'The Newcastle mile is very fair and we are keen to support it'
1. Gosden keen Newcastle can enable future stars to blossom
This mile maiden (5.00) at Newcastle has been put on especially to address the dearth of such races at Gosforth Park this winter which is in contrast to last year when John Gosden was able to introduce the mighty Enable in a contest that has since been scrapped.
Always keen to support the Tapeta venue, this time around Gosden despatches the more streetwise Ruffina (Robert Havlin) and newcomer Arahat (Nicky Mackay) to do battle.
The Newmarket trainer says: "It's been a bit shortsighted of Newcastle not to put many of these maidens on this winter when there are so many two-year-olds yet to run. Unlike the other all-weather tracks where they have to race around bends and can get into trouble, the straight mile at Newcastle is very fair and we're always keen to support it."
On his chances of a winner, he added: "They are both fillies who need to race, particularly Arahat who is making her debut, and hopefully both can be competitive."
2. Amazing Guard out to prove the light is still burning
He may be only a few weeks away from his 14th birthday but the all-weather record-holder Stand Guard is still going stronger than ever with every chance that he could yet add to his tally of 28 wins in the coming weeks.
John Butler's old stager is having his 87th career start in this 1m4f handicap at Lingfield (1.45) and showed enough over course and distance last time to suggest that the light is still burning brightly. Prior to that effort, when he was beaten under ten lengths into 12th behind Raashdy, Stand Guard had run poorly when tailed off at Southwell, something that puzzled his trainer.
Butler said: "That run was too bad to be true as he was plenty fit enough as we take him to the beach at Holkham in Norfolk where he loves the sea water. I have to say that he's been the soundest he's been for a long time this winter which is amazing at his age."
3. Jazz getting tuned up for Doncaster
Ben Case's mare Midnight Jazz will find the mares' handicap hurdle at Ludlow (1.30) a lot easier than tackling the likes of Apple's Jade in the Grade 1 Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March in which she was not disgraced in finishing tenth behind Gordon Elliott's star.
The seven-year-old had previously finished a close second to another classy Irish mare in the shape of Vroum Vroum Mag at Doncaster and starts her campaign with a return to Town Moor already on her radar.
Case said: "Midnight Jazz usually gives her all but will improve for the race, I would say. She has quite a bit of weight to give to Stuart Edmunds' runner Maria's Benefit, which may be a bit tricky, but I still expect a good run. After this we will look at another race in the mares' series with the race at Doncaster her prime target."
4. Longsdon hoping returning Ballydine can show form of old
Charlie Longsdon's chasing recruit Ballydine returns from an 18-month spell on the sidelines as he makes his debut over fences in the 1.20 at Haydock.
The seven-year-old is having his first start since April last year following a smart hurdles career in which he chased home the classy Barters Hill in a Grade 2 at Doncaster in January 2016.
Ballydine had previously shown that staying contests such as this 2m4½f journey were his forte when scoring at Stratford and Newcastle before finding the jump to Grade 1 company too far when unplaced in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree.
Longsdon said: "He suffered a leg injury in the Sefton and it's been a long road back. We are dipping our toe in the water to see where we are with him, but he was a lovely horse and hopefully can be one again."
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