Intisaab trying the fast-track route with first run over minimum trip
Boxing Day's Wolverhampton winner Intisaab takes another step towards a possible appearance in the Betway All-Weather Sprint on Lingfield's finals day when heading a field of seven in a fast-track qualifier at Newcastle (5.10).
The seven-year-old will be dropping to the minimum trip for the first time in a 37-race career, but David O'Meara, while admitting he was in a quandary, reckons it could suit him.
He said: "I wasn't sure whether to go for this race over five furlongs or a six-furlong one, but this one has prize money of £30,000 and I have always thought I would like to try Intisaab at five furlongs.
"There is nothing to lose, and it could suit him as he is a strong traveller in the mid part of his races."
With such good money on offer it is no surprise this conditions sprint has attracted a quality field, and Intisaab can expect tough opposition.
Hat-trick seeker Gracious John, successful in 5f handicaps off 101 and 107, has a great chance on the figures and Roger Varian's Atletico, a comfortable course and distance winner in November, is another to consider.
However, former Irish 2,000 Guineas third Blue De Vega could be the one to beat, making his second appearance for sprint specialist Robert Cowell, for whom he was a highly promising second at Kempton in October.
Like Intisaab, he is trying 5f for the first time, but reports suggest he has been showing all the right signs at home.
Valuable supporting races
Newcastle's first fixture of 2018 boasts over £115,000 in prize money and has two £25,000 handicaps preceding the fast-track qualifier.
The card kicks off with the 1m4f Betway Casino Handicap (3.35), the only race which will be run on the round course before the floodlights come on, in which Karen McLintock's Cesarewitch fourth Dubawi Fifty represents local hopes.
He drops back in trip with first-time cheekpieces, but faces a two-pronged challenge from Marco Botti in the shape of Burcan and the former John Gosden-trained four-year-old Crowned Eagle.
He also faces two tough opponents from Scotland, including the Keith Dalgleish-trained Paddyplex, who failed to catch the judge's eye in three bumpers but has won both starts since switched to the Flat.
Dore's best ever
The sunbets.co.uk Handicap (4.40) offers the same prize money but looks less competitive, so Conor Dore hopes he might recoup some of the 75,000 guineas he paid for the seven-year-old Certificate at Tattersalls in October.
Dore has never spent that sort of money before, but he liked Certificate's form and is prepared to forgive him a disappointing first run for the stable.
He said: "A mile was too far for him and he might even end up dropping back to 6f. Judged on his work he's far and away the best horse I've ever had, and we'll ride him to get home over this stiff seven. I'm a fan of Nicola Currie, who seems to have them in the right place and takes off 5lb."
Ayr, the only surviving jumps meeting following the abandonment of Ffos Las, must pass an 8.30 inspection if racing is to go ahead.
Conditions will be testing in the extreme, but that should not bother Ian Jardine's in-form veteran Plus Jamais, who is one of four last-time-out winners in the feature Racing UK Jump To It Handicap Hurdle (2.40).
Plus Jamais finds himself on a career-high mark of 123 at the age of 11, but it is merited as he has won off 111, 116 and 117 on his last three starts, each time on soft or heavy ground.
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