15 December 2018
Stargazer came from off the pace to completely change expectations in today's competitive Fast-Track Qualifier, the £25,000 Betway Stayers Conditions Race, over an extended two miles on Tapeta at Newcastle.
The 9/1 winner, trained by Phil Kirby and ridden by Robert Winston, gained a guaranteed free start in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships over the same distance on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on £1-million All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 19.
The five-year-old was held up second last of the eight runners as All-Weather star Watersmeet (Mark Johnston/P J McDonald, 9/2), having his 50th outing, made the running at a steady pace.
The well-backed 13/8 favourite Festival Of Ages (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle), a lightly-raced four-year-old owned by Godolphin and having just his fourth start, was a close second on the outside, with Higher Power (James Fanshawe/George Wood, 3/1), winner of the Northumberland Plate over course and distance in 2017, chasing the leaders.
Festival Of Ages cruised into the lead over a quarter-mile out, but Stargrazer quickly came through to take over the advantage after another furlong and ran on well the beat the market leader by a length in 3m 32.10s, with Higher Power another length and three quarters back in third and Watersmeet fourth.
Stargazer had three Newcastle seconds to his name before today, including when demoted to runner-up after being first past the post in the valuable 12-furlong Betway Handicap on Good Friday, 2018.
The five-year-old son of Canford Cliffs is now targeting Good Friday 2019 at Lingfield Park.
Trainer Phil Kirby, who trains near Richmond in North Yorkshire, said: "Stargazer deserves to take his chance on Finals Day now.
"He is a very, very strong traveller in his races and has plenty of toe. He does stay every yard of two miles - I don't think it matters whether they go quick or slow really as both suit him - he was very good today.
"He has won with a fair bit in hand and travelled like the best horse in the race. He has put it to bed very quickly and was impressive.
"I always thought he was very good and he obviously loves the track, but I wasn't sure whether he was up to taking on horses rated higher than him.
"Good Friday was not the best of the days earlier this year, but it is nice to do it today.
"I think he can run as well at Lingfield Park - the stronger they go and the turns might just help him to get there just a bit later - I am happy enough to go anywhere."
Robert Winston, having made his first ride on Stargazer a winning one, added: "He took me into the race really nicely and quickened well, though I not sure he would have found much more late on.
"They came back to him in the last couple of furlongs and he has won convincingly in the end. He travelled smoothly throughout the race and he did everything I asked him to do.
"He absolutely loves this track and he has not been out of the money since he started running here. He could be a course specialist."