Racing News 12.4.2017 03:17 pm

This Friday looks to be a particularly good one

POTENTIAL STAR. Muffri’Ha ran a cracker in the Grade 1 Jebel Hatta in Dubai and has the class to win the Fillies & Mares Championship at Lingfield on Friday.

POTENTIAL STAR. Muffri’Ha ran a cracker in the Grade 1 Jebel Hatta in Dubai and has the class to win the Fillies & Mares Championship at Lingfield on Friday.

Muffri’Ha has winning form at Lingfield and ran a blinder to finish third in the Grade 1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan.

Britain’s 2017 Turf sea­son explodes into top gear next week, with classic trials at New­market and Newbury, so we need to boost the betting kitty beforehand, and Good Fri­day promises to be the best day’s all-weather racing yet with New­castle joining in the fun, plus a quality meeting on the grass at Bath.

Following three successful years at Lingfield, where prize money this year is increased to £1-million for All-Weather Cham­pionship Day, cash injections at both Newcastle (£250,000) and Bath (£175,000) almost makes one consider missing the obligatory hot cross buns as Friday’s racing is that good.

Grendisar, something of a course specialist at Lingfield, de­fends his crown in the conclud­ing £200,000 Easter Classic, but the seven-year-old seems to have started his descent and I much prefer Sir Michael Stoute’s CON­VEY, who has won both his races on the Polytrack and looked to have plenty in hand when captur­ing the Winter Derby.

I am also very keen on the chance of MUFFRI’HA in the Fil­lies & Mares Championship.

She has winning form on the track but has been prepping for this on the turf at the Dubai Car­nival, running a blinder to finish third in the Grade 1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan.

Ashadihan is 2-2 on the Pol­ytrack and looked above-average when winning at Chelmsford, but I doubt whether she has the class of Muffri’Ha.

William Haggas, who trains Muffri’Ha, can also win the three-year-old sprint with SECOND THOUGHT, who impressed when beating Sutter County in cosy fashion here last time and is ex­pected to confirm his superiority.

The All-Weather marathon looks wide-open, but the improv­er in the race is Godolphin’s filly NATURAL SCENERY, who took the step up in distance in her stride when winning at Newcas­tle. Watersmeet and Pinzolo could fill the places.

Godolphin are also making noises about Pretend repeating his win at this meeting two years ago, but Dean Ivory has the ever­green LANCELOT DU LAC in fan­tastic form and he is expected to go one better than he did in the All-Weather Sprint 12 months ago. Kimberella could be the main danger.

The French make a powerful raid on this meeting, and their best chance might be with QUR­BAAN in the All-Weather Mile. He is 5-6 on the Polytrack and was particularly impressive when winning at Deauville in February. The in-form Ennaadd could be best of the home team.

Highlight at Newcastle is the £100,000 conditions stakes over 1600m, for which I like John Gos­den’s Leicester maiden winner UTMOST, while the Newmarket trainer could also have the solu­tion to the £60,000 middle-dis­tance handicap at Bath in KHA­LIDI, who will be sharper for his comeback run at Doncaster a fort­night ago, his first appearance for seven months.

Gosden’s team have just started to fire, and today at Nottingham can take the opening maiden with VALCARTIER, who has thrived for a winter break, while MONARCHS GLEN looked smart when win­ning at Goodwood last season and might have got in lightly for the London Middle Distance Qualifier at Kempton this evening.

Ryan Moore is not a fan of Guin­ness – or any alcohol for that mat­ter – so he had little smile about from a two-day stint for Aidan O’Brien in Ireland last weekend, drawing a blank in 12 rides for Coolmore, six of which started fa­vourite.

However, we might well have seen a future star at Naas on Sun­day in Dermot Weld’s newcomer Tocco d’Amore, who flew home, winning by six lengths.

This Raven’s Pass filly cost 2-million Euros as a yearling, and, though she was virtually friend­less in the ring, going off at 9-1, Weld confided: “She was the only filly in the race and it is not my style taking on the colts so early in the season, which illustrates just how much I think of her.”

She could prove to be another superstar for the Moyglare Stud team.

Andre Fabre was also bubbling with enthusiasm after his Qatari-owned Al Wukair had beaten National Defense – the best two-year-old in France last season – on his reappearance in the Prix Dje­bel at Maisons-Laffitte on Monday.

National Defense won the Group 3 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Chantilly’s Arc meeting, yet Al Wukair brushed him aside with the minimum of fuss, and he is now around 10-1 to beat Churchill and company in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket next month.

“Al Wukair appreciated the drying ground as he has got gears,” said Fabre, who twice the Guineas in the 90’s, with Zafonic and Pennekamp.

The first few months of 2017 in Britain have gone very much the bookies way, with Aintree being as tough for punters as was last month’s Cheltenham Festival and though Saturday’s Grand National hero One For Arthur was only a 14-1 shot, connections made no secret beforehand that the dry­ing ground was the last thing they wanted, so he was a winner in most ‘books’.

Punters fared little better at the Kentucky Derby Trials at Church­ill Downs last week-end, with more questions than answers re­sulting from the dress-rehearsals.

Victory for 31-1 chance Irap in the US$1-million Blue Grass Stakes was greeted with disbelief as he was breaking his maiden in downing a fistful of seemingly le­gitimate contenders for the ‘Run For The Roses’, with the hitherto unbeaten McCraken, the early fa­vourite for America’s most pres­tigious race, finishing only third.

Irap was just one of a series of surprise results at Churchill, and with the Kentucky Derby now just 24 days away, last week’s Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming shortened in price without having to leave his barn at Gulfstream.

As expected, Chautauqua, who has ruled the roost in the sprint­ing division in Australia for the last three years, won the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick for the third year running last weekend, and he, too, firmed up for his major target, the inaugural running of the £3.6-million Everest – the richest turf race in the world – over the same course and dis­tance in October.

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