Action from Southwell

Sunday racing preview: Ed Watson Southwell tips

Scottish Sun columnist and Racing TV analyst Ed Watson runs the rule over Southwell’s Sunday night card, where he has three fancies.

Lights down for a full house. Once the bulbs start to dim following the 0-90 feature at 8.30, the BHA’s first six-fixture Sunday night pilot will be in the can.

The regulator will consult the relevant jockeys and trainers bodies, take feedback from the stable staff union, crunch the numbers…then announce they’re shifting the Northumberland Plate to a Sunday night pre-Christmas and running it over a mile because Newcastle’s round course still isn’t floodlit.

I’m joking, of course. Well, half-joking. Because logic and BHA decisions don’t always seem to go hand-in-hand.

Southwell’s eight-race card is a competitive one to close with. None more so than that 1m4f finale, in which the Charlie Johnston-trained Artisan Dancer will attempt to extend his lead at the top of ARC’s All-Weather Horse of the Year standings. His two wins so far is three fewer than both of his nearest pursuers, The Caltonian (Linda Perratt) and Gustav Graves (Derek Shaw), but his consistency (seven runner-up finishes, three third places and a fourth) have his ownership syndicate in pole position to bank the £100,000 first prize come Finals Day on Good Friday.


Ed Bethell’s MOUNTAIN WARRIOR returned to winning form in first-time blinkers over 6f here seven weeks ago, enhancing his Southwell record to a perfect 2-2. He’s hit the line hard in both of the victories, suggesting on each occasion that he would improve further for tackling a seventh furlong.

Admittedly, he disappointed on his only previous attempt at this longer trip, but there are reasons to believe that was an untimely blip. It was his first run following three months off. He was too keen in first-time cheekpieces. And Bethell’s horses weren’t firing on all cylinders at the time.

Unsurprisingly, the blinkers are retained here and 3lb rise for Mountain Warrior’s latest success looks fair. He’s also a half-brother to a multiple 7f winner and clearly loves it around Southwell.

This is a competitive event, though, featuring a number of in-form opponents. Grant Wood returns to the scene of January’s course-and-distance win on a hat-trick, while the back-from-a-break Engelbert could be on an exploitable mark based on October’s Newcastle second to the progressive Doctor Khan Junior. His chance will improve if jockey Daniel Muscutt can find some early cover from a wide draw.


This 7f novice is restricted to three-year-olds from band C and D of the sales spectrum, yet on first glance I presumed it was reserved for those with links to Africa. No, not the male antiperspirant, but the Mother Continent itself.

African Spirit, Bravo Zulu and Serengeti Sunrise are the three previous winners in the line-up. All three have a synthetics success on their short CVs. Yet all three are returning to the track from absences of more than 100 days.

If we’re stabbing in the dark in terms of their readiness for this assignment, then gut feeling tells me AFRICAN SPIRIT is the one with the most potential. Ben Brookhouse’s son of Showcasing created a lasting impression when scampering clear from a next-time-out winner on his debut at Newcastle back in September.

He looked ill at ease and raced a bit too freely on ground Timeform noted as being heavy, rather than the official description of soft, in a £100k sales race at York three weeks later. While a seventh-place finish might appear disappointing on the face of it, I felt it was only raw ability that got African Spirit home within five-and-a-half lengths of the winner.

Market vibes are likely to be particularly informative here. Bravo Zulu attracted his share of support before winning a Kempton maiden on his second start in November. While undoubtedly promising, he enjoyed a smooth run on the front end in a race that got messy in behind.

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Prince Eric will likely be all the rage for this following a successful handicap debut at Lingfield last time. Stepping up to a mile for the first time and returning from a gelding op, James Ferguson’s charge won with a bit more up his sleeve than the head margin implies. A 4lb rise may well underestimate him.

This is not your average 0-65, though. Prince Eric’s rivals include three fellow last-time-out winners, plus others who have been running well and/or are open to more improvement.

GOOD MORNING ALEX ticks all of those boxes. He’s 3-4 since being paired with jockey Adam Farragher and produced his best performance so far (by 10lb on Timeform figures) when ridden more forcefully at Newcastle a month ago, forging clear to comfortably beat one of today’s rivals Due Consideration. A previous course-and-distance winner, his form has a really solid look to it for this grade. While up another 6lb, it may not be enough to halt this clearly progressive type from going close to a fourth win in five.

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