All-Weather Championships: Tom Lee's Blog & Tips For Chelmsford

With Cheltenham hogging the headlines last week the All-Weather scene has been working away regardless, with a cluster of 'fast-track qualifiers' taking place, propelling the winners towards a starting berth on Championships Finals day at Lingfield Park, on Good Friday, April 3rd.

First up was a trip to Essex and Britain's newest racecourse on Thursday night, with Chelmsford the venue for the five runner two mile totepool Conditions Stakes, a qualifier for the £150,000 Marathon in 18 days time.

Rated a minimum of six pounds higher than his four rivals it was John Gosden's four-year Marzocco who was firmly expected to deliver, and he didn't disappoint...

Fifth in a Classic six months ago when picking up prize money in the St Leger, he appeared to have a clear edge but was made to work to hold off the consistent John Reel, guided home by just a neck in the hands of Rab Havlin. 

The eventual SP of 4/9 wasn't one to interest the casual punter, but it's a run that should put him spot on for Lingfield. 

Goodwood Races : News Photo

It was on Saturday that things really kicked into gear though, with punters nursing sore heads and light wallets after a tricky Gold Cup day at Cheltenham 24 hours previously treated to a whopping four qualifiers for Good Friday, split between Lingfield in the afternoon and Wolverhampton in the evening...

Undoubtedly the headline act on a great day's synthetic sport was Godolphin's Tryster, who scythed through the field in impressive fashion to bulldoze his way into the £200,000 Easter Classic, taking the Group 3 Winter Derby live with us on Channel 4 Racing.

The heavily supported 3/1 favourite had never been beaten on the all-weather heading into Saturday's race, gaining experience with handicap wins at Chelmsford, Wolverhampton and Kempton, and an ultra-confident Adam Kirby was more than happy to bide his time, slotting him in towards the rear of the eleven horse contingent.

It was only when the angled into the straight that Kirby was prepared to hit the accelerator, and Tryster responded in withering fashion, flashing past eventual runner-up and third Grendisar and Grandeur.

His rider was clearly happy with how things panned out, telling the press: "I had to wait for a bit of a split and he quickened up - he is pretty special. He likes to come there late - he gets there, has a little look round and he's happy."

Trainer Charlie Appleby was equally pleased, saying: "Tryster has thrived and is an exciting horse going forward. We will all re-group, see where we go from here and, obviously, he could potentially run in the Easter Classic." 

Lingfield Races : News Photo

Appleby and Kirby weren't done there, as on the very same valuable Lingfield Park card their speed merchant Pretend bagged the listed Unibet Hever Sprint.

Unibet sponsor the six furlong £150,000 All-Weather Championships Sprint Final on April 3rd, and Pretend now has a guaranteed place in the line-up after easily justifying 11/10 market expectation. 

Riding with absolute control and impressive poise Kirby anchored Pretend towards the rear of the field, once again choosing his moment to let out an inch of rein, and reel in the pacesetters with remarkable ease.

It must have been some thrill to be in the saddle, prompting Kirby to praise Pretend: "I think the world of this horse and I have always had a lot of time for him. He has got so much natural speed and he doesn't quicken once, he quickens twice. He is quite special."

Completing the picture at Lingfield and ensuring the day wasn't all about favourites, the Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes combo muscled in on the act, supplying the winner of the listed Spring Cup in 10/1 hope Lexington Times.

Lingfield Races : News Photo

It was a victory with a pleasing symmetry, because Lexington Times is a son of the great Paco Boy (winner of the Group 1 Prix De La Foret and Queen Anne Stakes), who won the Spring Cup under Richard Hughes in 2008.

I'm sure connections would have loved a shot at the Three-Year-Old Mile and it's vast prize fund on All-Weather Championships Finals Day had the race and indeed the concept been in existence seven years ago, but it seems unlikely the 2015 vintage are going to let the opportunity slip... 

After Hughesie had employed 'Kirby-esque' tactics by coming from the rear of the field to show his rivals a clean pair of hooves, it was left to the owner's spokesman Tom Palin to brief journalists: "We will come back for Good Friday and learn a lot about him then. He had to pass today's test, which he did with flying colours, and will go to Finals Day and maybe look at the 2,000 Guineas."

Last, but certainly not least, the final fast-track qualifier prior to the big day on April 3rd took place at Wolverhampton's Dunstall Park on Saturday night, and just like Tryster and Pretend it was a winning favourite in trainer Ed Vaughan's Primrose Valley, who provided the solution to the hotly contested Daily Enhanced "Magic Multiples" At Unibet Conditions Stakes.

Not only did she pick up just shy of £12,000 first prize money in the five furlong sprint, but she now receives an automatic slot in the £150,000 Unibet Three-Year-Old Sprint. 

Primrose Valley has been in blistering form of late, and completed a four-timer when coming from behind to overpower her seven rivals in the hands of Freddie Tylicki, who is more than happy with the idea of heading to Lingfield for the big day: "She is a very good filly and progressing very nicely. The big day obviously for her is Good Friday and so roll on Good Friday."

It's also a case of roll on this afternoon at Chelmsford if you're planning to have a punt on the all-weather today...

It wasn't just Pretend who caught the eye in winning the listed Unibet Hever Sprint at Lingfield on Saturday, as set a pretty tall task was James Given's grey son of Tagula Oriental Relation, who trailed in down the order after being sent off at 66/1.

Much more realistic for him is Chelmsford's totetrifecta Handicap over six furlongs at 4.30pm - on a track where he is a recent winner, and at a level where he is a big noise. 

Lingfield Races : News Photo

Better still, Tom Eaves who has been on board for both recent wins, both here and at Southwell, is back in the saddle, and his trainer's decision to turn him out again quickly can bear fruit. 

Also heading to Essex this afternoon is trainer David Simcock, and he can enjoy a winner courtesy of tough mare India's Song in the totequadpot Handicap over 1m 2f at 4.00pm.

Arguably unlucky not to be coming into this race on a hat-trick after meeting trouble in-running at Lingfield last time, she gets on very well with talented apprentice rider Milly Naseb, and a return to the form which saw her win at Kempton and Chelmsford in the winter months could well be enough.

She's up against the well supported Dragon Guard, but he has to prove he can give weight away to all comers after 346 days off the track, and what's more he didn't exactly produce fireworks when last seen at this level in April last year.

At twice his price the gutsy, consistent and possibly still improving India's Song look a far better value alternative.

Good luck!


This afternoon's best bets at Chelmsford:

4.00 - totequadpot Handicap - 6 India's Song (win)

4.30 - totetrifecta Handicap - 5 Oriental Relation (win)