HARBOUR CAN SAIL HOME FOR APPLEBY
The three-year-old was impressive when bounding clear over 1m at the Nottinghamshire track at the end of October and, despite returning to the Fibresand off an 11lb higher mark, has continued his progress.
Ayr Harbour stepped up two grades to score over 1m at Chelmsford City next time and posted another solid performance there before Christmas when only just reeled in by the useful Assimilation.
Dropping back to 7f shouldn’t be an issue – he obliged at the distance over a much sharper test at Lingfield last winter – and I expect him to get the better of the hat-trick seeking Stone Soldier.
The switch to Fibresand and the application of cheekpieces has galvanised Archie Watson’s colt, who destroyed his rivals in a lower grade handicap over course and distance in early December.
He had to work harder than expected to follow up over 1m in that grade last time, despite being 5lb well in under his penalty. The return to 7f looks a positive but he takes another 5lb rise into a better class race here.
SUCCESS CAN SHINE AT LINGFIELD
SHINING SUCCESS made a strong impression when beating a subsequent winner at Chelmsford City in November and can follow up in a trappy feature handicap at Lingfield Park on Saturday, the Class 4 Get Your Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boost Handicap (2.20).
David Simcock’s filly came from a long way back to score in a fillies’ novice race and doesn’t look over-burdened off an opening mark of 77 on this handicap debut.
The former has been hit with a 12lb rise for a cosy victory over course and distance just before Christmas (sweeping aside the re-opposing Andronicus Beau) and is now fully 30lb higher than when his winning sequence began at Newcastle.
Likely pace setter Bravado could prove a tough nut to crack, having dominated at Wolverhampton on debut before defying a penalty in commanding style in a Redcar novice at the end of October. He gives weight to all his rivals here but could be anything at this stage.
NATE LOOKS GREAT IN WOLVES MARATHON
Andrew Balding’s classy gelding made a pleasing All-Weather debut over 1m6f at Chelmsford City in mid-December, running on into second before looking in need of the outing and finishing fourth in a better race.
With that run under his girth, and with William Carver taking off a useful 5lb, the son of Nathaniel can take full advantage of the 8lb he receives from likely favourite Australis over an extended 2m trip that will play to his strengths.
Stamina certainly looked his strong suit when he finished just over four lengths behind Who Dares Wins in fourth in last summer’s Queen Alexandra Stakes over 2m5.5f at Royal Ascot.
Roger Varian’s front runner Australis is also proven at this distance. He was a close second in a Fast Track Qualifier at Newcastle last time and was second in this year’s Northumberland Plate.
However, he proved vulnerable off this mark when taken on for the lead at Chelmsford last month when he succumbed to the exposed veteran Battle Of Marathon and won’t get things his own way with Rochester House and Charlie D in opposition.
The former travelled strongly before being outstayed close home over a much stiffer 2m at Newcastle last time. He may appreciate this less demanding test and Andrew Breslin’s 5lb claim puts him on an attractive enough mark to play a major part.
1.15 SOUTHWELL, FRIDAY
AYR HARBOUR (Nap)
2.20 LINGFIELD, SATURDAY
5.10 WOLVERHAMPTON, SATURDAY
NATE THE GREAT
David Loughnane’s four-year-old - a Doncaster winner and runner-up in York’s Coral Sprint Trophy - confirmed his progress on turf last season by closing down the classy Misty Grey in the 7f feature handicap at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day. A 3lb rise to a mark of 98 shouldn’t prove prohibitive and he can go on to stake a claim in the New Year for a crack at the 6f Sprint Final.
North Yorkshire trainer Grant Tuer continues to impress with his relatively small string and this two-year-old showed his improved third over 8.5f at Wolverhampton was no fluke when making the frame again in a 1m novice stakes at Newcastle on Monday. He was denied a clear run at a crucial stage but finished best of all to close down 1-3 favourite Duel In The Sun and the runner up at the line. He is one to follow in handicaps in the New Year.
The £10,500 connections paid for this gelding at Doncaster Sales in September looks money well spent following an encouraging start at Newcastle on 28th December. The lightly raced son of Shamardal kept on well to finish a close third to Jewel Maker over 1m on his handicap debut and looks open to considerable progress from his mark of 63.
Though modest, David Evans can place this filly to win an early three-year-old handicap on the strength of her strong-finishing fourth in a 7f Wolverhampton nursery on Wednesday. She was always playing catch up from her wide draw and despite having a mountain to climb off the home turn, the daughter of Anjaal fairly flew home. She may even be worth a step up to 1m.
Ed Walker’s progressive Amniarix is the stand-out entry among seven possible opponents in the Get Your Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boost Fillies Conditions Stakes (5.50) at Wolverhampton on Monday - a Fast Track Qualifier for the Fillies’ and Mares’ Final on Good Friday. Already successful over this 7f, she defied an 8lb rise in a 1m handicap at Kempton Park last time and, despite having work to do at the weights, looks well ahead off her revised mark of 83.
Misty Grey once again showed his star quality in winning Wolverhampton’s feature 7f handicap on Boxing Day, taking his record to three from three for Tom Dascombe. A strong traveller with a telling turn of foot, he remains one of the most impressive performers of Season 8 so far and must rate among the major contenders at the mid-season point for the 6f Sprint Final at Lingfield Park on Good Friday.
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is no stranger to Good Friday glory and has a strong contender himself for the Sprint Final in lightly raced five-year-old On The Warpath, who won the 6f conditions stakes on Wolverhampton’s Boxing Day card. Third in the Listed Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield Park in November on his first start since the summer, he overcame a wide position to power home off a mark of 105 and needs only one more run (possibly the Listed Kachy Stakes back at Lingfield) to qualify.
Meanwhile, Jim Goldie has a dark horse for the 3YO Championship in the rapidly improving Water Of Leith, who defied a penalty to beat Mick Appleby’s well-regarded Warrior Brave in a 6f Wolverhampton novice over the holiday. Owners Flash Figs Racing plan to aim the son of Kodiac at the Lingfield Park showpiece, and why not? After this performance he is likely to be rated in the early 90s with more opportunities en route.
Finally, the All-Weather Championships lost a dear friend on Boxing Day when the Mick Appleby-trained Big Country collapsed and died at Wolverhampton. The seven-year-old - in his prime a star of the Middle Distance Championships - gave his devoted owners The Horse Watchers some amazing memories, including when winning the Listed Pomfret Stakes at Pontefract, the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar and the Lincoln Trial Handicap at Wolverhampton in 2018. There was also something special about winning with the big bay at Chelmsford in December after buying him back at the autumn sales following a spell with Jamie Osborne.