Utmost and Kachy secured their spots for All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, March 30, with victories in the two Listed feature races on the Polytrack at Lingfield Park on Saturday, February 3.
Four-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt Utmost gamely made all of the running to take the 10-furlong £45,000 Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial (3.05pm), a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance for which he gains a free and guaranteed place. Betway make him 4/1 favourite for the Betway Easter Classic.
The 5/1 chance, trained by John Gosden and owned and bred by George Strawbridge, was immediately sent to the front by Robert Havlin and quickened strongly in the straight to beat 11/10 favourite Victory Bond (William Haggas/Ryan Moore) well by a length and a quarter in 2m 2.23s, with a nose back to third home Battle Of Marathon (66/1, John Ryan/Paul Mulrennan).
A return to Lingfield Park could be on the cards for all three horses for the £100,000 G3 Betway Winter Derby, run over the same distance on February 24.
Robert Havlin said: “Utmost has been a late-maturing horse. I won on him at Leicester two years ago and we have just been waiting for him to strengthen up. It has taken forever and he is still not the finished article.
“The last day [third, Lingfield, December 23], he hit the front turning in and got outpaced before staying on again. I was adamant that I wanted to make it a little bit more of a test today and get them rolling earlier. He will probably come back for the Winter Derby now.
“I don’t think he has to be one-dimensional and make the running. This probably isn’t his track as it’s a bit sharp for him and he wants a galloping track, but he has taken a step forward mentally and I thought it that was the best way of riding him round here.”
Maureen Haggas, wife of trainer William Haggas, said: “I was very happy with Victory Bond, who wasn’t that well drawn and had to come wide in the straight. He is running consistently well and you can’t be disappointed with him after that run.
“There aren’t that many races we can go for, as most of the races are here such as the Winter Derby and the All Weather Championship Finals, so I think he will have to come back here really.
“I’m not sure that this is the best track for him. He has run two good races here, but he hasn’t won. We have to go where the races are but you know, he’s run well and he looks like he’s enjoying his racing.
“He definitely seems to like the All-Weather and his form is much more consistent than it was on the grass in the summer, so he probably just needs a bit of luck round here.”
John Ryan remarked: “I am very pleased with Battle Of Marathon. We thought that he was coming back into good order following his three runs at Wolverhampton and you need a lot of luck in running because it can get very tight.
“He got a bit of a bump early on, but luckily there was a strong enough pace and the one thing we knew is that he definitely gets this trip now. Paul had to be a little bit brave and sit and suffer coming round the turn, but it was very pleasing.
“We will see where we go now, but he is holding his own – he has filled out a bit and improved, which is what we want. He is in the Winter Derby and we will definitely have to have a look.”
Kachy will head straight to the six-furlong £150,000 Betway All-Weather Championships Sprint Final (Betway make him 5/2 favourite) on Good Friday after securing his guaranteed free spot with a thrilling victory over the same course and distance in the day’s other Fast-Track Qualifier, the £45,000 Listed Betway Cleves Stakes (2.00pm).
Sent off the 6/4 favourite after scoring on his All-Weather debut in a Lingfield Park handicap, also over six furlongs, on January 19, the Tom Dascombe-trained five-year-old tacked over from stall 11 under Richard Kingscote to race in second behind 20/1 chance and front-runner Caspian Prince (Tony Coyle/Ben Curtis).
Kachy reeled in Caspian Prince just inside the final furlong and saw off the late thrust of last season’s Betway All-Weather Championships Sprint Final winner Kimberella (10/1, Richard Fahey/Paul Hanagan) to prevail by a short-head in a quick time of 1m 9.13s. Caspian Prince rallied to take third, a neck behind Kimberella.
Tom Dascombe commented: “Kachy is so much more relaxed now for some reason, whereas he was just getting a bit buzzed up last summer and doing stupid things. He has a preference for a left-hand rail – he has only won at Chester, Goodwood and here.
“We thought that he would come on for his first run, but he had to, especially as he was drawn in stall 11. He has half-missed the break and then gone pretty quick to get his position.
“I actually thought that he had won a bit easier than he had and I was surprised it was only a short-head, but he has won and it’s great for the owners, who have been big supporters of the yard. They have a Listed winner and a real live chance on Finals Day.
“He has done it from stall nine and stall 11 so far this season and it could be easier, unless he gets stall 12 on Good Friday!
“I don’t know what the opposition will be but you would think that, unless something comes back from Dubai, he would have to go into the race with a favourite’s chance.
“He will definitely go straight to Good Friday now. He is a better horse fresh and I was worried that running him 15 days apart today would be too much for him.
“A turning track seems to suit – he likes to be in charge – and it is ideal here because you can just pop out, put your hands down and let him roll.”
Richard Kingscote added: “I thought that Kachy would back up his win here last month because he enjoyed it here last time and the turning track really helps. He has trained on the All-Weather and seems to bounce off it well.
“He has overcome two bad draws now and I was on the back foot as well today because he half-thought about jumping early. There is still more progress to be made and I think, from a good draw, he is a very good horse around here.”
Paul Hanagan, jockey of second-placed Kimberella, said: “Kimberella has run a nice race and we are delighted with that performance as it is only his second run back.
“The quick gallop definitely helped him today, but he is very versatile. It was a great run and he will improve a lot for that performance.”
Ben Curtis, rider of third home Caspian Prince, commented: “We went a really good gallop, but that was a good run back over six furlongs with Caspian Prince.
“He has done most of his winning over five furlongs but, back over six, it was a good performance.”