Simon Mapletoft – Mid-week selections


Barye has credentials for Marathon Final

From the first moment he sat on Barye, former champion jockey-turned-trainer Richard Hughes was convinced the five-year-old would stay two miles and on Thursday evening that theory will be put to the test in the feature conditions stakes (7.40) – a Fast Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Marathon Final at Lingfield Park on Good Friday.

Barye has looked a young stayer going places since posting back-to-back successes over a mile and a half at the Surrey track this winter and his regular jockey Shane Kelly is convinced the rookie trainer’s judgement is spot on. “You never know until you try but I’m as sure as Richard that Barye will stay,” he told me.

A winner of five of his 13 starts on sand, the imposing son of Archipenko also knows his way around Chelmsford, having won twice there last winter, albeit over 10 furlongs. The Polytrack surface is riding quicker these days but I expect Hughes’s gelding to confirm himself a serious player for the Marathon crown despite the presence of some strong opposition.

These include Godolphin’s Pinzolo, who won over a mile and three-quarters at the Essex track in May last year and should be better for his re-appearance third to stable companion Anglophile at Lingfield at the end of January. He should have no trouble staying this two miles with that all-important run under his girth but has little in hand of the more progressive Barye at the weights, so may have to settle for minor honours.

Jockey Cummins in for a Big Surprise

One Big Surprise can initiate a double for trainer Richard Hughes at Chelmsford City on Thursday – and give young apprentice Stephen Cummins a day he will never forget. Cummins keeps the ride on Hughes’s four-year-old in the fillies’ maiden (6.40) after finishing an eye-catching third on her last month and looks set to ride his first ever winner.

This represents a smart bit of placing by Hughes, who has made a healthy start to his career as a trainer with 13 winners at a strike rate of over 20 per cent. She has already proven her liking for the track and gave the impression that an extra furlong would play to her strengths when making up a lot of ground on her stable debut. What’s more, Cummins’ 7lb claim will help to negate her 10st burden in a modest contest.

Radiance to shine at Kempton

I’m convinced Russian Radiance has more to offer despite progressing 11lb in the ratings this winter and she can prove it by taking the fillies’ handicap at Kempton Park on Wednesday (7.15). Jonathan Portman’s four-year-old was doing her best work just a little too late when second to Subtle Knife at Lingfield in January but enjoys a 3lb pull this time.

Subtle Knife has disappointed since, but Portman’s filly remains open to improvement and has champion jockey Luke Morris for assistance. The big run I expect could put her in the reckoning for a crack at the £150,000 Fillies & Mares Final at Lingfield on Good Friday.

My Best Bets


7.15 Kempton Park, Wednesday


6.40 Chelmsford City, Thursday


7.40 Chelmsford City, Thursday

Derby hero Grendisar better than ever

When Adam Kirby jumped off Coral Winter Derby winner Grendisar at Lingfield on Saturday, he told trainer Marco Botti that his All-Weather talisman was still improving. Kirby could be right, judged by the ease of his victory in the Group Three feature. But the fact is the six-year-old probably won’t need to better that performance to win Europe’s richest All-Weather race on Good Friday, the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic.

Grendisar travelled all over last weekend’s opposition to supplement his win in the Winter Derby Trial earlier in the month and once again lowered the colours of market superior Festive Fare in the process. There will be no surprise packages in this month’s battle for the Middle Distance crown, so no wonder Coral reacted to his latest victory by shortening him into 6-4 favourite.

Grendisar’s record on Polytrack since finishing second in the apprentice handicap on the inaugural Good Friday Championship Day in 2014 is quite remarkable. The son of Invincible Spirit has completed two successive victories in the Winter Derby Trial, another in the Listed Quebec Stakes and also won the Listed Floodlit Stakes at Kempton. He has also finished second in this season’s Quebec Stakes and Listed Churchill Stakes and was runner-up in last season’s Winter Derby before finishing third to Tryster in the Classic. As a result, his career earnings are approaching the £300,000 mark as win number 10 beckons in little over three weeks’ time.

Dubai dream for Sprint’s action hero

Newmarket trainer Gay Kelleway is hoping to secure an invite to Dubai for her Listed winner Lightscameraaction – and why shouldn’t she! The four-year-old stuck on gamely to win Saturday’s Hever Sprint Stakes at Lingfield Park, supplementing his success over course and distance in last year’s 3YO Sprint Final.

But the Group One Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan on World Cup night appears to be a favoured option for the five-furlong specialist over returning to Lingfield for a six-furlong final that would almost certainly stretch his reserves. The horses he beat last weekend – Group Two winners Take Cover and Muthmir – are both heading to Dubai so Kelleway has every right to expect a bold show if the invitation arrives. The gelding has won on turf and has posted some decent efforts in defeat, so the change in surface may not be an issue.

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