Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond looks ahead to All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield Park.
This time last year I was spending a huge portion of my days studying the form for Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma. So it's been a relief to be holed up in my office preparing for All Weather Finals Day 12 months on.
Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly grateful for those unfamiliar characters and unknown equines that kept the show on the road during those most bleak and anxious times that we found ourselves in, but it's good to have normal service resuming and I can't wait for Lingfield on Good Friday 2021.
This is season eight of the All-Weather Championships and it has really grown in prestige and stature since its inception in 2013/14. Did you know that all-weather racing was first considered back in 1984 after a particularly harsh winter, that saw 72 jumps fixtures lost? The first meeting was held in October 1989 and it's been onwards and upwards ever since.
So All-Weather Championships Finals day is the culmination of the winter season and there are six championship categories: Three-year-old, Fillies' and Mares', the Mile, Sprint, Marathon and Middle-distance (not in that order on the card!). In order to qualify a horse has to have run three times on the all-weather from the start of the season on October 20 (and be rated sufficiently high enough) or won a Fast-Track Qualifier.
Having spent a couple of productive days studying the form I have some strong fancies, so let's get on with it.
The Marathon gets us under way and I feel that Rainbow Dreamer may be the one here, but without the conviction that I have for one or two later in the day.
He was being prepared for this last year and was fancied to win it, when the rug got pulled from under our feet. Trainer Alan King will be keen to make amends this time round. It could end up being a tactical affair with just seven runners, but this lad is versatile and he should be able to adapt to any situation.
Indie Angel will be the hot favourite in the Fillies' and Mares', but I'm trying to find a little bit of value with Shimmering Dawn. There are a couple of pace horses in this six-runner field, so I hope she is able to execute her usual hold-up tactics under James Doyle.
I'm keen on Lampang in the Sprint at 3.10 for Tim Easterby and Silvestre de Sousa.
He doesn't have the kindest of draws in 10, but the well-fancied Irish raider Harry's Bar is in a worse position in 12, so that gives me some cause for optimism. Lampang has plenty of untapped potential and you can write off his most recent effort at Southwell as he stumbled coming out the stalls and lost all chance. It's an incredibly open race and he may offer some each-way value.
Onto the Three-year-olds then and for me this is between Mighty Gurkha and Apollo One.
It's a cracker of a race though and you can make a realistic case for a number of the runners. Mighty Gurkha needs to break well from his gate in seven and Apollo One could have more to offer over six furlongs. The Commonwealth Cup could be on the cards at Royal Ascot if he continues to progress.
I love Bangkok, but worry about the feature Easter Classic becoming too tactical for him, and I have visions of him pulling hard and throwing his chance away. I hope I'm wrong, but tactically it could play into the hands of Winter Derby winner Forest Of Dean for John and Thady Gosden.
Another of my strong fancies comes up in the Mile where Khuzaam is expected to suit this trip and track. He could continue to improve having been gelded over the winter and he's in good hands with Roger Varian.
My old pal Documenting runs in the same race, but I'd be keener if this was over seven furlongs for him. Mums Tipple is of interest of course after he showed his old sparkle in the Lady Wulfruna at Wolverhampton last time out. That was the first time in the winner's enclosure since his devastating victory in a sales race at York as a two year-old.
Away from Lingfield I fancy Napper Tandy to win the extended mile and a half handicap at Newcastle. There are only four runners in this event and I hope that means he gets a clearer passage than he did at Wolverhampton last time out. Prior to that he was a winner at Kempton and that form looks good.
So some super racing to get your Easter weekend off to a flyer and just be glad I'm not trying to find you a winner at Will Rogers Downs or in the Virtual Grand National as was the case this time in 2020!