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Friday, 14 December, 2018

All set for another Easter extravaganza at Lingfield

David Baxter on a now thriving day in the racing calendar

Lingfield: stages the fourth all-weather finals day on Friday
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Three years ago British racing did something it often struggles with and broke with tradition. Lingfield's inaugural All-Weather Championships Finals day and a turf fixture at Musselburgh became the first meetings to be staged on Good Friday.

Now, racing on Good Friday, and Lingfield's finals day, has become the traditional culmination of the all-weather winter campaign and it is thriving.

The cast assembled for this year's meeting is arguably the strongest yet and, with 83 runners spread across the seven races, competitive fare is all but assured.

No prize-money concerns

A total prize fund of £1 million puts the Good into Good Friday for connections, and is welcome respite for the track's owners Arena Racing Company with Windsor and Southwell's prize-money levels considered rather more bad and ugly by owners and trainers this week.

The Betway Easter Classic carries the largest share of the pot at £200,000 and offers the chance for Sir Michael Stoute to continue his flying start to the season.

Stoute usually does not start sending out runners until April each year, but this term he has bucked convention, with Convey winning the Winter Derby in February.

Convey: the Winter Derby winners bids to follow up in the Easter Classic

The five-year-old is favourite to follow up, with the main dangers according to the betting also coming from those he beat in the Winter Derby.

Last year's Easter Classic winner Grendisar was fifth in the Winter Derby and Marco Botti's all-weather stalwart is lining up in this race for the third time, but has not tasted success since his triumph 12 months ago.

Eggs-citing Ennaadd

One of the headline names for this year's meeting is Ennaadd, who has won his last four starts and has the potential to be a Pattern-class performer this season.

The Roger Varian-trained four-year-old runs in the Mile and was last seen cruising clear in the Listed Hyde Stakes at Kempton in November.

Should he complete the five-timer, Ennaadd's sights could be raised significantly, with Varian mentioning the Lockinge as a possible turf target.

High hopes for smaller yards

The introduction of finals day has certainly helped raise the profile of all-weather racing in Britain and there is no shortage of big yards with runners at the meeting.

But the championship, with its fast-track qualifiers throughout the season, offers the smaller operations the chance to claim decent prize-money as well as then lining up on Good Friday.

In the Sprint, victory for Doc Sportello would be a fine feelgood story, with the five-year-old running in a claimer earlier in the season.

He was picked up by Michael Herrington, won a qualifier at Newcastle and has risen from a mark of 78 to 102.

Trainers like David Evans and Gay Kelleway, who keep the show on the road through the depths of winter, also have runners on the card. Kelleway has triumphed at the meeting before, winning the Sprint in 2015 with Lightscameraction.

Newcastle joins the party

Further proof if it were needed that all-weather racing has made great strides in recent years comes at Newcastle.                                    

The decision to replace the iconic turf track with Tapeta was not welcomed by all, but it is here to stay, and Friday's lucrative fixture has attracted some exciting contenders.

Newcastle: hosts a valuable card on the all-weather on Friday

Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet was under consideration for the meeting and, while he was not declared, South Seas and the unbeaten Syphax, who also harbour Group 1 aspirations, will journey north for the £100,000 32Red Burradon Conditions Stakes.

Total prize-money for the meeting is £250,000 and, like Lingfield, Newcastle is an Arc-owned track. As too is Bath, which stages the sole Flat turf fixture of the day. Total prize-money for that card is £182,250, so there is no shortage of cash available.

Plenty to keep TV punters occupied

A largely dry day is forecast for the start of the Easter weekend, which will be good news for those looking to get out and about, but anyone staying in for the racing will not be disappointed with nine races broadcast live on ITV4.

Robust viewing figures would be welcomed by the curators of racing on terrestrial TV, after this week's report in the Racing Post which showed that the battle to engage as large an audience as Channel 4 is not proving entirely straightforward.

The cast assembled for this year's meeting is arguably the strongest yet
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