JOHNSTON UNLEASHES STRONG CONTENDER FOR ANOTHER MARATHON CROWN
Record breaking trainer Mark Johnston knows what it takes to win the Marathon Championship and brings live contender MILDENBERGER to the party at Newcastle on Saturday.
The sparely raced four-year-old can claim his place in Good Friday’s stayers’ Final with victory in the Betway Conditions Stakes (12.50) - a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 showpiece at Lingfield Park.
Mildenberger should be much sharper for his recent re-appearance in the Listed Wild Flower Stakes at Kempton when he was trapped out wide on his return from a second lengthy lay-off.
But he promises to relish the step up to the extended 2m on this galloping track as he sets out to emulate Johnston’s 2019 champion Watersmeet and potentially fulfil an engagement in Saudi Arabia in the New Year.
Though unproven on synthetics, he showed his class when finishing about five lengths behind the magnificent Stradivarius in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup back in May, despite pulling off a shoe.
He got even closer to Roaring Lion in the Dante the previous year and, as long as he stays sound, can at last begin to fulfil his undoubted promise as a high-class stayer.
Dangers are aplenty, with Raymond Tusk returning from a luckless run in the Melbourne Cup for Richard Hannon and Middleham Park Racing. He clearly has the quality to reel in the pacesetters on this belated All-Weather debut if his international exertions haven’t taken their toll.
Northumberland Vase winner Carnwennan returns to the scene of his valuable victory in the summer after a light campaign, but like locally trained Dubawi Fifty and Martyn Meade’s Infrastructure, has plenty to find with the principals on these terms.
France’s 2018 Marathon Champion Funny Kid is harder to assess. He must prove his effectiveness on this stiff, galloping track on his first start since being outclassed in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran in October and won’t be helped by his 3lb Listed penalty.
BARRON VETERAN WORTH ANOTHER CHANCE
ABOVE THE REST has run some eye catching races in defeat already this winter but the stars may finally align for the eight-year-old in the Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer Handicap (3.10) at Newcastle on Saturday.
He couldn’t land a blow over a sharp 6f in the Listed Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield last month but returns to his optimum 7f here - a trip he scored over in the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton back in March.
This stiff track brings the best out of the gelding, who won the 6f Group 3 Chipchase Stakes on the Tapeta back in June last year, but the additional furlong can help him cut down the pacemakers this time and I’m willing to keep the faith.
There’s no doubt he remains competitive off a mark of 101 and gets my vote ahead of another admirable old timer, Intisaab, and Andrew Balding’s Straight Right. The latter has been given a chance by the handicapper since failing narrowly over course and distance last winter but must prove his well-being on this return from a break.
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED!
With Ed Walker’s team in such good form, DESERT DOCTOR can take advantage of a plum draw in Wolverhampton’s feature race on Saturday night, the Class 2 Betway Handicap(6.50) over the flying 6f.
Desert Doctor won a similar race to this over course and distance in March off a 3lb lower mark and comes back fresh after taking another red-hot sprint handicap at Chelmsford City in mid-September.
The winner of seven of his 15 starts on the All-Weather, he enjoys rattling home off a lively pace can be produced late by Luke Morris to steal the verdict from some exciting rivals, including Robert Cowell’s Reeves.
Another with a good draw in stall four, he arrives at Dunstall Park on the back of consecutive victories over 7f at Chelmsford. He has limited experience over this trip, however, which must be a concern against battle-hardened sprinting opponents.
Total Commitment changed hands for a whopping 200,000gns at Tattersalls Autumn Sales having made a name for himself in sprint handicaps around Kempton Park for Roger Charlton.
Running for new trainer Peter Hedger, he will have to defy a 7lb rise for that latest success and must prove himself on a left-handed track after scoring all three victories on sand going the other way round.
GOSDEN COLT READY FOR STEP UP IN TRIP
GOOD TIDINGS looks the one to be on in the £50,000 Weatherbys TBA Handicap (5.30) at Chelmsford City on Friday.
John Gosden’s colt was a shade unlucky in the valuable London Middle Distance Final over 1m3f at Kempton last time, finding trouble at the intersection before running on strongly to be a closing third.
On that evidence, he should relish the additional 3f on this galloping track and can reverse Kempton form with Creationist, who was only a head better off.
Roger Charlton’s three-year-old has undoubtedly improved for being gelded and undergoing wind surgery but may not possess a strong enough finish to repel Good Tidings on identical terms over this longer trip.
Bo Samraan can also play a part. Mark Johnston’s colt has been on a steep upward curve since coming back from injury and should also have enough stamina in his locker to make his presence felt, but gives weight to another progressive rival in Good Tidings.
CHELMSFORD CITY (FRIDAY):
5.30 - Good Tidings
12.50 - Mildenberger (NAP)
3.10 - Above The Rest (EW)
6.50 - Desert Doctor
Mark Loughnane’s All-Weather stalwart is edging his way back to form and took another step towards the winners’ enclosure when running on to be third in a 6f handicap at Wolverhampton earlier this week. This dual sand winner remains on a winning mark despite that improved performance and can take advantage soon.
Crack apprentice Angus Villiers conjured a strong finish out of this gelding on his return from a break at Lingfield Park on Monday, when he only just failed to reel in a previous winner. A Wolverhampton scorer in August, he remains well treated and should be winning again for Tom Clover in the coming weeks.
This Showcasing gelding has improved with every start for Heather Main since leaving Dermot Weld in Ireland as an unraced three-year-old. He finished ahead of an 83-rated subsequent winner over the extended 9f at Wolverhampton before giving John Gosden’s Godolphin newcomer Yuri Gagarin a scare over 1m in novice company at Newcastle. He must be of interest in handicaps off an opening mark of 73.
Another former Dermot Weld inmate, Asdaa posted a pleasing start for Mark Johnston at Southwell on 5th December, sticking to his task to be a closing fourth in a decent 6f handicap. Given his high cruising speed, he will be one to keep on side back on the Fibresand but could easily appreciate an additional furlong on the Tapeta if he is declared to run in a Newcastle handicap next Wednesday off a 1lb lower mark.