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Simon has worked as a racing journalist since 1994 and can be seen regularly on the award-winning Sky Sports’ channel At The Races, presenting live horse racing from the track and the studio. He is widely regarded as the leading expert on All-Weather racing, spearheading the coverage of the annual All-Weather Championships on At The Races. Simon will be contributing weekly articles on his best picks for the all weather action

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Simon Mapletoft – Mid-Week selections

Don’t give up on Classic hope festive

Godolphin’s FESTIVE FARE was sent off a short-priced favourite for Saturday’s Listed coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield Park but found one too good in a hot renewal. He was no match for the gallant Grendisar’s late burst but still has the credentials to make his mark in the Winter Derby itself, and the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic on Good Friday.

Having watched the race several times, I’m convinced the steady early pace compromised his chance. Charlie Appleby’s gelding doesn’t have the gears of Godolphin’s Middle Distance star of last season, Tryster, and will be seen at his best when able to power up off a stronger gallop.

Charlie_Appleby_Alt

Nevertheless, the son of Teofilo was doing his best work in the final 50 yards in Saturday’s Fast Track Qualifier, overhauling the game mare Lamar (twice Listed placed over course and distance) before surrendering his unbeaten record on sand by a diminishing half a length. That was only his fourth run on an artificial surface and his effort rates a clear career best.

Grendisar deserves great credit for becoming the first horse to win this race two years in succession. Marco Botti’s star was produced with his trademark late challenge by Adam Kirby, building on a pair of seconds in the Listed Churchill Stakes and Listed Quebec Stakes over the same course and distance earlier this season. He shared the same rating as Festive Fare (108) and looks right back to his best.

South African filly shone in defeat

William Haggas’s former South African filly COLD AS ICE shone in defeat in Saturday’s Listed Cleves Stakes at Lingfield Park – a six-furlong Fast Track Qualifier for Good Friday Finals Day. In a race that favoured prominent racers, she was the only runner to make up significant ground from the rear to finish third behind last year’s winner Rivellino and trailblazing German raider Gamgoom.

Joe Fanning found himself in a difficult position when his filly jumped awkwardly and surrendered a good draw in stall four, but the way she came home suggests she will be hard to beat in her intended target, the £150,000 Fillies and Mares Final, over an additional furlong. A Grade 2 winner in South Africa, she went into Saturday’s race with an official rating of 110 which makes her the stand-out contender on ratings in the distaff division.

Rivellino matched Grendisar’s feat by winning his prestigious heat for the second year running and benefited from being ridden close to the pace. Despite a few physical issues, he remains a talented sprinter who deserved this valuable prize after suffering some poor draws in similar races. Runner-up Gamgoom was stepping up a furlong after finishing second in a Fast Track Qualifier at Chelmsford and ran a cracker for the enterprising Martin Harley and trainer Mario Hofer. This entire deserves to take his chance in the Final and, with a rating just over 100, should make the cut.

Varian Star looks the business

MINDUROWNBUSINESS cemented his position as the stand-out miler when dominating a small field conditions stakes at Wolverhampton on Monday. Roger Varian’s star would have done at least as much in a piece of work on the Newmarket heath as he pulled away from three decent rivals, headed by Sirius Prospect. He will be tough to beat in the Mile Final but could turn up for Kempton Park’s Fast Track Qualifier on 24th February en route to Lingfield.

Nottingham

Meanwhile, looking to get back in the winning groove in the coming weeks will be David Evans’ three-year-old Gracious John, who slipped to a surprise defeat in his latest Fast Track engagement at Chelmsford City on Sunday but was found to be slightly lame afterwards. Winner Kadrizzi looks a good, honest rival who deserves to take his chance on the big day but I believe Gracious John will exact his revenge come Easter – fitness permitting.

Compensation awaits Wigham gelding

There’s a knack to Michael Wigham’s HAPPY JACK and top jockey George Baker might just be the man to find it in the mile and a quarter handicap at Kempton Park on Wednesday (5.25). Happy Jack hit the front too soon at Lingfield two starts ago and then found the door shutting in his face when challenging at Chelmsford City last time.

Despite being a longstanding maiden, he has shown improved form this winter and looks capable of winning off such a modest mark with the booking of George Baker, who has a 24 per cent strike rate for the Newmarket handler, likely to prove significant. Indeed, he holds leading rivals Ferryview Place and Time Square on that latest Chelmsford form.

Secret’s out at Kempton

Hugo Palmer has been keeping his options open with the unexposed SECRET INSIDER who looks one to be on in the seven-furlong handicap at Kempton Park on Wednesday (7.55). She posted a much improved performance to win easily on handicap debut at Chelmsford City last month and heads to the Sunbury track in preference to a similar engagement at Southwell.

Kempton NH

A 6lb rise for that re-appearance success shouldn’t halt her progress. The daughter of Elusive Quality is entitled to be sharper for that first outing since September on a surface that should play to her strengths.

Dance ready to fire at Chelmsford

Andrew Balding’s DANCE OF FIRE impressed me on his All-Weather debut at Chelmsford City last month and is one to follow in the feature 10-furlong handicap on Thursday (6.40). Though stepping up in grade and trip, he gets into this valuable heat off a featherweight.

Cathy Gannon looks a strong jockey booking for the four-year-old, who was doing his best work at the finish of a competitive mile handicap last time that has worked out well. The four-year-old has plenty to offer from his current mark of 83 in receipt of 15lb from recent Lingfield winner Winterlude. Jenny Candlish’s winner was a shade fortuitous that day, as strong-travelling warm favourite Franklin D got stopped in his tracks in a messy race.

My Best Bets

HAPPY JACK
5.25 Kempton Park, Wednesday

SECRET INSIDER (Nap)
7.55 Kempton Park, Wednesday

DANCE OF FIRE
6.40 Chelmsford City, Thursday