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Newcastle curtain raiser as All-Weather Championships return

Newcastle hosts the opening All-Weather Championship meeting for the first time
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With the champions of the turf crowned at Ascot, it is time to set out on the road to Good Friday as Newcastle stages the first meeting of the 2017-18 All-Weather Championships on Tuesday.

This year's championships will be the fifth since its inception in 2013 and a number of stars have been attracted to race on artificial surfaces during that time.

Enable made her debut at Newcastle last year, while Decorated Knight has taken Group 1 honours this year having lined up at Lingfield in February.

Sovereign Debt and Realtra, both winners on Good Friday at Lingfield, have gone on to Group victories, while Lancelot Du Lac, a scorer at the same course in February, landed the Steward's Cup at Goodwood.

"The All-Weather Championships, culminating in the £1 million finals day at Lingfield on Good Friday, are now an established part of the British racing calendar," said Arc chief executive Martin Cruddace.

"While the championships were initially the idea of Arc, we are enormously grateful to the support we've received from everyone in British racing in helping to ensure they have been a success.

"As we enter the fifth season of the championships, we can all look forward to enjoying another winter of exciting racing ahead of crowning six new champions on Good Friday."

Once again, the Good Friday action will feature the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic along with five £150,000 contests at Lingfield, plus the fixture staged for the first time at Newcastle in 2017, featuring the Listed Burradon Stakes.

That race will be the final step in the newly introduced 'European Road to the Kentucky Derby', which was launched by Churchill Downs in August.

Morris out to go one better

Expect another thrilling battle for the jockeys' crown, with Adam Kirby and Luke Morris likely to be battling it out for supremacy again. It was Kirby who got the upper hand this year, with 74 wins to Morris's 65, but the latter has vowed to give it his best shot again.

"I'll keep busy through the winter," he said on Monday. "I'll take a few holidays but I'll generally be busy and be trying to ride as many winners as I can."

On the continued growth of the All-Weather Championships format, he added: "It seems to be working well and the quality and calibre of horses running on the all-weather is improving year on year, with bigger and better trainers bringing nice horses.

"The concept is clearly working really well, so hopefully it can continue on an upward curve."

In the training ranks, it was Mark Johnston who led the way with 42 winners, ahead of Michael Appleby on 40, with John Gosden among those not too far behind on 29.

Appleby is keen to have another shot at the crown and is in the process of assembling his winter team, with sales in the coming weeks set to have a big bearing on his line-up.

He said: "We'll be giving it a good go. We'll hopefully get a good team together, get some new ones at the sales next week and it will start to take shape over the next few weeks."

Richard Fahey, who had 31 winners in 2016-17, is another in the process of assembling a roster and also gave his backing to the championships, saying: "It's fantastic if you're looking to keep a few going." 

Newcastle cards

The concept is clearly working really well, so hopefully it can continue on an upward curve
E.W. Terms