All-Weather Championships: Tom Lee's Wolverhampton Tips


The week that was brought about another raft of abandonments and a spate of frustrating news bulletins for National Hunt trainers nationwide, as we lost cards at Musselburgh, Market Rasen, Sedgefield, Carlisle and Ludlow.

Thank goodness then for the hardy and durable scene on the all-weather!

Purists and dinosaurs may turn up their noses at racing on artificial surfaces, but witness the quality, both human and equine, gracing the likes of Chelmsford, Kempton, Southwell and Wolverhampton in the run-up to the All-Weather Championships in early April, and be grateful the sport is allowed to thrive in this way.

Keeping the show on the road this week we've seen none other than Frankie Dettori pitch up at Lingfield on Monday, partnering just his second mount of 2015, as he booted home 6/4 market leader Wajeeh in the mile maiden!

That Wajeeh also features among the entries for the Derby in June only serves to highlight that the all-weather is a significant calling point in the development of potential future stars, and it was enough to lure 'Frankie' before he packs his bags for warmer assignments further afield, as 'the Sardine' heads off to Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai and finally Saudi Arabia.

At the same meeting not even a photo finish could separate Ask The Guru and Temple Road, as the pair of speedsters flashed past the post in unison in the five furlong Unibet Offer Daily Jockey/Trainer Specials Handicap. 

Neither trainer, Michael Attawater nor Milton Bradley respectively, looked too disappointed at having to share the spoils. 

On the same day there was stacks to enjoy at Wolverhampton, with the £16,000 mile conditions race going the way of the William Haggas-trained Graphic, who now looks likely to have a tilt at the Mile Championship race itself on Good Friday, 3rd April. 

Wolverhampton Races : News Photo

Also very much on form was Sir Mark Precott's Cape Cross mare Don't Be, who justified 4/5 favouritism to make it five wins on the bounce. 

Jockey Luke Morris, on board for all five of those wins, opined afterwards that she could likely win another handicap next, before a step up into listed or Group company. 

It wasn't just her doing favourite backers a turn either, with the back in-form Dave Evans hitting the target with a dour performance from 15/8 jolly John Reel in the stayers' race.  

John Reel was completing a hat-trick of his own in the space of 66 days, and he could now be spotted in races such as the Marathon Championship at Lingfield in April, and beyond that May's Chester Cup. 

Tuesday saw the show roll on to Kempton and Southwell, where at the former we enjoyed a facile victory the John Butler-trained Ifittakesforever.

Sent off the 11/4 joint favourite, the fitting of a visor for the first time appeared to help immeasurably, as the three-year-old son of Kodiac was able to glide home unopposed under Tom Queally. 

At the same venue trainer Conor Dore could've been forgiven a satisfied smile after the opening mile handicap, in which his new recruit City Of Angkor Wat delivered in authoritative fashion.

Claimed from the Jo Hughes team after a third place run at Wolverhampton just four days previously, he immediately began to pay off his £6,000 transfer fee. 

Meanwhile, surely the best-named winner of the year to date came in the six furlong maiden at Southwell, as Gerrard's Slip sluiced in for the Bryan Smart and Adam Carter combination, despite being allowed to go off at 10/1.

It must have been a good week for all things Gerrard, as not only did the horse named in his honour bolt up, but the Liverpool skipper then kept his footing to ensure his side came through a tricky FA Cup replay away at Bolton Wanderers!

If Tuesday produced a Mile Championship hopeful in Graphic then Wednesday was no less significant, with the David Elsworth-trained Merdon Castle earning a tilt at the Unibet Three Year Old Sprint Championship on April 3rd, winning the latest valuable fast track qualifier. 

Despite undergoing an operation to have a fragment of floating bone removed from his knee in late summer this lightning quick Acclamation colt was simply too good for his rivals at Chelmsford, driven out by Liam Keniry to deny the pace-setting Apache Storm by a neck. 

Displaying the benefit of last month's run at Kempton the 7/2 shot thrilled his trainer, who told reporters at the track: "Good Friday is now the plan with him. We will tuck him in at nights and read him a nursery rhyme!"

Equally satisfied after a good day's midweek work was fellow trainer Gary Moore, who took a break from putting the (ultimately fruitless) finishing touches to stable star Sire De Grugy's weekend return to the track, sending out an impressive 48/1 'across the card' double, scoring in the opener at Chelmsford with 11/4 poke Rockfast, before 12/1 chance Third Strike completed the job at Kempton Park just 35 minutes later. 

