For most people, Easter is all about cracking open Easter Eggs (I may even have one or two myself). However, this year’s Easter Racing Program is even tastier than those chocolate treats.
Good Friday sees Lingfield host All-Weather Finals Day, whilst the Dubai World Cup just happens to fall on Easter Saturday this year. You then may or may not want to take a rest on Easter Sunday before heading to Fairyhouse on Easter Monday for the Irish Grand National.
Gordon Elliott continues to set the bar higher and higher. On the back of bettering his 2017 Cheltenham Festival haul of 6 winners by notching up a Festival Trainer winning 8 winners at this year’s Festival, Elliott set a new record for the number of winners by an Irish National Hunt Trainer when Poormans Hill made it 194 winners for the season. Of course, there’s still a long way to go for Elliott but, with his sights aset firmly on winning his first Irish National Hunt Trainers Title and next Monday’s Irish Grand National is next on his list.
Good Friday (March 30)
Betway All-weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes (2.00)
Watersmeet sets a high-standard for his opponents to aim at. He’s won 11 of his 21 races on the all-weather, is 3 from 5 at this trip, and finished second in last year’s renewal to the horse that was officially top-rated. He also comes into the race in excellent form this season after winning all 3 of his warm-up races. His two biggest rivals look to be Red Verdon and Mountain Bell. Red Verdon beat Moutain Bell on identical terms earlier in the season at Kempton over 12-furlongs but has yet to prove he stays the extra 4-furlongs of this race. Meanwhile, Mountain Bell demonstrated she stays this distance with a win at Newcastle last time but has yet to race at Lingfield.
32Red All-weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championship Conditions Stakes (2.30)
Soul Silver has been installed as the early favourite by the bookies. However, her win last time came over a mile at Chelmsford, and she was beaten on her only previous start over the 7-furlongs at Lingfield. She’s also rated a few-pounds lower than some of her rivals, such as Zest who is 2 from 3 over course and distance. Meanwhile, Mick Channon has Summer Icon in the field, and he saddled the 2016 winner Volunteer Point. Diagnostic, who is trained by William Haggas could also go well on her first start here with the Haggas stable having landed the Lincoln Handicap last weekend.
Betway All-weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes (3.05)
This 6-furlong sprint is usually the most entertaining race of the day, as they often go hard up front which sets it up for something coming form off the pace such as previous winners Alben Star and Kimberella. There looks sure to be plenty of pace again with the likes of Caspian Prince, Gifted Master and Gracious John in the field, and Kimberella looks sure to have been primed for the race again as Richard Fahey has trained 3 of the 4 previous winners of this race. His biggest rival looks to be the high-class Kachy who is 2 from 2 on the all-weather.
3-Year-Old All-weather Championships Conditions Stakes (3.40)
Corinthia Knight has been steadily backed since the markets opened, and it’s no surprise as he’s now won 6 of his 8 all-weather starts, including his last 3. He officially has a few pounds in hand of his nearest rivals, with Breathless Times next best in the market after winning twice on the all-weather at Wolverhampton.
Sunbets All-weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes (4.15)
Second Thought won the previous race on the card in 2017 and, he’s now 6 out of 6 on the all-weather. However, as only one of those wins was at a mile, it will be interesting to see if he truly has the stamina to repel Arcanda who is 2 from 2 over course and distance.
Betway Easter Classic All-weather Middle-Distance Championships Conditions Stakes (4.40)
Master The World and Mr Owen seemed to benefit from the pacesetters setting too strong a pace in the Winter Derby as they came late and fast down the outside to fight out the finish. However, on paper, this looks a weaker contest and they may well fight out the finish again. Victory Bond could give them something to think about though with the Haggas team hitting top-form but he does have a habit of finding trouble at some point.
There’s more decent all-weather action at Newcastle on Good Friday with the 32Red Burradon Stakes and the 32REd.com Fillies’ Conditions Stakes. The Burradon Stakes is a Listed Race and could see an interesting clash between the likes of Gronkowski and Great Prospector
Bath also stages a decent card on Good Friday, and there’s plenty of money to be won by the winners of the Betway Conditions Stakes, Legg Family Celebration Handicap, Landsdown Conditions Stakes, and the Betway Handicap.
Easter Saturday (March 31)
Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup may no longer be the world’s richest race, however the stars on show at the Dubai World Cup Meeting take some topping at this relatively early stage of the flat season.
Dubai Gold Cup (12.50)
The card gets underway with the Dubai Gold Cup (12.50) over two-miles and it brings together Rare Rhythm and Vazirabad who finished in that order when locking swords earlier this year. Vazirabad was beaten in his prep-race last year though before winning this, and he should appreciate the extra distance of this race once again. This is no two-horse race though with Big Orange a possible runner and his front-running style should make it a true test.
Al Quoz Sprint (2.00)
This 6-furlongs group 1 race should be another thriller with Blue Point, Jungle Cat, Ertijaal and Librisa Breeze all intended runners. Ertijjal is better at 5-furlongs so Blue Point may get his revenge after being beaten by him over the minimum trip here earlier in the season. Jungle Cat could push him close though after beating Ertijaal over course and distance last time, whilst a fast race could set this up for the smooth-travelling Librisa Breeze.
Dubai World Cup (4.45)
West Coast is all the rage to win the massive first-prize on offer, and it’s easy to see why as he gave Gun Runner plenty to think about when second behind that star-performer in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational. However, as he’s yet to prove himself outside of America, the long-travel and a new racecourse could be two reasons to take him on.
Irish Grand National
As is the norm, the Irish Grand National is being billed as another big showdown between Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott as the two trainers continue to do battle to be crowned Irish Champion National Hunt Trainer. Mullins has the ante-post favourite and possible top-weight Bellshill, as well as others that are prominent in the betting such as Pairofbrowneyes and Acapella Bourgeois.
However, it’s well worth remembering that neither Mullins or Elliott has won the Irish Grand National before. It’s also worth noting that Our Duke broke a big-trend when winning the last season’s Irish Grand National, as he became the first horse to carry more than 10-13 since Commanche Court way back in 2000. Therefore, there could be plenty of value to be had elsewhere in the market when the final declarations are made.