The eighth season of the AllWeather Championships began at Newcastle on October 20 and a couple of months in, a number of horses have already booked their spot for Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday having won one of the 24 Fast Track Qualifiers, four within each of the six categories. Horses can also qualify for Finals Day by having three starts on the all-weather in either the UK, Ireland, France or on the dirt in Dubai, from October 20 to the six-day entry stage for the finals, March 28.
The opening day of the new season saw the first of the qualifiers take place, a 6f conditions race at Newcastle. Yazaman from the William Haggas yard brought the best form into the five-runner race having been placed a couple of times in Group 2 company in the summer and he was sent off the even money favourite. He was well placed to win the second race of his career chasing the pace set by Significantly, but he was a bit outpaced with a couple of furlongs to go, running on too late to catch the all the way winner who was breaking his maiden at the eighth time of asking, holding on to win by three quarters of a length with Victory Heights a neck away in third.
Significantly had been a bit frustrating, finishing second on five of his previous seven starts but this was good way to get off the mark and his trainer Karl Burke could give him a run in the New Year prior to contesting the final.
Yazaman and Victory Heights met again in the second of the qualifiers, a 6f conditions race at Wolverhampton on December 5. This was a much stronger contest than the race at Newcastle with two of the seven runners rated over 100, Mighty Gurkha, a Group 3 winner who was dropping in class having raced at the Breeders’ Cup on his most recent start, and Zamaani, who had been placed in Listed company on his two previous starts. Yazaman had been gelded since his run at Newcastle whilst Victory Heights had a confidence-boosting win back at Newcastle in mid-November. Atalis Bay, who had a progressive profile before a below par run in Group 3 company at Newmarket, was sent off the second favourite behind Zamaani in what was an open betting race.
Mighty Gurkha had led all the way for his Group 3 win at Kempton and he tried to repeat that here, breaking well and controlling the pace under Hollie Doyle. Atalis Bay also raced prominently but he faded out of contention in the final furlong. Victory Heights and Zamaani tracked the front two, with the two outsiders, Bakersboy and Fayathaan next and slow starting Yazaman in the rear.
Doyle kicked for home turning into the straight and was strongly pressed inside the final furlong by Yazaman on his inside and Victory Heights and Yazaman on the outer. The 7lb penalty Mighty Gurkha had to carry for the Group 3 win proved just too much as Victory Heights grabbed the lead with 75 yards to go, Mighty Gurkha stuck his head down but Victory Heights got the verdict by a nose with Yazaman a neck behind and Zamaani a further head back in fourth. Victory Heights booked his place in the final but given there was so little to choose between the first four, any of them could come out on top on Good Friday.
Bakersboy finished well to be fifth and wasn’t given too hard a time by Richard Kingscote. He was rated 78 going into this race but having only been beaten a length and three quarters, the handicapper raised him 11lb to 89. A half-brother to one of the leading all-weather performers who is sadly no longer with us, Kachy, Bakersboy should have little trouble getting off the mark next time and there is a chance he could progress into a contender for the final.
Away from the Fast Track Qualifiers, Bedford Flyer has won his last two starts over 5f. The most recent, at Lingfield on November 25, saw him carry 10st 3lb to victory, leading all the way he broke the two-year-old track record, becoming the first juvenile to go under 57 seconds. He was raised 5lb to 91 for that impressive win and whilst he has yet to race over the final distance of 6f, there is no reason why he won’t prove as effective and he should continue to run well.
Good Effort would have been the favourite for the Sprint final earlier this year, but with the Covid-19 pandemic bringing racing to a halt, the 2019/20 Finals Day didn’t take place. He has won twice already this season, carrying top weight to a comfortable 5f win at Lingfield on November 4 and running away with the first of the Fast Track Qualifiers, the Listed Golden Rose Stakes over 6f also at Lingfield on November 14.
Facing 11 rivals in the Golden Rose, including 2019 winner Judicial, Good Effort was the 5/2 favourite with Judicial and On The Warpath at 5-1. Good Effort was well drawn in stall three and broke well, managing to get the lead ahead of Lampang who chased him throughout. Good Effort was always in control of the race going clear turning into the straight and only having to be pushed out inside the last furlong by Ray Dawson to beat Lampang by a length and a half. On The Warpath ran on well to be third but never challenged, the same comment applies to Judicial who finished fifth.
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