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Simon Mapletoft on the AWC: Horses to follow – Mile

Last season’s 3YO Mile hero Four Seasons steps up to take on the big boys but Charlie Appleby’s starlet remains unexposed over a mile.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Sovereign Debt should have won the Mile Final last season. Adrian Nicholls found himself too far out of his ground before the gelding succumbed to a fast-diminishing quarter-length defeat by Grey Mirage. He’s since proven what a good horse he is, winning a Listed race at The Curragh and rightly claiming a Tipperary Group Three in the stewards’ room. Dandy Nicholls has some unfinished business at Lingfield but more success on sand awaits en route to Finals Day.

His biggest threat looks certain to come from the younger division, which has the potential to be stronger than ever this winter as the Championships grow in prestige. John Gosden’s US-bred gelding Malaf has struggled on turf since dominating a Wolverhampton handicap in June and looks potentially well treated on a mark of 90. Unbeaten in both starts on an artificial surface, this half-brother to nine winners Stateside could be Listed class.

Four Seasons claimed some notable scalps when landing the 3YO Final last season and heads back to the sand after just one below-par performance on turf. He looked ill at ease coming down the hill at Lingfield when winning a Fast Track Qualifier there in November but was much more professional when stepping up to a mile on Good Friday. He did enjoy an uncontested lead that day, as well as a canny ride from Adam Kirby, but resumes with a four from five strike rate on sand and the promise of more to come at this trip.

Mindurownbusiness was among the most progressive horses in last year’s Championships but failed to build on his impressive win in the Lincoln Trial when trailing in ninth in the Mile Final. However, Roger Varian’s four-year-old had excuses, as he was trapped three wide and denied a clear run at a critical stage of the race. Clearly better than he was able to show that day, 100-rated Mindurownbusiness returns a fresh horse with proven top-level form at Lingfield and Wolverhampton.

It’s hard to believe that last year’s Mile Final third Captain Joy has never won in 17 attempts on turf, despite a Listed second at Leopardstown in June. He is a different proposition on sand, however, having won seven of his 15 starts and Tracey Collins will have him primed for another productive campaign at Dundalk and Lingfield. He probably just lacks the class to win on Good Friday, but that won’t stop him plundering more notable prizes along the way.

Librisa Breeze represents Jeremy Noseda, who did so well with the now retired Winter Derby winner Grandeur. Lightly raced, and another grey, this three-year-old is bred to appreciate middle distances but showed true speed to win over a mile at Kempton in September – a performance that earned him an official rating of 87. Noseda may be tempted to step him back up in trip in due course, possibly over the easy 10 furlongs at Lingfield, but he isn’t short of toe and can win more races over a mile.

Marco Botti secured two notable handicap victories with Lacan at Kempton in December and Chelmsford in May but hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success on turf. This son of New Approach was perhaps surprisingly put away for the winter after the first of those successes but looks set for a full campaign after proving himself a more effective All-Weather exponent. He has the ability to travel sweetly and finish well which suggests he can exploit opportunities of his mark in the low 90s.

A date at the sales was on the cards for Andrew Balding’s Melvin The Grate, who emerged as one of the best milers on sand last winter. Though he failed to carry his momentum into the Final, he has since proved that he can be competitive off a mark in the mid-90s in handicaps and might just take some improvement back onto sand. His unlucky second in a hot race at Ayr confirms him in good form ahead of another winter campaign.