible Spirit likes to race prominently but should have ample time to overcome a wide draw to book her place in the Lingfield Final come Easter.
5.30 DUNDALK, FRIDAY
12.45 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY
3.05 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY
3.40 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY
This good-looking colt almost made a winning All-Weather debut at Newcastle on Tuesday, staying on dourly over the stiff 10f only to be headed by 33-1 shot Zabeel Star. Still lightly raced, there was much to like about his application after travelling prominently throughout in a race that got stretched by the run-away leader. Richard Hannon’s colt is related to some useful sand winners and can gain quick compensation.
The Queen’s filly, hailing from a successful Australian family, posted a highly encouraging debut run behind a well-backed newcomer from the Godolphin camp at Kempton Park on Wednesday. Dropped in from her wide draw by Tom Marquand, the daughter of Galileo came home strongly over the mile and Wiliam Haggas can be sure to find her a winning opportunity in the coming weeks.
Mick Appleby’s filly remains in good form, supplementing her second at Nottingham with an even more commendable effort over 5f at Southwell on Monday. She overcame a wide draw to bustle up course specialist Queen Of Kalahari and can win something similar. She bumped into another smart filly when second to Hareem Queen over the same course and distance off a 4lb higher mark last year so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by a small rise in the weights for this.
Despite being one of the first to come off the bridle, Archie Watson’s son of Pearl Secret stuck gamely to his task in a 7f novice at Newcastle last Friday, going down by only a short-head but finishing over four lengths clear of the third, with the 76-rated favourite back in fourth. A 10,000gns capture back in July, he can soon go one better in auction company for his shrewd young trainer.
Robert Havlin, who has the John Gosden juggernaut behind him, has emerged as an early contender for the jockeys’ championship with eight wins in the opening two weeks, at a great strike rate of 35%. Some ‘new’ names on the leaderboard include Rob Hornby (23%) and Callum Shepherd, who boasted a 20% return. Sought-after 3lb claimer Ray Dawson has also made a solid start, creeping into the top 10 with a strike rate of 18%. Sharing top spot were newly crowned champion Oisin Murphy and William Buick, who will now be busy with other commitments, of course.
Apprentice jockey Alex Jary certainly got a ‘kick’ out of riding his first winner this week. Too small to pursue a career as a professional footballer with Norwich City, he joined Newmarket trainer George Scott two and a half years ago and it was George who gave him his first ever winner at the 15th attempt when Charlie Fellowes defied a double penalty at Southwell earlier this week. Jary was in the youth academy at Carrow Road before switching careers.
Requinto Dawn’s handicap win at Southwell on Monday was pretty insignificant in itself, but meant the world to former dual champion Paul Hanagan. It was Richard Fahey’s gelding who clipped heels at Newcastle in February, catapulting Hanagan to the ground in a fall that resulted in a broken back. “To win on him was massive in conquering a few demons and right up there with the big ones I’ve had since I came back,” he told me. “I hadn’t even ridden him at home since the accident.”
I’m delighted to see veteran trainer Les Eyre enjoying a purple patch. Queen Of Kalahari’s sixth course win at Southwell on Monday made it three out of three for the yard following the victories of Dawaaleeb and Bedford Flyer at Newcastle. Les, who approached the weekend with a strike rate of 44%, was also successful at Southwell recently with sprinter Birkenhead.