BALDING FILLY HAS STRONG FINAL CREDENTIALS
Andrew Balding’s exciting four-year-old CROSSING THE LINE can guarantee her place in the £150,000 Fillies and Mares Final on Good Friday by winning the Fast Track Qualifier at Wolverhampton on Wednesday.
She sets a demanding standard in a strong renewal of the Ladbrokes Fillies’ Conditions Stakes (2.50) over 7f - the same distance as the distaff showpiece at Lingfield Park come April.
Crossing The Line returned from a three-month break to win a hot Class 2 handicap at Chelmsford City last time, a victory that elevated her to a joint-top rated 101. She also proved herself around turning tracks on the Lingfield Polytrack back in May and again at Chester in the summer and races over her optimum trip.
The daughter of Cape Cross holds the admirable Lucymai on their Chelmsford form and can get the better of two last-time-out winners, Castle Hill Cassie and Island Of Life.
Ben Haslam’s Castle Hill Cassie improved on a creditable run in Listed company at Lingfield to beat subsequent winner Ghazawaat over course and distance in November, defying her 3lb penalty for a Listed success at Pontefract in August. Conceding weight to such a progressive filly as Crossing The Line threatens to be tougher, however.
Lightly raced mare Island Of Life has made a big impression in a pair of 6f handicaps at Newcastle and Kempton Park since undergoing wind surgery. She has placed form around Wolverhampton and is bred to get this specialist trip, but has 7lb to find with my selection.
Lucymai is the most likely runner to set the pace in a race full of hold-up performers but as well as being held by Crossing The Line, she also has improvement to find to turn the tables on Castle Hill Cassie on course and distance running.
The dark horse could be Archie Watson’s new recruit Peak Princess, a £60,000 capture at the mares’ sale in Newmarket at the beginning of December and a winner for Richard Hannon at Kempton in August.
Like Island Of Life, she needs to produce something special to get involved off a mark of 92 and has failed to make an impact in two Listed races on the All-Weather this season. That said, Watson has a knack for achieving fast results with newcomers and she will appreciate a return to 7f.
WATCHABLE READY TO STRIKE FOR O’MEARA
Veteran sprinter WATCHABLEhas posted some respectable efforts in defeat this winter and can make his first Fibresand appearance a winning one in the Betway Sprint Handicap (1.45) at Southwell on New Year’s Day.
Despite giving weight away all round, the return to a straight 5f looks ideal for a one-time Pattern performer who has found himself in better races of late.
Ornate was an expensive purchase at 110,000 gns just over a year ago and is yet to repay that price tag with a victory. However, David Griffiths’s sprinter has been threatening to set the record straight and should make a good fist of it once again.
APPLEBY’S COURSE WINNER SET FOR ‘GREAT’ REPEAT
Mick Appleby’s imposing, yet lightly raced four-year-old returns to the scene of his maiden win just over a year ago and can defy a lengthy lay-off under champion jockey Luke Morris.
The ex-Irish gelding possesses a high cruising speed and has won a Hamilton handicap since that Fibresand success. He re-appears off just a 3lb higher mark for a stable that has dominated at the track in recent years.
His most intriguing rival is the Stuart Williams-trained Me Too Nagasaki, who hasn’t run since being bought out of Jeremy Noseda’s yard by owner Tom Morley for 125,000 gns just over a year ago.
Wearing first-time eye shields, this sparely campaigned Kempton winner returns off a competitive mark if you take young claimer Toby Eley’s 7lb allowance into consideration, but The Great Wall could prove hard to peg back.
DOLLAR LOOKS VALUE IN OPEN SPRINT
This keen-going four-year-old should appreciate the drop back to 6f on a track that often suits prominent racers and has one of the best pace judges in the business in the saddle. Joe Fanning was also on board when the gelding won at Chelmsford off a 3lb lower mark in October.
Dollar Value has never run on Fibresand but is well worth a try on the surface, given his style of racing and his thorough dirt pedigree. This $95,000 purchase is a half-brother to two dirt winners Stateside, out of a dam who also won on a similar surface.
Course specialist Kommander Kirkup and Amazing Grazing, who ran on strongly to be second over 5f at Southwell before Christmas, will both be popular but Cowell’s grey should offer more value in an open race.
2.50 WOLVERHAMPTON, WEDNESDAY
CROSSING THE LINE (NAP)
1.10 SOUTHWELL, TUESDAY
DOLLAR VALUE (EW)
1.45 SOUTHWELL, TUESDAY
2.20 SOUTHWELL, TUESDAY
THE GREAT WALL (EW)