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


The first genuine cold blast of winter arrived at the start of this week, bringing with it the first sight of gritting lorries on suburban roads, a spate of garages advertising their wares for motorists to stock up on life essentials such as jerry cans, spam, warning triangles and blankets, and of course the ominous word from National Hunt Clerks of the Course: "inspection!". 

Deluges and dipping temperatures are all on the way, but that'll be of little concern to those that follow the all-weather, with the nation's five courses protected from all but the harshest of weather. 

That's not to say it's an easy ride for the teams that oversee Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell or Wolverhampton, but when the going gets tough they can usually keep going, keeping the show on the road for owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff, broadcasters, bookmakers and punters alike.

Since we last spoke in this column there's been feature action at Lingfield Park, where on Saturday the scenic dual purpose Surrey track hosted the latest of the all-weather's 'fast-tack qualifiers', putting on the seven furlong 32Red Conditions Stakes.  

Lingfield Races : News Photo

With the winner of the £14,000 contest assured of a place in March's Three-Year-Old Mile Championships Conditions Stakes, the final itself worth an eye-popping £150,000, this was bound to be a hot race, and so it proved...

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby did the double 12 months ago with the Dubawi colt Four Seasons, and could the famous Royal Blue silks be about to repeat the dose in 2015/16?

They say fortune favours the brave, and 12 months on that's exactly what top rider James Doyle was on Saeed bin Suroor's Race Day, bouncing him out and making all. 

The duo mustered enough to see of market leader Special Season by half a length, winning at odds of 5/1. 

Lingfield Races : News Photo

Race Day clearly has a real affinity for Lingfield having won three on the bounce at the track, and looks set to beat a familiar path back here in the spring, with Doyle explaining:

"Race Day is a bit of a cheeky playboy but has really knuckled down for his last three races and is learning his trade nicely.

"He was all over the place on his first three runs, hanging into the rails, but has kept on improving since his first win here.

"I always felt coming off the turn that he would keep going. We went a hell of a pace all of the way but we wanted to draw the sting out of the rest of the field because he won over a mile last time and all he does is gallop.

"He seems to be much more straightforward in front, doing his own his own thing, and he doesn't over-race. He was in front with his ears pricked and wasn't losing any energy.

"Looking through the race beforehand, it was much tougher compared to last week. I thought that we would be up against it but he has surprised me. We put cheek-pieces on him to help him focus and they seemed to have helped as well.

"He has qualified now, so it is job done."

Irish Derby Festival : News Photo

To see off any start of the week blues Chelmsford was Monday's major port of call, posting huge levels of prize money to entice quality fields, especially for their two Class 2 races on the card.

The first of those was the £45,000, 0-105 Tote Quadpot Handicap, a mile contest which featured the likes of Grey Mirage, winner of the All-Weather Championships Mile Conditions Stakes back in April.

The bookies however fancied the chances of Roger Varian's Mindurownbusiness, as the 105 top-rated horse in the field lined up under top weight, well supported as the 2/1 favourite.

Anyone who availed of those odds won't have experienced a moment's anxiety, as the market leader swept through in the final furlong to run out an easy winner. 

That's five wins from ten starts on the all-weather for Mindurownbusiness, who looks every inch a Group horse in the making.   

On a bitterly cold afternoon, one which also witnessed jockey-turned-trainer Richard Hughes bag another winner courtesy of Duchess Of Marmite in the two miler, the other big £45,000 prize went the way of Aussie trainer Jeremy Gask.

Now based at Sutton Veny in Wiltshire, Gask was understandably chuffed after his Medicean Man had set a new course record, when taking the five furlong Bet totetrifecta Handicap under Martin Lane. 

Surprisingly, given that he was second in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot back in June, the SP returned about Medicean Man was a meaty 10/1, though this was very definitely no fluke as he burst through in the final furlong, having been held up early. 

Kempton Races : News Photo

Looking ahead, a trio of all-weather meetings this afternoon (Wednesday) make it an ideal day for an investment, and it's to Kempton Park we'll head for this evening's feature race, the £40,000 listed Wild Flower Stakes (6.45pm).

It's a contest notable for the declaration of Hamelin, a likeable five-year-old who three weeks ago came within a quarter of a length of giving Lady Cecil a listed winner here with her final domestic runner.

Hamelin has now been transferred to her former assistant, George Scott, and he'll be hoping for a bold show with this, his first ever runner.

The draw could've been kinder though, positioning him widest of the 10 runners.

The market is topped by Hugo Palmer's Spanish Squeeze, as he bids to prove he can handle tonight's step up to a mile and a half, while the weights are topped by Mark Johnston's Fire Fighting, who though talented does seem to need luck in-running. 

With that in mind, maybe the value lies with dual course and distance scorer Ospiva, as she bids to make her first crack at listed company a winning one.

Neatly drawn, proven at the trip, in receipt of a three-year-old fillies' allowance, and with form figures at Kempton of 121, there's a lot to like about the James Fanshawe-trained daughter of Guineas winner Makfi. 

After all, three-year-olds have won four of the eight runnings of this race. 

Kempton Races : News Photo

Meanwhile, they get going earlier in the day at Lingfield Park, where race three is the seven furlong Claiming Stakes (1.00pm). 

It's hard to believe that just 17 months ago Field Of Dream was a 20/1 winner of the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, getting the job done off a mark of 101. 

Since then his form has nosedived, but not to such an extent that he didn't have enough fire in his belly to win a similar race to today's at Wolverhampton four days ago. 

A similar effort ought to be good enough here, especially with Adam Kirby retaining the mount.

Lastly, Andrew Balding's Man Of Harlech handled an all-weather surface well on his only previous try, and last time out put in a massive run when fourth in Newamrket's Cambridgeshire. 

A combination of a 60 day break and a small step up in trip can see him victorious today, as he tackles the 1m 2f Coral Handicap (2.35pm).

Good luck!

 

Today's best bets on the all-weather:

1.00 Lingfield - Ladbrokes Claiming Stakes - 2 Field Of Dream (win)

2.35 Lingfield - Coral Handicap - 1 Man Of Harlech (win)

6.45 Kempton - Wild Flower Stakes - 10 Ospiva (each way)