LORD TO CLAIM GOOD FRIDAY PLACE IN NEWCASTLE QUALIFIER
Leading All-Weather jockey Ben Curtis can deny the Richard Hannon team a third Fast Track Qualifier victory at Newcastle this season when he is re-united with Karl Burke’s promising colt LORD OF THE LODGE.
Hannon won the first qualifier of the season at Gosforth Park with Temple Of Heaven, who has since been sold to race in Hong Kong, and followed up when Raymond Tusk sealed his place in the Marathon Final in December.
But on last year’s form, Curtis looks to have the edge over Hannon’s Oh Purple Reign in the Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Conditions Stakes (3.40) on Wednesday, which has attracted only five runners.
Lord Of The Lodge has never stepped onto the All-Weather but won twice on turf and finished his campaign on a steep upward curve when second to Threat in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York.
That form, as you would expect, has worked out well with the third Repartee finishing second in the big sales race at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival and the fifth, Summer Sands, coming home third in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes before winning the Listed Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy.
A 35,000 euro purchase at Tattersalls in Ireland as a yearling, and a winner on debut, he can make a winning re-appearance at the chief expense of Oh Purple Reign, who has 9lb to find with Burke’s runner on these terms but does bring respectable form of his own to the party.
The son of Sir Pracealot also won first time out and added two more victories in a busy campaign before taking second in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes on the Kempton Park Polytrack in September - by some way the best piece of All-Weather form on show here.
Hannon will feel he has a line on Mark Johnston’s Desert Safari, who was no match for his Temple Of Heaven in that October qualifier and has 6lb to find with Oh Purple Reign under Wednesday’s conditions.
He may yet be capable of better on his first start since, but the Charlie Fellowes-trained Amarillo Star is closely matched on ratings and is match fit after just failing to land a similar Fast Track Qualifier at Kempton Park last month.
The only other acceptor is Kevin Ryan’s twice-raced Romero, who made a fine impression by winning on debut at Doncaster last May but hasn’t been seen in public since finding the company too hot in the Group 2 Railway Stakes at The Curragh last summer.
Gelded since, Romero is a half-brother to Sirenia Stakes winner Love Lockdown so has success on synthetics in his DNA. Whether he can run to a mark of round 110 though - assuming Lord Of The Lodge runs his race - looks a very big ask at this stage of his career.
KEYSER CAN STRIKE AGAIN IN VALUABLE HANDICAP
Richard Spencer’s striking chestnut powered home off a 2lb lower mark under Adam Kirby 12 months ago and the 5lb claim of talented apprentice Angus Villiers makes him dangerously well handicapped this time.
The six-year-old compromised his chance of winning a competitive handicap at Chelmsford City on his previous run back in November with a sluggish start and was then denied a clear run before staying on all too late.
Breaking sharply over this straight 7f isn’t that critical as the early fractions tend to be steady, but the Arcano gelding should be in optimum stride by the time they reach the stiff final furlong.
Keyser Soze isn’t the only previous winner of this race in the stellar line-up. Straight Right, who took it in 2018, tuned up with an impressive win over 6f in conditions company at Kempton and reverts to handicapping on an appealing mark, too.
However, I’m not convinced he will definitely see out this demanding trip quite as well as my selection - a theory backed up by his mid-division finish over course and distance in December when he raced far too keenly in the early stages.
Archie Watson’s Glen Shiel, who is proven over 1m, rates a definite danger. He relished this test when dropping back in trip to take another decent prize here last month and a 4lb rise might not be enough to halt his progress.
It will be interesting to see how that form of that race works out, with runner-up Rathbone re-opposing on better terms. Kevin Ryan’s gelding passed his first test over this longer trip with flying colours and is entitled to be sharper for that first run since September.
Another with obvious credentials is David O’Meara’s Wolverhampton winner Young Fire, who has been galvanised by a visor. He finished well enough over that sharp 7f to suggest he will be effective here but this is tougher.
Group winners Librisa Breeze and Oh This Is Us bring illustrious CVs to the line-up but both have struggled for form in recent starts and look up against it giving weight to such solid handicap operators.
3.10 NEWCASTLE, WEDNESDAY
KEYSER SOZE (ew)
3.40 NEWCASTLE, WEDNESDAY
LORD OF THE LODGE (Nap)