Also treading a familiar path to the winner's enclosure were jockeys Luke Morris and Tony Hamilton, with both men enjoying doubles of their own at Wolverhampton on Thursday. 

Morris can't stop having winners on the all-weather, and added another two with even money chance Pour La Victoire in the opening Daily Enhanced "Magic Multiples" At Unibet Handicap, before 11/2 Beat Goes On completed a 12/1 double in the seven furlong maiden.

Hamilton matched that feat, getting the best out of 13/8 hot pot Gabrial The Thug in the extended mile handicap, following up with 8/11 Trimoulet in the lucky last, for a combination that paid 7/2 for anyone who rolled them up. 

On Saturday at Lingfield it was the turn of pilot Martin Harley to be seen to good effect, getting on the scoresheet with a 'Unibet double', taking the Daily Price Boosts At Unibet Maiden Stakes on 2/1 hope Lanai, before 4/1 chance Baddilini obliged in the Unibet Handicap, giving those who'd headed up Harley street a 14/1 double. 

Wolverhampton Races : News Photo

Sunday was also a significant chapter in the all-weather campaign, on two counts:

At sunny Southwell Mick Appleby was once again the man to follow, dominating the card with three of the seven races falling to runners from his Nottinghamshire base, for a stunning 109/1 treble!

First up Andrew Mullen drove 5/2 jolly Electric Qatar home by three lengths in the five furlong Unibet-sponsored claimer, before the same rider scorched clear to take the seven furlong maiden by an incredible 12 lengths on fellow 5/2 shot Street Force

Given the form of the stable I'm sure there'll be a few people kicking themselves for not having a pound on 8/1 Marciano in the last, as he romped clear under apprentice Jane Elliott, seeing off a better fancied stablemate who could manage only third to run out an easy winner.

Further afield, the latest key All-Weather Championships fast track qualifier took place in the south of France, with Cagnes-sur-Mer the location for the listed mile Prix de la Californie, won by Growing Glory who was returned at 7.3/1 on the local Pari-Mutuel. 

Anyone who thinks the lure of the all-weather extends no further than the boundaries of the UK and Ireland would do well to listen to winning trainer Francois Rohaut, who is clearly very keen on the All-Weather Championships, despite being based in the French town of Sauvagnon: "I am very keen to bring her to Lingfield on Good Friday. The distance and Polytrack will be perfect for Growing Glory".

She edged out the favourite in a really good tussle, and her trainer's intentions are clear proof of the ever-growing profile and attraction of the Championships - let's just hope he remembers to drive on the left. 

With that in mind there's no shortage of good horses to look forward to at the start of April, but if you've been following this blog for the past couple of weeks you'll know we also like to try and kick-start the week with a winner or two, and this afternoon's all-weather sport is provided by an eight race card at Wolverhampton...

With seven winners in the past fortnight Godolphin man Charlie Appleby continues with his string in good heart, and on his just his fifth career start Shamardal gelding Tryster is taken to do the business in the 0-105 handicap at 3.00pm.

In a race where key rivals Pivotman (markedly up in grade and 2lb out of the weights) and Spes Nostra (beaten 5 lengths by Tryster last time out) have clear reasons to oppose them, Tryster reamains open to progress.

Up six for his reappearance win at Chelmsford, three pounds of that rise is offset by rider Shane Gray's claim.

There is a question mark about his temperament given how he ducked across the track towards the paddock at Chelmsford, but with experience comes maturity and hopefully those creases have been ironed out. 

The winner of two of his four starts to date, this looks a good opening to add another victory.

Later in the day a much more speculative play at an attractive each way price is Dianne Sayer's Sendiym in the extended two mile 0-60 handicap. 

Sent all the way to Dunstall Park from Cumbria, this horse is guaranteed to stay (unlike some of his rivals) given his winning exploits over the sticks, and may benefit from a long break after a busy summer and autumn campaign.

As you'd expect from a horse rated just 48 his Flat record is modest, but a light weight in a bad race for a horse who has winning fork on the level in France might be enough, and justifies a few pounds each way. Good luck!

Monday's best bets at Wolverhampton:

3.00 - Coral Handicap - 3 Tryster - win at 5/4

4.00 - Willie Or Won't He Handicap - 6 Sendiym - each way at 8/1