For many years Good Friday was a racing free day but the sell out crowd that usually attends the All-Weather Championship Finals at Lingfield shows there is an appetite for racing on a day when most people are off work. The fourth renewal of the concept features seven races over a variety of distances, gender and age groups. Six races will be shown live on ITV4 and betting turnover will be significant. £1 million is on offer on Finals Day across each race category. It is the richest all-weather race day ever staged in Europe, as well as one of the richest race days in the UK.
The commercial terrestrial racing broadcaster cover Lingfield just six days after showing the Grand National for the first time. The coverage received positive reviews and the relatively low viewing figures were put down to the decent weather which meant more potential viewers were outdoors. All 40 horses and jockeys returned sound and even though there were only three fallers the intrinsic nature of the race remains. Welfare issues were a priority and the race was a huge success enjoyed by a massive crowd and global television audience.
The Grand National meeting was good for Nicky Henderson who now has a substantial lead over Paul Nicholls in the Trainer’s Championship. Nicholls has said he can’t overhaul his friend but there are plenty of big prizes up for grabs during the rest of the month. Henderson is the favourite to win his fourth title and his stable has the quality to pick up enough money to get over the line. The Scottish National and end of season meeting at Sandown as always are crucial in this context.
Four weeks ago the racing world was looking forward to Cheltenham and Aintree but now the focus is on the Flat. In less than two months four of the five Classics will have been run and Royal Ascot will be fast approaching. The winter stalwarts on the all-weather take centre stage for one day but then we have the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday. A winner is a winner regardless of the surface and type of racing and there are some standout bets for AW Finals Day at the end of the week.
Watersmeet is of great interest in the Marathon Final over just shy of two miles. The horse’s trainer, Mark Johnston, thinks he has a decent chance. He believes the horse will stay further than his experience over 10 furlongs. Watersmeet is more consistent on artificial surfaces than turf. Lingfield is the immediate focus and next target and the horse has the credentials to win the long distance final on Friday.
The shortest priced favourite of the day is Second Thought in the three-year-old championship race but Sutter County looks a viable alternative at four times the price. The horse is consistent and has run to the same rating of 103 on his last five starts. The latest race was a trial for the final when Second Thought won by three quarters of a length. That horse quickened near the finish over seven furlongs but the race on Friday is over one furlong less. The disparity in the odds does not reflect how closely matched the two horses are and Sutter County makes more appeal.
Kimberella is another consistent sort who can get the job done in the Sprint Final. The horse is only aged 7 but has run 63 times and won eight races. In winning the Betway Dash over five furlongs the horse showed great sprinting ability and the form can be maintained over the extra furlong of the sprint race at Lingfield. Pretend is a worthy favourite for the race but Kimberella is in the type of form to prevail. Over the less fancied contenders Realize looks overpriced and can make the frame.
Convey won the Winter Derby Stakes over 10 furlongs at Lingfield in February and takes the best form into the Middle Distance championship race. The horse beat Pinzolo and Absolute Blast by a neck and head but was value for a bigger winning distance. Absolute Blast reopposes but Convey is the best horse in the race and looks the banker bet of the meeting on Good Friday.