All-Weather Championships Racing Tips: Penzance’s winning run can continue

By Tom Collins

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28 March 2024

All-weather racing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it keeps me sane during the long winter months and I’m glad that it takes centre stage on Good Friday once again. 

Newcastle will be anticipating a sizable crowd for their All-Weather Championships meeting, while there are also some competitive and enticing punting puzzles on the Tapeta at both Lingfield and Chelmsford. However, I’m going to stick to the former venue for my two bets - one winner will provide overall profit and brighten the balance before Dubai World Cup night on Saturday!

Not So Grand in Middle Distance

The first race that catches my eye is the All-Weather Easter Championships Middle Distance Handicap (16:10), in which Winter Oaks winner Oh So Grand heads the market as she seeks her fourth consecutive victory for Simon and Ed Crisford. 

I really liked this filly prior to her last race, yet the way she burst clear was even more impressive than I imagined. As a tipster or punter, it is always difficult to opt against a horse who rewarded you on their most recent outing and many of us become slightly more loyal than we should be. In this instance, however, I’m happy to look elsewhere as I believe she is much more suited to Lingfield than Newcastle even though she has won here before.

Speed is always important in flat racing, but Newcastle’s long homestraight puts more emphasis on an ability to sustain maximum effort rather than faltering after showing a turn of foot. Oh So Grand hasn’t exactly shown signs of capitulation and she could win this race, but she’s very much a quickener rather than a slogger or battler and at a short price I’m happy to look elsewhere.

Impressive Kempton winner Teumessias Fox, Irish challenger Elegant Man, and the class-dropping Claymore are good alternatives, but I’m pretty keen on the Mick Appleby-trained Penzance here. Horses with a string of victories in handicaps aren’t usually my go-to, but this improving gelding has shown signs that he could remain well treated and ready to enter the winner’s enclosure once more.

Yet another shrewd purchase from The Horse Watchers (31,000gns), Penzance has notched four straight victories and is now racing off a 25lb higher mark than when his winning run began.

He burst clear of a smart type in Storm Catcher to win at Chelmsford in December and again beat that opponent at Newcastle on New Year’s Day after being passed with less than 100 yards to run. It’s pretty rare to see battling qualities like Penzance exhibited that day and it hinted to me that he was just dossing in front and clearly had way more in the locker.

The handicapper gave him another 4lb hit before his latest Lingfield success, but he looked better than ever there and I can’t wait to see him back at Newcastle again. This looks like it’s been the long-term plan and he should prove tough to pass if given another proactive ride.

A Royal Improver in the Marathon

I’m also interest in the All-Weather Championships Marathon Handicap (13:53), in which SBK traders have made Max Vega and Spartan Army the two favourites in the early market. The former is a heavy ground turf horse who has never proven himself over this distance, while the latter is a rapid improver with a solid winter campaign behind him. 

Spartan Army beat Palace Boy earlier in the campaign, but he’s 7lb worse off with that rival here and I wouldn’t be surprised if they crossed the line almost alongside each other. Prydwen shouldn’t be too in front or behind them either based on collateral form.

My aim was to find a potential improver in the field with slightly more upside and Vaguely Royal fits the brief despite looking held on his previous outings. John and Thady Gosden’s four-year-old was beginning to look a little frustrating before his game success over 1m4½f here in October and he proved his versatility with another success at Wolverhampton 68 days later.

Perhaps he was a touch disappointing behind the aforementioned Max Vega on his penultimate start, but that event developed into a sprint and he just doesn’t have a turn of foot to be competitive against good horses over a mile and a half. Put a line through that piece of form.

The Gosdens rightly stepped him up in distance last time and he proved that two miles was well within his range. Vaguely Royal was put into a nice position by Oisin Murphy, who retains the ride on Friday, and made a nice run in the straight to finish third behind Spartan Army in another contest that suited the quickeners (109% race finishing speed). 

Jockeys tend to get racing earlier at Newcastle and hopefully this won’t turn into a dash for the line. If that’s the case, Vaguely Royal has a great chance of reversing the form and taking another step forward in his progression over longer trips. 6/1 seems a pretty fair price, especially given his weight-for-age allowance.

Recommended Bets

Back Vaguely Royal (13:53 Newcastle) @ 15/2
Back Penzance (16:10 Newcastle) @ 7/2

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