A new era for the All-Weather Championships dawns on Good Friday, April 15, with Finals Day taking place at Newcastle for the first time.
There are 81 entries across the six championship races, including 14 overseas-trained contenders, while Classic hopefuls will put their credentials on the line in the opening Listed Coral Burradon Stakes (1.30pm).
Trainer Marco Botti is hoping Felix can scoop the lion’s share of £200,000 in the feature Betway Easter Classic (4.45pm) over 10 furlongs.
The six-year-old was narrowly denied by Forest Of Dean in last season’s G3 Betway Winter Derby and followed up with a fine third behind Lord North in the G1 Dubai Turf on Dubai World Cup Night.
Having finished third in Listed races at Lingfield Park earlier this term, Felix was fifth in the G1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan before a rare below par eighth in the Listed Magnolia Stakes at Kempton Park on March 26.
The Magnolia Stakes could provide the key piece of form for the Betway Easter Classic with the winner Living Legend and runner-up Al Zaraqaan, who were separated by a nose, engaged for Charlie & Mark Johnston and Archie Watson respectively.
Botti, who sent out Grendisar to win the Easter Classic in 2016, said: “We were disappointed with Felix at Kempton but the race did not pan out for him at all. Daniel [Muscutt, jockey] went to go forward and unfortunately got stuck three-wide most of the way, which didn’t suit.
“Felix worked this morning and looks in good condition, so we are very hopeful that he can bounce back to the level he showed prior to Kempton. The run in Dubai was good and, on that form, he should have a leading chance.
“I have thought for a while that Newcastle will suit him better than the sharper tracks like Lingfield. Newcastle is a big galloping track and, with his style of running, it should play to his strengths.”
Of his other Finals Day entries, Botti added: “Rising Star will take her chance in the Coral All-Weather Fillies’ & Mares’ Championships. She won nicely at Newcastle last month and, although it was a small field, it was still nice to see her back in that sort of form. The drop back to seven furlongs should not inconvenience her and I can see her running a nice race.
“Golden Warrior is a nice sprinter in the making and ran well to be third in what looked a decent race at Lingfield last time. The track was too sharp for him and moving to a stiffer six at Newcastle will be a help. He has a few pounds to find in the Coral Three-Year-Old All-Weather Championships but I think there is more to come from him.”
There have been five French-trained winners on Finals Day but none in the Betway Easter Classic. That could change courtesy of Charlesquint, who won a conditions race at Chantilly last month for Yann Barberot, and Christophe Ferland’s Watch Him.
The Roger Varian-trained duo of Tyrrhenian Sea and La Tihaty are engaged following prolific campaigns this winter, although both four-year-olds also have the option of the All-Weather Mile Championships.
United Front, a five-time winner on the All-Weather for Champion Trainer elect Mick Appleby, completes the eight entries.
William Haggas is the most successful trainer on Finals Day with four winners and the Newmarket trainer’s My Oberon heads 17 contenders for the £150,000 All-Weather Mile Championships (2.00pm).
My Oberon, who was G1-placed on turf last year, captured a Fast-Track Qualifier at Southwell in February and finished a creditable sixth in the G1 Dubai Turf last time out.
The entries also feature two other Fast-Track Qualifier winners in Tinker Toy and Tempus while the Giuseppe Botti-trained Amilcar tops three contenders from France. Irish handler Joseph O’Brien could send over San Andreas following a conditions race success at Dundalk.
There is set to be a very competitive line up for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships (2.35pm, 6f), with Fast-Track Qualifier winners Good Effort, Spycatcher and course specialist Venturous among the 20 entries.
A strong overseas contingent is led by last-time-out winners Bouttemont from France and Harry’s Bar from Ireland, while the 112-rated Ejtilaab is the pick on ratings after an impressive front-running victory at Kempton Park.
Karl Burke has a strong hand in the £150,000 Coral Three-Year-Old All-Weather Championships (3.10pm, 6f), with the Middleham trainer set to be represented by Listed Coral Spring Cup victor El Caballo and Kaboo.
Other standouts among the 12 entries are Space Cowboy, winner of the season’s opening Fast-Track Qualifier at Newcastle in October, fellow course scorer Tiber Flow and G3 Prix Djebel runner-up Loubeisien from France.
Royal Ascot winner Highfield Princess headlines nine contenders for the £150,000 Coral All-Weather Fillies' & Mares' Championships (3.45pm), in which the prolific Internationalangel and Fast-Track Qualifier winner Fauvette are also engaged.
Rainbow Dreamer, Sleeping Lion and Earlofthecotswolds are the standard bearers in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships (4.15pm, 2m 56y) having all won Fast-Track Qualifiers this season