All Weather Angle

All-Weather racing tips, news and tracker horses

Our man nominates a couple of horses for your trackers in his latest all-weather column.

The National Hunt fixtures at Lingfield's Winter Million three-day meeting last week fell by the wayside as a result of the weather, but their all-weather card on Saturday stood its ground and it produced some competitive racing, which wasn’t surprising given the prize money on offer.

The feature was the Winter Oaks Fillies’ Handicap which was won by a very progressive sort in the shape of Al Agaila, who wasn’t as impressive as she was over the same course and distance earlier in the month, but still managed to enhance her reputation in a race which probably wasn’t run to suit.

The pace was steady but Al Agaila showed a determined attitude to defy an 11 lb higher mark in a stronger race, always well positioned and looked like winning more impressively than she actually did entering the final furlong.

She tanked through the race and was pulled out to make a sweeping move on the home turn, coming widest of all and knuckling down well to hold off all challengers in the closing stages. Al Agaila will be seen to better effect when she has a better pace to aim at, which should be more likely as she moves up the ranks, and she interestingly received an entry in the Winter Derby back at Lingfield next month.

Al Agaila is clearly up to having a crack at that prize, but she has only been raised 2 lb by the handicapper for her victory on Saturday, so it will be interesting to see how high connections aim moving forward. Either way, she is a filly to keep on the right side, especially on an artificial surface.

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Trainer George Boughey continues to impress and he unleashed All The King’s Men on the same card who won with any amount in hand on his first start for the yard. His form in France when trained by Fabrice Chappet was nothing to write home about, but he made a very taking start on these shores as he blew what looked a competitive 0-85 handicap beforehand out of the water.

He was an expensive purchase as a yearling (€675,000) and for all he is a five-year-old, he hasn’t been overly raced and judged by his performance on Saturday he should have much more to offer. The manner in which he powered away from his rivals in the final furlong without being knocked about suggests he is a very well-handicapped horse indeed and he will remain a horse to be interested in on the back of an 8 lb rise.

All The King’s Men has been given an entry in the Lincoln at Doncaster, so connections will seemingly be keen to kick on with him in an attempt to get him handicapped for that race and, judged by how strongly he went through the line at Lingfield, he shouldn’t have a problem staying a mile.

Two horses to add to your Sporting Life Stable

Charlie Johnston has made a good start to his training career since taking over the license in his own name, saddling six winners and operating at a 20% strike rate, and one horse who made a deep impression was French Invasion at Kempton last week, justifying good support as he made a winning debut over a mile and a half.

He is bred to go a bit, too, out of a lightly-raced mare from an excellent family, and he is a half-brother to Raheen House and Shraaoh, both of whom were smart stayers. French Invasion displayed signs of greenness, having to be niggled along at times to hold his position, but soon picking the bridle back up and the visual impression he created when powering away in the final stages was backed up by the clock (replay below).

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As can often be the case over middle distances at Kempton the pace wasn’t strong, but he came home much faster than all of his rivals in the last three furlongs (36.60) and he seems sure to take a big step forward next time. He looked a strong galloper with a good stride, really opening up in the closing stages, so you would think connections will be conscious of keeping him to galloping tracks in future. He may be kept back for the turf now but, either way, he looks a good prospect.

Savannah Smiles was another horse who caught the eye at Southwell on Monday. Now, this was just a modest contest, so it is hard to get too excited, but she shaped very well from an unpromising position in a steadily-run race on her return from six months off and is surely up to winning something similar in the coming weeks.

She was never out of last place on her debut in a three-runner event at Bath in the summer, but the winner of that race has developed into a useful performer since, and Savannah Smiles didn’t get the smoothest run on her return. She was bumped and kept wide leaving the stalls before settling in rear, travelling well into the straight and starting to make headway when forced to switch entering the final furlong (replay below).

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Savannah Smiles also clocked a closing three-furlong sectional 0.50 seconds quicker than the winner and the fastest overall, earning herself a 9 lb sectional upgrade by Timeform. She will progress further when stepping up to seven furlongs, also, so is a horse to be positive about at a lowly level.

A horse to look out for on Saturday

There are no recommended bets today due to this column going out later than usual, but looking ahead to the weekend, Ziggy is a horse to keep on side in the 0-105 handicap over 11 furlongs at Kempton on Saturday evening, which is a qualifier for the London Middle Distance series.

He seemingly hasn’t been the easiest to train, but has returned better than ever on the all-weather recently, and is very much unexposed on an artificial surface. He showed a smart turn of foot when winning a mile and a half handicap at Kempton in November while also overcoming the run of the race, coming from last to first despite the pace only being modest.

Ziggy took another step forward when beaten one and a quarter lengths by Forest of Dean (BHA mark 105) off level weights in an all-weather qualifier over a mile and a quarter at Newcastle earlier this month. He was strong in the betting and was doing all of his best work at the finish, suggesting a step back up in trip will be in his favour. He is clearly progressing well now (has recorded three career-best efforts in his last four starts) and looks particularly well handicapped from a mark of 95.

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