Surfing The Sand

The stayers take centre stage this weekend when Newcastle hosts a Fast Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Marathon Final on Good Friday. Our All-Weather expert Simon Mapletoft previews the action.

  • Thursday 13 December
  • Blog
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Mark Johnston’s gallant grey WATERSMEET, one of the most prolific horses in training on the All-Weather, can book his third Marathon Final appearance by winning Saturday’s Fast Track Qualifier at Newcastle.

Winner of 12 of his 25 starts on sand, and placed in the last two finals, the seven-year-old trailblazer comfortably beat Higher Power in a Kempton Park handicap last month and promises to confirm the form over the extended 2m in the Betway Stayers’ Conditions Stakes (12.55).

Despite being slightly worse off at the weights with that rival, Watersmeet was value for more than his official winning margin of a length at the Sunbury track and promises to be a tough nut to crack, particularly if PJ McDonald gets his own way in front.

This track suits him well - he was a creditable third to the unexposed Mountain Bell in this race last year - and finished in front of Higher Power again in this summer’s Northumberland Plate over the same course and distance. Indeed, James Fanshawe’s six-year-old hasn’t recaptured the form that saw him with the Plate in 2017.

Another creditable run is on the cards from Philip Kirby’s Stargazer, who has finished second on all three starts at this track, including on his return to the All-Weather over the extended 1m4f last time.

The ex-Sir Michael Stoute gelding did pass the post first in a valuable race at Gosforth Park on Good Friday, only to be demoted in the stewards’ room, and has proven himself over this longer trip, too. However, he has 8lb to find with Watersmeet on these difficult terms.

A similar task awaits Charlie Appleby’s unexposed four-year-old Festival Of Ages, who is very much the dark horse in the line-up. He confirmed his wellbeing after a long absence when taking a 1m2f novice stakes at Kempton last month but must improve markedly in this much hotter race as he steps into the unknown tripwise.


BOY IN THE BAR can take advantage of his low weight in the sun Handicap (3.50) over 7f at Newcastle on Saturday.

A winner over the same distance at Chelmsford City in September, Ian Williams’s gelding warmed up for this valuable feature with a solid third at the Essex track last week.

He had too much ground to make up behind the progressive Crossing The Line, again over seven, but stayed on in a manner which suggests this stiff track will play to his strengths.

In opposition, David Simcock’s smart sprinter Polybius steps into the unknown but looks ready for the challenge. He has been in good form already this winter, winning twice at Kempton Park, and this straight 7f could suit his hold-up style.

However, he must give 14lb to the selection, who is only 3lb higher than when last successful in a valuable handicap three starts ago.



David Simcock’s chestnut made a big impression when winning his first two starts, both at Newcastle, but lost his way after a lengthy lay-off. However, he came back from another break, this time having been gelded, to run a race full of promise at Chelmsford City last week. He stayed on well to chase home the in-form Breden in a 1m handicap, picking up well off a muddling pace. Now operating 14lb below his highest mark, Brittanic will be one to keep on your side next time, possibly back at Newcastle.


Derek Shaw’s gelding has become a Fibresand specialist, winning six times at the track, and gave notice that his turn is not far away when staying on to be third in a 7f handicap there on Tuesday. He tends to start slowly but usually finishes off his races well and might be worth another try back at 1m on this evidence. He’s won over the longer trip and remains 4lb below his last winning mark.


Tom Clover must have been delighted with this gelding’s stable debut over the extended 1m at Wolverhampton last weekend. Making only his third career start, the former Peter Chapple-Hyam inmate found enough momentum to seemingly go and win his race, only to be mugged by the fast-finishing John Gosden colt New King, who rather fell from the clouds. Crimewave did finish ahead of penalised winner Fields Of Athenry so the form is solid. A step up on trip on his handicap debut wouldn’t go amiss, as he’s bred to stay further.


Marco Botti’s Invincible Spirit filly ran well behind a subsequent winner over 7f at Chelmsford City before returning to the Essex track to post a solid handicap debut. Stepping up to 1m, she made a genuine first of it in a competitive race, only to be worn down by the well-backed Glory Of Paris. This looks her trip and compensation awaits off just a 1lb higher mark (71).

Surfing The Sand

Newcastle 12:55, 15 December 2018

Newcastle 15:50, 15 December 2018

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