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


A pivotal Saturday awaits in the climax to the All-Weather Championships, owing to a lucrative Lingfield Park card boasting not one, but two qualifiers for the £1m Finals day on Good Friday, 25th March. 

The Surrey track start as they mean to go on, kicking off with the £45,000 listed Unibet Hever Sprint Stakes, a contest which not only boasts a healthy prize money fund, but also a guaranteed and much sought after spot in the £150,000 Unibet All-Weather Sprint Final next month. 

With that carrot dangling a high class field of 10 have assembled to face the starter, headed by the 115-rated William Haggas inmate Muthmir, the six-year-old who in 2015 bagged a pair of Group 2's, as well as third placed finishes in both Royal Ascot's King's Stand Stakes, plus Longchamp's Prix de L'Abbaye. 

On form he commands the greatest respect, but it's also worth bearing in mind he has to prove he can handle an all-weather surface, having never attempted to do so before, while bookies may well take the view that first time out is the time to take him on, given that his career form figures first time out are 4, 2, 5. 

There's also some quality opposition to take stock of, notably David O'Meara's Move In Time, who ran with distinction but finished two places behind Muthmir at both Glorious Goodwood and Longchamp in 2015, plus Gay Kelleway's Lightscameraction, who popped up at 20/1 on Finals day in 2015, landing the Unibet Three Year Old Sprint. 

Paul Midgley's Line Of Reason has made his presence felt at a very high level since a winning spree in the summer of 2014, while The David Griffiths-trained front runner Take Cover is an all-weather specialist, having won four and been second twice in just seven all-weather outings to date. 

All are travelling to Lingfield with a realistic shout, but this could be the day German visitor Gamgoom comes to the fore, dropping in distance to the minimum five furlongs after an outstanding run here last time out, when worn down in the dying embers by Rivellino over a furlong further in the Unibet Cleves Stakes.

Although sent off an unconsidered 33/1 that day, Gamgoom broke like lightning, and despite a seemingly wretched draw (12 of 12) was clear at the furlong market.

With a possible advantage in terms of fitness, he can capitalise on a drop in trip and a kinder draw to give trainer Mario Hofer a winner, vindicating his decision to send this horse from his Krefeld stable in Germany to target a winter campaign on the British all-weather.

The other qualifier on the card is the Group 3 mile and a quarter Winter Derby (3.20pm), which guarantees the winner a place in the Easter Classic in 27 days time. 

£100,000 will be on offer to the final field of 10, including recent Winter Derby Trial one-two Grendisar and Festive Fare, for whom the form was boosted when fourth placed Captain Cat went in at Kempton on Wednesday evening.

 

Grensidar's trainer Marco Botti has won this prize three years on the spin, and in Grensidar boasts a bang in form, five-time course winner, on who was a narrow second in this race a year ago.

Festive Fare didn't convince everyone with his effort in the closing stages here three weeks ago, and at an each way price I'm going to take them both on with something of an unknown quantity, in the shape of John Gosden's British debutant, Furia Cruzada.

Getting weight from all comers, this four-year-old filly is the winner of six races in Chile and Argentina, most recently when bolting up in a pair of Grade 1's at Palermo last spring. 

The British all-weather shouldn't hold too many fears, and with Rab Havlin in the saddle she really is in excellent hands.

Race fitness and indeed acclimatisation to this country's racing have to be taken on trust, but she's a fascinating runner and one who could well pop up first time out. 

Good luck!

 

Saturday's best bets at Lingfield Park:

1.45 - Unibet Hever Sprint Stakes - 3 Gamgoom (each way)

3.20 - Coral Winter Derby - 10 Furia Cruzada (each way)