British racing returns after a ten-week absence on Monday with a 10-race card at Gosforth Park Newcastle. The meeting will be staged behind closed doors with strict government guidelines in operation. All staff on the racecourse will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and all jockeys will wear facemasks as is currently the case in France who have been racing successfully for three weeks since their own break as a result of the global pandemic.
All ten races have attracted maximum fields of 12 runners and the going was described as standard to slow on the tapeta surface on Friday morning. Do note the track is about an hour from Barnard Castle for those thinking of a quick drive up the A1 to check their eyesight.
In the Mile Handicap the filly Geizy Teisy is interesting having looked a shade unlucky when beaten less than a length at Wolverhampton back in January from a 2lbs lower mark. Cote D’Azur is a favourite of mine and a market move would be worth noting, but the vote goes to Mutasaamy (1.35) who has looked a reformed character since a gelding operation before his penultimate start.
There was much to like about the selection’s success from Stormbomber – a subsequent winner – at Kempton on his last start although he will have to improve again to get involved today, given he has taken an 8lb hike in the weights. He is out of an Oaks winner, so the hope is that he will appreciate this stiff mile. He was put in at odds against by the layers on Friday but was immediately well supported and is now just 4/5 with Boylesports to follow up his latest success.
He is one of just two runners on the card for Roger Varian and I expect him to drift on the day with the layers likely to be keen to take on the short-priced favourites given the unique circumstances surrounding the card and the uncertainty as to the respective fitness of the various stables.
In the 1st division of the 6f Novice Stakes I expect to see a bold bid from the newcomer Freedom Flyer (2.10) who will be the first runner from the yard of the father and son combination of Simon and Ed Crisford who now hold a joint licence. The selection cost 160,000gns as a yearling and is bred to make a sprinter. The booking of Silvestre De Sousa suggests a bold bid is expected. The newcomer was put in at 13/2 on Friday but is now 7/2 with bet365 following sustained support.
The 2nd division looks a much stronger race and Jedd O’Keefe has nominated Continental as his horse to follow this season. The filly cost £240,000 as a yearling and has obviously been working well at home, but the trainer was interviewed on Sky Sports Racing on Saturday and suggested that she would improve for the experience today. At 7/2 with Unibet she has not exactly gone under the radar and will have to be very smart to make a winning debut despite receiving weight from the other principles.
I just favour those with experience on this occasion and preference for the colt Art Power (2.45) over the filly Magical Journey is marginal. The selection shaped with considerable promise when third here on debut over 6f in September before hammering a decent field over the minimum trip at York the following month. The colt is another who has been well supported over the weekend and is a best-priced 6/4 with bet365.
Magical Journey – 5/4 with William Hill – finished second in the listed Bosra Sham Stakes at Newmarket on her second start and was, arguably, unlucky not to win given I felt she was carried across the track by the winner. I think she will get further than 6f this term although today’s deep surface will help.
The feature race is the mile-and-a-half handicap and Makawee – 14s with Unibet – makes her all-weather debut for David O’Meara. This stiff track should suit this half-sister to Prince Of Arran who finished runner up in the Northumberland Plate here a couple of years ago. A market move would be worth noting.
The lightly raced Alignac is the first runner of the campaign for Sir Michael Stoute and scooted clear of his field at Kempton last time over a furlong shorter than today. Note I am hearing the stable believe they are very well forward for the belated start of the season. Alignac could still be thrown in, but my two against the field are Ice Pyramid and Good Tidings (5.05) with preference for the latter will be the first runner of the campaign for John Gosden.
Ice Pyramid is a duel C&D winner and the form of his latest success here back in February has been given a boost by the subsequent win of the runner up Groveman. Good Tidings – 7/2 with Boylesports – was last seen finishing last of nine at Chelmsford but has been gelded in the interim period. His third at Kempton in a valuable handicap back in November reads very well and he did show he acted on today’s track when scoring over C&D the previous month. I think there is more to come from Good Tidings this term and hope that we don’t have to wait till Christmas for him to deliver!
This is an ultra-competitive handicap and I believe the form will be worth following for the next month or so.
In the 1st division of the 10f Maiden Thibaan is bred to be smart and looks sure to improve on his fourth at Kempton on his sole start over a mile back in November. He is the second runner on the card for Sir Michael Stoute, but he may have to give best to the filly Frankly Darling (5.40) who showed plenty of promise when runner up in a mile maiden at Yarmouth on debut.
As a daughter of Frankel the selection – 8/11 at bet365 – is bred to appreciate todays extra couple of furlongs, and I hope it is a good afternoon for Gosden who, it is well documented, is not afraid to run some of his better horses at the track.
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