Tom Lee's All-Weather Championships Blog & Friday's Best Bets

Firstly, given that this is my first Unibet blog of 2016, a belated Happy New Year to all readers; let's hope it's a prosperous and lucky 12 months.

Much has happened since last we spoke, with Richard Johnson reaching his 3,000th win as a professional rider, Channel 4 being replaced by ITV for racing's terrestrial television rights from 2017, Sir AP McCoy receiving a richly-deserved Knighthood, plus a heap of quality sport on the nation's racecourses.

We may be in the very depths of National Hunt territory, but the country's all-weather tracks are keeping the flame burning for lovers of the Flat, and as Messrs Johnson and McCoy would no doubt agree, records are there to be broken!

Unibet are the backers of the Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes on Finals Day at Lingfield in late March, and one horse now guaranteed a slot in the £150,000 contest is Dean Ivory's Lancelot Du Lac, after the now six-year-old son of Shamardal bolted up at Chelmsford last Saturday.

In fact, so impressive was the 109-rated winner of the Essex venue's 'fast-track qualifier', he left the course record in splinters, covering the five furlongs in just 57.39 seconds.

Unconfirmed rumours suggest speed cameras on the nearby A14 will be spewing out tickets addressed to trainer Dean Ivory, who was rightly chuffed, and had plenty to say:

"I am over the moon with how Lancelot Du Lac won. We could have made a few little excuses beforehand, such as his ability to handle the track and his wide draw, but the way he jumped out of the gates showed that he is a true professional.

"We ran him in the big Good Friday race a couple of years ago but he bumped the rail that day and had to be snatched up a bit. I think now that we have qualified for the race again, we have to look seriously at running him again.

"I think he is going to be a better horse this year. He was a little unlucky when he went to Dubai at the start of last season and horses seem to need a few months to get over the trip when they come back.

"He has bounced back and has the speed for five furlongs. He is a very versatile horse - he can run over five or six furlongs - and Robert Winston gets on so well with him.

"All credit to Robert, he knows Lancelot Du Lac and was never worried about the five furlongs today, even though I had a slight doubt myself. The horse went and did it in style for us."

Elsewhere, more than twice the age of Lancelot Du Lac, another favourite on the all-weather is now 13-year-old La Estrella, who heads into what will hopefully be a long and happy retirement with an extraordinary record in the bag, as the winning-most horse in all-weather history.

The veteran's decisive 27th and final all-weather success came at Southwell on December 29th (when still aged 12), as he scored under Tom Queally at Southwell, to the delight of a handful of spectators.

Almost immediately his charismatic and occasionally madcap trainer, Don Cantillon, announced his best known inmate would depart the stage a hero, after a 68 race career which also yielded one win over hurdles, plus a Flat victory on the turf.

Speaking of which, one horse who scored a notable victory on the turf in 2015 was Amanda Perrett's Blue Surf, who scored over a mile and a half at Epsom on Derby day, off a mark of 98.

This afternoon, the versatile seven-year-old is just a pound higher for Lingfield's £19,000 Coral Handicap over the same trip (2.45pm), and with an excellent record when fresh, he is the recommendation at around about 5/1, as he returns from a 132 day absence.

This is an all-weather debut for Blue Surf, but his record when making his annual reappearance throws up form figures of 4, 2, 1 since 2013, and against shorter priced rivals he could well be the value in the hands of the brilliant Adam Kirby.

Further north, they also race at Wolverhampton, where in the second race (4.45pm) With Hindsight can continue his outstanding sequence of form since joining the Lincolnshire yard of Steve Gollings. 

Figures of 3, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1 are the end product since With Hindsight has been trained by Gollings, and furthermore he's now bidding for a course and distance hat-trick.

Perhaps most encouraging is that two runs back he saw off David Bridgwater's Tempuran, conceding weight, with that rival franking the form by bolting up at Lingfield on Tuesday.

With Hindsight is on a roll, and will have been freshened up by a 25 day break.

Good luck!


Friday's best bets on the all-weather with Unibet:

2.45 Lingfield - Coral Handicap - 2 Blue Surf (win)

4.45 Wolverhampton - Handicap - 1 With Hindsight (win)