IT’S WIN OR BUST FOR SPRINT KING KACHY
Sprint king Kachy, one of the greatest horses to grace the sand tracks since the All-Weather Championships were born in 2013, will bid to win the Listed Betway Cleves Stakes (1.45) at Lingfield Park on Saturday for an unprecedented third year in a row.
Given his remarkable CV, there’s no doubting his credentials in a race he simply must win if he is to defend his title in the £150,000 Sprint Final over the same 6f on Good Friday.
As the Cleves is a Fast Track Qualifier, its winner will be guaranteed a place in the starting line-up but defeat for Kachy would leave him two races short of the mandatory three qualifying runs, with a lack of other suitable opportunities on the run up to Easter.
Tom Dascombe’s entire hasn’t stepped onto the All-Weather since achieving the ultimate sprint accolade last April, surprisingly missing his intended re-appearance in a conditions race at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day.
Connections felt they needed more time to bring him back to the boil but insist the seven-year-old appears as good as ever in his homework ahead of this fascinating challenge.
Kachy’s achievements on sand and turf - and his lofty official rating of 114 - leave us in no doubt that owner Dave Lowe’s pride and joy is the best horse in the race, and All-Weather enthusiasts everywhere - myself included - will be rooting for him. Let’s face it, Finals Day just wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t there.
But this threatens to be a more severe test of his might than last year’s renewal, when an explosive comeback run at Wolverhampton set him up perfectly for what the stopwatch proved was one of the most devastating performances in the 30-year history of the All-Weather.
On Saturday the trailblazing Kachy can’t rely on his reputation alone to get him through. He must prove himself all over again in a solid renewal that features at least two opponents who will also be out to dominate, and is drawn much wider than both in stall seven of eight - a challenge for regular partner Richard Kingscote.
The progressive GOOD EFFORT - himself the winner of a Fast Track Qualifier from the front at Newcastle - has never encountered a track as sharp as Lingfield, and has 13lb to find with Kachy on official figures, but could still be a threat if he handles the track. He has a perfect draw in three and his jockey Ben Curtis is bullish about him.
Habub - second highest rated off 108 - has been plying his trade over 1m since winning over course and distance for Owen Burrows earlier in his career, and also loves to dictate, but whether he will be sharp enough to stand toe to toe with such specialist sprinters is open to question. He also has a tendency to edge right under pressure which could prove costly in a frenetic finish.
A bigger threat among the closers may well be Amanda Perrett’s Tinto, who almost had the Listed Golden Rose won over this trip at Lingfield in November until Judicial mugged him with that remarkable last-to-first burst.
This time last year, the four-year-old had a modest rating of just 77 but, after winning a hot handicap at Ascot and then proving himself on this track at Listed level, has now earned a three-digit mark with the potential of more to come. Rab Havlin’s mount should thrive off the strong pace but will still need to improve a good stone on paper to beat Kachy.
Let’s hope the reigning champion can make his class count - the Sprint Final would be a poorer race without him - but his odds will be prohibitively short so I’m banking on Good Effort to further establish his Good Friday claims by at least achieving a place.
STRONG PACE THE KEY TO CLASSY BANGKOK
A Group 3 winner over the 10f trip on turf, and no doubt sharper for a solid effort over 10f in Doha before Christmas, he has produced his best form on more galloping tracks but can stamp his authority as long as they go a good even gallop.
That looks assured with John Gosden’s Court House in the line-up along with front-running outsider Extrodinair. Jane Chapple-Hyam appears to have put him in the race specifically to improve the prospects of her French Fast Track winner Dalgarno, who needs a strong tempo to charge off.
He was only just held by Court House in the Quebec, despite conceding a penalty, but giving 3lb to Gosden’s reliable performer might again prove too much.
In summary, I expect Bangkok to pick up the pacesetters as they swing for home with Court House and Dalgarno likely to be fighting it out for the minor placings with the gelded Extra Elusive, who brings some smart turf form to the party and looks an interesting recruit to the All-Weather.
1.45 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY
GOOD EFFORT (ew)
2.55 LINGFIELD PARK, SATURDAY