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Newcastle is Al set for winning return to track



Ready for the off: Newcastle's Gosforth Park racecourse

Ready for the off: Newcastle's Gosforth Park racecourse


Ready for the off: Newcastle's Gosforth Park racecourse

Racing finally returns in Britain after a two-month hiatus - and Al Ozzdi can get punters off to a flying start in the first race of the new season at Newcastle, the Betway Welcome Back British Racing Handicap.

The five-year-old has thrived to date on a Tapeta surface, placing five times from nine tries including a solid win over a mile back in January.

He should also be ready to go in this, having already had six runs this year despite the lack of racing in Britain, so fitness should not be an issue, while top all-weather rider Ben Curtis takes the ride again for Roger Fell.

In opposition, Heavenly Tale makes her handicapping debut and the well-bred Shamardal filly could offer resistance to the selection if she lives up to the promise she showed early on in her three-year-old season.

Because of the large demand for entries, the Betway Novice Stakes has been split into two competitive divisions, with Bond's Boy the pick in the first.

Richard Fahey's three-year-old had impressive form as a juvenile, comfortably breaking his maiden at the first time of asking before an admirable third in a £150,000 sales race at Newmarket in October.

The winner that day, Under The Stars, had held her own in Group races previously and runner-up Mild Illusion came out to win a Listed race, so if Bond's Boy can reproduce that level of performance off the layoff he could be very hard to beat.

Of the newcomers, Silvestre de Sousa's mount Freedom Flyer looks the most interesting. The Invincible Spirit colt represents a top yard and if ready first time out could be a major danger.

In the second division, exciting debutant Continental looks to make a strong start to her career.

Unraced at two, the Acclamation filly cost £240,000 at the sales and owner John Dance has been vocal in his optimism about his filly's ability, hoping she can be his next Laurens.

Six furlongs should be an ideal trip given her pedigree, and Megan Nicholls' 3lb claim could be particularly useful in what looks sure to be a closely-run affair.

Art Power, who was an eyecatching winner in his final juvenile start, is an obvious main danger, as is Magical Journey, but there is a feeling Continental might have a real touch of class.

In the Betway Handicap, the most valuable race on the card, Good Tidings can redeem himself after a disappointing run at the end of an otherwise solid three-year-old campaign.

After breaking his maiden at the second time of asking, the John Gosden-trained runner won his next race and then put in a strong effort to be second at Kempton, followed by a solid third in the £70,000 London Middle Distance Series Final, where he missed out by the thinnest of margins.

A try at a mile and three-quarters proved too far in his final start of the year, but Gosden steps him back to a mile and a half and a mark of 89 still seems perfectly acceptable.

Two divisions of the Betway Maiden Stakes bring proceedings to a close, with Frankly Darling perhaps being the bet of the day in the first.

In her debut, which was over a mile, Frankly Darling was confidently handled throughout and found her way to the front without being asked by Nicky Mackay.

A little green when push came to shove, she found one better in the closing stages, but she looked full of promise and her pedigree - by Frankel out of a Listed-winning Daylami mare - suggests she will appreciate the step up to 10 furlongs.

Gosden does not make a habit of losing these types of races and, assuming she handles the Tapeta, the rest of the field should find her too classy.


NEWCASTLE: 1.00 Al Ozzdi, 1.35 Motawaafeq, 2.10 Bond's Boy, 2.45 Continental, 3.20 Tathmeen, 3.55 Rock Of Diamonds, 4.30 Indian Sounds, 5.05 Good Tidings, 5.40 FRANKLY DARLING (NAP), 6.15 Luck On Sunday.

DOUBLE: Frankly Darling and Al Ozzdi

Belfast Telegraph