Good Effort justified strong market support to win the Betway Conditions Stakes at Newcastle and book his place in the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield on Good Friday.
However, it was a close-run thing, as Royal Birth came with a rattling run in the closing stages to get within a neck of the Ben Curtis-ridden even-money favourite at the line.
Good Effort made virtually all the running and had a handy lead at halfway in this fast-track qualifier. The Ismail Mohammed-trained five-year-old looked home and hosed, but his supporters had a scare before the line came in time.
Curtis said: “Newcastle is not really an ideal track for that sort of running style – I gave him a good kick out (from the stalls) and wanted to make sure I got his head in front.
“We went a nice gallop the whole way and he was just playing with them at the end. He was pulling up a bit and not doing a whole lot. Luckily, the line came in time.
“He stays further on softer ground, so I knew staying would not be a problem, but he just got a little lonely in front, though he went on again when the other horse came to him.
“I think being able to gain that couple of lengths at the start, sitting on him until the two and then going again, worked perfectly. He has his ears pricked there and I think he is a happy horse coming out of it.
“He should be all right around Lingfield as he showed a lot of speed there, which he will need on Finals Day. ”
He added: “I will leave it up to the powers that be and connections about where they go with him, as there might be a race in between, but he is clearly thriving at the moment.”
Another Touch took the other fast-track qualifier on the card, the Bombardier Golden Beer Conditions Stakes, to complete a hat-trick.
Successful at Chelmsford and Lingfield on his last two starts, Richard Fahey’s in-form gelding maintained his rich vein of form with a cosy success.
Trevithick and Raydiance set the pace with Another Touch tucked in behind before Barry McHugh asked him to make his challenge between horses inside the final quarter-mile.
Another Touch (6-4 favourite) picked up well and was able to hold Via Serendipity by three-quarters of a length.
McHugh said: “They did not go very quick. We were worried about that when we were speaking this morning, but we felt we had to ride him the same.
“He is going through his races a lot better now – he is really travelling and is like a little motorbike. He is very uncomplicated and makes a jockey’s life very easy.
“He would have a fair shout around Lingfield with a good pace on and is a grand little horse.”
Glen Shiel (4-1) ended a losing run going back to October 2017 when running out a ready winner of the Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer Handicap.
Stoked up by Hollie Doyle to lead three furlongs out, Archie Watson’s six-year-old kept on strongly in the final furlong to keep Rathbone at bay by one and a quarter lengths.
Doyle completed a double on the David Barron-trained Reckless Endeavour (6-1), who finished with a flourish to collar Wasntexpectingthat close home to take the Betway Handicap by a length.
The last two races on the card were abandoned due to floodlight failure.